Television Interview – Sky News Newsday 5 December

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Well, let’s check in on the political week that’s going to be said to be dominated again by energy prices in particular, exactly what the Federal Government is going to do on coal and gas. Joining us to spill the beans on that – Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Patrick Gorman. And of course, did I segue, why that was such a good idea, whatever the Labor Government decides, as former Liberal Jason Falinski. Gentlemen, thanks again, Both, for your time. Both of you in Sydney today. So, one of the States, in New South Wales, it’s pushing back, I guess, against what Labor might do on this. Pat, I might start with you because the cap prices option has made New South Wales angry and Queensland angry as well. The Premier in Queensland, isn’t she just doing exactly what Labor wants to do, making a lot of money because the State owns part of that asset and giving it back to people through lower power bills? Why do you think she’s angry?

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Well, I wouldn’t entirely agree with characterisation of angry. What we’re seeing is a lot of discussion. Both we’ve been very open about the fact that we’ve been having a lot of consultation with the states, with industry, with the community, about making sure that we do do something to get energy prices down and deal with the fact that prices are going through the roof because of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. And obviously what’s important is that Premiers do their job. I’ve always respected the rights of Premiers to do their job, putting their ideas into the policy discussion, but these things will be discussed thoroughly at National Cabinet. We know that meeting’s later this week. I think it’s one of the things that has characterised this Government, led by Anthony Albanese, is that we make sure the options are left on the table so we’re not running into this ruling things out left, right and centre. We’re making sure that we’ve got a wide range of policy options available so we get the best outcome for the Australian people so we can keep our manufacturers in business. Get energy down.

CONNELL: Well the best outcome, of course, is getting something earlier, which a lot of warnings was get it done before Christmas, in terms of even that December 1 deadline for the next power bills – that’s come and gone. Is the issue here that this has got a bit more complicated? I mean, if you’re going to have a cap that the Federal Government has to pay for and the end the difference between what companies might make under normal times and then under the cap, isn’t that a bit pointless? You can’t afford billions or billions of dollars just chucked on the federal debt, can you?

GORMAN: Well, we know the situation we have now is not a sustainable one for Australia or Australian manufacturers or Australian households. That’s why we do want to get something done before Christmas. But I did notice that I thought it was quite curious today that the leader of the National Party was running around doing the media circuit, saying, oh, Labor should have fixed this six months ago. Labor should have done something six months ago. I thought it was very curious that he wasn’t running around saying that the Government should have fixed it seven months ago when he was sitting around the Cabinet table. So we’re moving as quick as we can, but of course, doing the appropriate consultation, which is what the Australian people would expect.

CONNELL: Jason, just boiling this right down. Super profits are being made right now by gas and coal companies. Is it only fair, Australia figures out a way that our consumers and businesses aren’t funding those super profits?

JASON FALINSKI, FORMER LIBERAL MP: Yeah, sure, Tom. Because the best way to bring prices down on anything is to increase taxes on it. That’s how you bring prices down, by increasing taxes. I mean, the fact of the matter is, if you’re going to put a tax on super profits, then we’re going to have tax rebates on super losses. This is how the price system is meant to work. The problem here, and this is an example of why Australia’s federation is broken – the problem is created by the states not releasing more gas into the energy market in the eastern states and then turning around and demanding the Federal Government pay for their indolence. This is why we should have the most affordable housing market in the world, but we have one of the least affordable ones. We’re an energy superpower with some of the most expensive energy in the world because the states won’t do their job.

CONNELL: Well, not just because of that, it’s because we’re linked to international prices. That’s why WA doesn’t have this issue because of a gas reservation policy. For example, the big issue is that we’re paying …

FALINSKI: It’s not true. No, no, Tom. It is time enough for people in Canberra to stop saying that the reason WA doesn’t have this problem is not because of a gas reservation policy that has never been used in its history. It’s because they have some of the biggest gas fields in the world, which state governments of both Labor and Liberal hue have allowed to be developed. In the Victorian Government, you have more gas there than practically any place in the world and the Victorian Government won’t allow it to be pumped out. You have Narrabri in New South Wales, which is now up to the 13th year of being approved, and you have the Queensland Government that banned any further gas exploration and has only just recently listed that ban. That is why Australia has some of the most unaffordable energy in the world.

CONNELL: But we export off the east coast as well. I get what you’re saying around supplies needed now, because contracts were signed for us to export our gas. We have this incredible natural advantage at the moment. We’re shipping a lot of it off. We’re tied to international prices and the PRRT is inadequate, which your Government essentially indicated as well through a review. Don’t we need to start – I’m not saying tax it to high heaven.

