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Radio interview with Neil Mitchell, 3AW - 7 September 2017

7th September 2017  |  Comments  |  Transcripts

SUBJECTS: Energy; Shane Martin; North Korea; Burqa; Union Funds

E&OE…

NEIL MITCHELL:

The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:

Good morning Neil.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time Prime Minister. The power bills are a big issue. Do you know, how much is your power bill at Point Pier. It’s a big house.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah it is a big house and we’ve got quite a lot of protection there which burns up quite a lot of energy. But I wont go into the precise amount of the power bill but I can assure you it’s bigger than the average house.

 NEIL MITCHELL:

And you’ve seen it go up and up and up?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s certainly increased although I have to say, it’s lower than it otherwise would be because we have solar panels and a battery. My son Alex is very knowledgeable on renewables, energy economics generally, and we had solar panels for a long time. We got some new ones recently and a battery and that’s certainly meant that for much of the day, even with the big power demand we have there, we’re actually not drawing any electricity from the grid.

NEIL MITCHELL:

People are getting caught in this sort of power pincher movement. The power bills are high and now industry is talking about passing on the cost of their higher bills, their power bills. So we’re paying more for goods and services. Why will you not consider removing the GST from power bills?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Neil, if you take the GST off power bills, you cost the states and territories about $2 billion.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER:

Which they would then have to, either put up payroll tax or cut services.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But why? They’ve got huge surpluses.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m telling you from long experience of dealing with Premiers and Chief Ministers that they would. In reality, what they would do is they would say: “You’ve got to give us the money as a top-up payment.” So we’d have to put up taxes elsewhere.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, we’ve looked at it, it’s about $400 million it would cost New South Wales, $400 million Victoria. New South Wales has got a surplus of $4.5 billion, Victoria has got a surplus of $1.2 billion. That’s our money anyway, isn’t it better that it gets taken off the surplus rather than out of our hands?

PRIME MINISTER:

But Neil that is a matter for them. You’ve got to understand that the GST –

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well can’t you raise it with them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil they’ve already rejected it. The reality is that the GST is raised by the Commonwealth but it all goes to the states and territories. If you cut, reduce the GST tax base then all that will happen is that thy’ll raise the money in a tax somewhere else.

NEIL MITCHELL:

When did they reject it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Sorry?

NEIL MITCHELL:

When did they reject it.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’ve just heard reports that they’ve rejected it. But –

NEIL MITCHELL:

But you aren’t going to raise it?

PRIME MINISTER:

If you want to correct me –

NEIL MITCHELL:

No, no.

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not arguing with you Neil, the Treasurer and I are both of the view that taking the GST off electricity bills would simply result in that tax burden being moved somewhere else.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay so you won’t even –

PRIME MINISTER:

We’re not advocating it and I haven’t heard any advocacy from states. I thought I had heard a rejection of it, but that may -

NEIL MITCHELL:

Oh, you may be right, you may be right.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, it’s not worth arguing about. The bottom line is they would have to find the money somewhere else.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Obviously that’s where I disagree. They’ve got huge surpluses, they could absorb it.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you should get Daniel Andrews on. I know he comes on your show a lot.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, no he doesn’t.

PRIME MINISTER:

See if he’s willing to reduce his surplus.

NEIL MITCHELL:

No, I’m banned. I’m banned.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, are you banned?

[Laughter]

NEIL MITCHELL:

And Scott Morrison, he’s banned me too.

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, no.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah, it’s outrageous. But we’ve got the organ grinder, we don’t need to money.

PRIME MINISTER:

So shall we start a ‘Liberate Neil Mitchell’ campaign?

NEIL MITCHELL:

No, I’m happy with the organ grinder, let the Treasurer be the monkey. The serious point on the power bills –

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well, you accept we will get hit twice? We pay bigger power bills and then industry passes on the cost of theirs.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well of course, it’s a big input into pretty much every business. In some industries and businesses of course it’s the largest single input. So that’s why it’s so important to get energy policy right. That’s why we are dealing with it in the short-term, the medium-term and the longer-term. The problems that have been created have taken a long time.

NEIL MITCHELL:

It’s been a lack of leadership, hasn’t it.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it’s a lack of leadership Neil but it’s also stupidity. If you think about it, renewables are great. Wind, solar – solar is getting cheaper all the time.  It’s very popular, but of course it doesn’t work when the sun isn’t shining.  So if like Daniel Andrews, you want to have a lot more renewables, that’s fine, but what are you going to do to back it up? Are you going to have storage? What are they doing on storage?

We’re building Snowy Hydro, that’s our decision, that’s our leadership, that’s real planning. We didn’t see anything from the states on that, certainly from Victoria or South Australia. Then of course, they way back up renewables is with gas. Now what’s Daniel Andrews doing on gas? Oh that’s right; he won’t allow any exploration or development of it in Victoria.

NEIL MITCHELL:

But the Premier, we have this situation where Victoria and others could be heading into summer with a shortage of power.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep.

NEIL MITCHELL:

We could have blackouts as is predicted by several sections of the industry. You and Josh Frydenberg are pointing the finger at Victoria. We’ve got Victoria pointing the finger at everybody else. Is there no way somebody can take control of this and guarantee to the people that they can have power in the summer?

PRIME MINISTER:

As you know, Victoria faces – lets just talk about Victoria for now – Victoria has a big challenge following the closure of Hazelwood. There is a big risk predicted by the Energy Market Operator of a shortfall in Victoria, between 39 and 43 per cent risk. What AEMO has done is they’ve made arrangements with the owners of spare capacity diesel generators, gas generators, to be available over the summer. They’re looking to reduce demand on peak demand.

So they’re putting in a whole series of measures to get Victoria through the summer. But this is –

NEIL MITCHELL:

But you know you can’t guarantee that we’ll have power through the summer can you?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no electricity provider can guarantee 100 per cent. There is also the risk of a generator failing or a transmission line falling over, so there’s always a risk of failure. There’s no 100 per cent guarantees, let’s be very clear about that.

But what AEMO is doing is putting in place the backup supply to deal with peak demand. But remember the reason why Victoria is in that position, is because of a failure is because of a failure of planning by the state government; it’s insistence on having more and more renewables, not making any plan for the replacement of Hazelwood and not putting in the backup, whether it is gas or storage for renewables.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Okay, so would you look at buying or putting money into Loy Yang B?  

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that hasn’t even been … no one’s even proposed that.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well it is effectively on the market. I mean you’re looking at New South Wales aren’t you, putting money into New South Wales coal power?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I’ve seen that asserted Neil, but that’s not right. Look, let’s just about the Liddell power situation. In 2022 AGL is proposing to close the Liddell power station.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yep.

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s about a 2,000 megawatt power station. What that will result in according to AEMO is a 1,000 megawatt gap in the dispatchability, dispatchable electricity. Now by that I mean electricity that can be delivered on demand.

So how are we going to deal with that? Well, unlike the Victorian government which paid no attention to the pending closure of Hazelwood, we’ve got five years out. So what we’re doing is we’re sitting down with AGL.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So will you put into it or not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Neil, that’s too far. We don’t need to consider that at this stage, the important thing is to ensure that we have that 1,000 megawatts covered. Now keeping Liddell going for another 5 years is one obvious way of doing it. There are other people - AGL says they want to sell it - they want to get out of it. They’ve said that they would be prepared to discuss selling it to a responsible party. Another private sector energy company has said they’d be interested in looking at it.

So I think it’s too early to say what the precise role of government would be, but the important this is to get the planning in place. I mean what we have to do is ensure that we protect Australian families from unaffordable, unreliable electricity.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What I guess I’m looking at is, yeah you keep saying planning, Loy Yang B is for sale in Victoria.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is it worth looking at now, whether something can be done to keep that open and operating?

PRIME MINISTER:

But Neil it is for sale and I’m sure it will be bought. There are people looking at it to buy.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Well Hazelwood wasn’t.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well Hazelwood was in a different position. It was a very, very old plant, it had been run down over a number of years.

NEIL MITCHELL:

True.

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t think it was viable. My understanding was it wasn’t viable to keep it going.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Do you mind if we get to some other issues, because I know you have to get away?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah sure.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Dustin Martin’s father Shane Martin, the Richmond footballer, very good player could win the Brownlow. Are you prepared to tell us why we won’t have him in the country?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, you mean his father?

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah.