FALINSKI: Tom, you can keep throwing dead cats on this table as much as you like. It doesn’t distract from the point that we have so much gas in Australia. It’s not funny. The fact is that the very state governments that are now putting their hands out looking for Federal Government subsidies for the jobs that they haven’t done, which is releasing gas into the Australian market.

CONNELL: If we are linked to international prices, we’re never going to be able to get enough gas to somehow solve the shortage around the world. So, if we’re linked to international prices, we have a problem right now, no matter how much exploration we do. That’s true, isn’t it?

FALINSKI: No, it’s not true at all. As prices go up, there should have been more gas pumped in Australia that has been stopped from happening by state governments.

CONNELL: So, we would solve the worldwide demand for gas right now.

FALINSKI: It’s the simple market economics of supply equaling demand.

CONNELL: So, Australia is going to solve the worldwide shortage right now?

FALINSKI: International demand for gas has gone down. What you are referring to is the fact that supply in Russia is being blocked due to sanctions because they invaded Ukraine…

CONNELL: So, we will solve the worldwide supply?

FALINSKI: We have enough gas in Australia to meet that supply and to also that’s why gas the cost of gas in Qatar is half the price than it is in Europe. The cost of gas in Australia at the moment is 25 per cent of the cost of what it is in Europe. We can get lower prices for gas and what I say to people like yourself who want to stop us from exporting gas is apparently we don’t believe that people in Japan and China and other parts of the world are entitled to affordable energy.

CONNELL: I didn’t say stop exporting. Let me ask you this, Patrick. I’m getting a bit distracted, aren’t I, with the former member? I haven’t spoken to him for a while, you can tell. Should Labor look at a PRRT? Do you think we have an issue with how much income we’re getting from gas in this country? Is something broken there?

GORMAN: Well, in terms of that you alluded to before, Tom, that there has been a review initiated by the former Treasurer Frydenberg that work is ongoing. Treasurer Charmers has said that we will look at that work as it is completed, which is the appropriate thing to do when you try and get the best policy outcomes for the Australian people. I do just want to pick up what Jason said earlier about the domestic gas reservation policy in Western Australia not making a difference. That is clearly untrue. It has made a huge difference in terms of the gas prices available for energy producers and energy consumers in manufacturing and food manufacturing, other things in Western Australia. It was viciously opposed at the time when Premier Carpenter introduced that policy. It has been good for the industrial base of Western Australia and I think it’s important to note that that has made a difference. And I think any suggestion otherwise is just clearly false.

CONNELL: Let’s bring it on home. I’ve got to put another topic in there, Jason. Let me ask you this. Voting for 16 and 17 year olds, a Greens’ proposal. Would this maybe helped you get over the line in Mackellar? Were the youth ready to turn out for you, those people that have just got their L plates and ready to vote for Jason, what do you think?

FALINSKI: I think it would have helped very much, Tom. I mean, if I had a dime for every 16 year old that told me that they would have voted for me if they could, yeah, I would probably still be there in Canberra, so who knows?

CONNELL: What do you think of the proposal? I mean, you can leave school, you get a job, you can drive a car in a lot of states. Why not vote?

FALINSKI: Look, it is worth something, it’s worth looking at. I certainly think that’s the case, and it’s been a proposal that’s been around for about 25 years. We’ve settled on 18 because typically, when people leave school start to either enter into full-time education or full-time work. These are arbitrary numbers. I mean, indeed, there are some people who are 45 who, to the best of my knowledge, still behave like 16 year olds. So, I think it’s just an age. But we settled on 18 for those reasons, because it’s when people leave school, it’s when they can sign up for the armed forces, et cetera. I think it’s a discussion worth having.

CONNELL: All right, Pat, what do you think?

GORMAN: Look, I am very relaxed about the discussion because we are a democracy and it’s everyone’s right, whether they are a voting age or not, to advocate for various ideas. And if the 16 and 17 year olds of Australia want to get together and put the case, good on them, I’m sure that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, ably chaired by Kate Thwaites, will be happy to hear those suggestions. But what I find fascinating about this suggestion is actually the split within the Greens political party. We had Jordan Steele-John, out there a few years ago saying that it should be voluntary voting for 16 and 17 year olds. We’ve now got the new Member for Brisbane, another Greens Party activist, who’s suggesting that it should be compulsory for 16 and 17 year olds. And I just think the Greens Party likes to avoid accountability at times, but when they’ve got a big policy split inside their very small group, they do owe us an explanation as to where they actually stand on their own policy position.

CONNELL: All right, well, we’ll see maybe how worried Labor is. The Greens might take a few seats off them but you can consider that my commentary. And it is. Jason Patrick. What is it, the fifth? We’ll talk to you in a fortnight for the last show of the year.

GORMAN: We’ll speak to you in a fortnight.

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