PRIME MINISTER:

Well no, absolutely. I mean his father had his visa cancelled because of his criminal record and association with outlaw motorcycle gangs.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Is he a threat to the country?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah of course. Look we make no apologies for this, in fact we’re proud of it; we’ve amended the migration act to ensure that people who are outlaw motorcycle gang members, who are criminals or otherwise threats to national security, cannot stay in Australia.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So he’s a threat to public safety, do you know what his criminal record is?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I’m not going to go into the details of it in this interview. But the judgement has been made by the Minister for the protection of the Australian community.

Look can I say to you, if people who are foreigners, who are in Australia on a visa, if they have an association with outlaw motorcycle gangs, are sent back to their original country. A number, quite a few people have gone back to New Zealand on that basis.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The High Court rules today on the matter of marriage equality and the vote. If it rules against you, will you then take the issue to Parliament?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to speculate on it. The decision will be given at 2:15 so we’ve only got a few hours to wait. As you know, our advice has been that the challenge to the postal survey will not be successful. So we look forward to the postal survey going ahead and we encourage everyone to vote. As you know, Lucy and I will be voting ‘yes’.

NEIL MITCHELL:

North Korea. Should our team for the Winter Olympics rethink going to South Korea in February?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think obviously all of those decisions - and I think everyone, all of the participants in the Winter Olympics - will be considering that closer to the event.

Just dealing in the here and now, I just want to say to Australians who are either in North Asia or planning to go there, to pay careful regard to the Department of Foreign Affairs advice on North Asia.

This is very important Neil; register on the Smartraveller website. Whether you’re planning to go or whether you’re there, because that means if there is a problem, if there is a need to reach you, firstly we know you’re there and we can send you a text message instantly and be in touch.

NEIL MITCHELL:

What about our staff in the region? Do you have them on standby for evacuation?

PRIME MINISTER:

We obviously have contingency plans for evacuation, yes.

NEIL MITCHELL:

The Senate report on the fire cladding, will you look at banning imports of this type of fire cladding?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yep I have been discussing that with Craig Laundy, who is this Assistant Minister for Industry, who is dealing with the state ministers on this. This is overwhelmingly a state responsibility. Part of the problem has been that cladding that is - if you like - able to be used in one context, in one type of building, has been used in buildings where it shouldn’t have been used. So it is very much a matter of state regulation, but what we are doing is approaching it in a very consistent way

Craig has met with his counterparts, the states, to make sure we get a standardised responsible approach. He’s meeting with them frequently. We’re paying a lot of attention to this and also sharing experience with the UK of course, they’ve had that tragic fire there in Grenfell.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Fire there, yeah. Your partners the Nationals are this weekend voting on whether to ban the burqa. Even if they decide to, will it change your mind? Are we likely to revisit?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look Neil, obviously people should have to show their face when they need to for security or identification purposes. In Australia, we’ve never had a practice of telling people what they should wear.

NEIL MITCHELL:

And you won’t change that?

PRIME MINISTER:

I don’t see that changing, but it is very important that when a person needs to be identified, that they do show their face.

NEIL MITCHELL:

I read the unions are making about nearly $1 billion a year in income. They’re worth $1.5 billion.

PRIME MINISTER:

And their members are declining, membership is declining, yeah.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Yeah and they’re not taxed. You want to tax them?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, it is an issue that has been raised. We don’t have any plans to do so, but you can see that what you’ve got with the unions that essentially control the Labor Party, is they’re becoming more left-wing, more militant, more wealthy. Therefore you see extraordinary situations you know, here in Parliament, just in the last sittings where the Labor Party under directions from the unions, was opposing legislation that did no more than ban corrupt payments from business to unions.

You know, you’d think they would’ve said: “Sure absolutely, where do we sign?”

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you for your time. I know you won’t comment on the report that you gave Tony Abbott a rather direct assessment of his period as prime minister, including some obscenity. I assume you wont talk about that?

PRIME MINISTER:

You’re assumption as always is absolutely correct.

NEIL MITCHELL:

You’re accused, what about the C-word? Do you ever use it?

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh look Neil, I am very conscious of the need to ensure that my language is wholesome, but I am imperfect and fail from time to time. But I don’t have a reputation for using bad language.

NEIL MITCHELL:

So the word is not totally banned?

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m not going to go any further into that. I am as imperfect as most people in that regard, but I do think we should all be very careful about the language we use and of course particularly when kids are around.

NEIL MITCHELL:

Thank you very much for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks a lot.

[ENDS]

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