Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: Minister, where are we at with the clean energy target?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Yesterday we had a very important party room meeting, which started with a presentation by Josh Frydenberg, the Minister for the Environment and Energy on the Finkel report, which was only received by governments last Friday. That was an opportunity for Liberal and National party Members and Senators to ask questions, to raise issues of importance for their respective communities, which they did. It was a very good meeting. The Government will now consider the recommendations in the Finkel report carefully, taking into account the feedback and the issues that have been raised by colleagues. We will be making relevant announcements in due course.
QUESTION: There does seem to be a lot of concern within Coalition ranks over coal and that there aren’t enough incentives there for coal to remain a viable energy source. Is that a fair reflection of what happened last night?
MATHIAS CORMANN: No. I think that you are getting way ahead of yourself with all due respect. Yesterday, I was in the meeting. It was a very good meeting. It was a very good discussion. All we have in front of us at the moment is a report from Dr Finkel, making recommendations to governments across Australia. These are recommendations, which the Australian Government will now be considering. At the first possible opportunity, the Prime Minister ensured that our Coalition party room was appropriately consulted, was given the opportunity to be briefed, ask questions, to raise issues. That is the process that happened yesterday. It was an important part of the process. Ultimately, where we need to get to, is we need to achieve and end up with a policy position that will help deliver lower electricity prices, more reliable, secure energy supplies and in a way that still helps us meet our emissions reduction targets. In order to achieve that, we need to ensure that we can provide certainty for investors to invest more in additional energy supplies. That is clearly a problem at present. The worst thing we could do is to do nothing. If we maintained the status quo, electricity prices would continue to go up and up and the stability in the system would continue to be questionable. There will continue to be risks of blackouts into the future. For families across Australia, for businesses across Australia, for our future economic prospects and our future economic success, we need to ensure that we get this right. That also means taking people with us. It means that there has to be broad support and broad consensus behind the policy framework that is ultimately adopted.
QUESTION: Minister, would you like to see coal designated as a low emission source under a clean energy target?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have in front of us a report with recommendations from Dr Finkel. Yesterday there was a presentation on that report to the party room. Questions were asked, issues were raised. The Government will now make decisions on all of these sorts of matters, taking into account the feedback that we have received and focus on our commitment, our overarching commitment that what Australia needs is lower electricity prices, secure, reliable energy supplies and for us to achieve that in a way that still helps us reduce our emissions and meet our emissions reduction targets.
QUESTION: Minister, that is not answering the question, though. The question was would you personally like to see coal designated a low emissions source?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I heard your question. It is very important for us to go through this process properly. I ... interrupted
QUESTION: So have you formed a view yourself yet?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I will be participating like every other Minister in the Cabinet deliberation, considering the recommendations of the Finkel report, considering the feedback that we have received from colleagues yesterday, considering all of the issues that have been raised, making sure that all of the questions can appropriately be answered. We will follow the process properly and with discipline, because ultimately we have to ensure that the policy framework we settle on is going to be sustainable, durable, will provide certainty for investors and will provide confidence for investors to invest in increasing energy supplies into the system.
QUESTION: Is this issue seen as a test of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership? Does he have the support?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Why won’t you tell people in your electorate whether you support coal being designated a low emissions source?
MATHIAS CORMANN: Because I would say to everyone across Australia, including people in my electorate, that it is very important that we come up with a policy framework in response to the Finkel report that will deliver lower electricity prices, reliable and secure energy supplies and that we are able to do so in way that helps us meet our emissions reduction targets. I will participate in that process professionally within Cabinet and within the party room. When we have relevant announcements to make about the positions the Government has adopted, then we will make those announcements.
QUESTION: Senator, when are you expecting to reach a position on this issue? Would you like to see it put to the Parliament by the end of the year?
MATHIAS CORMANN: These sorts of timetables are going to be a matter for the Minister for the Environment and Energy and the Prime Minister to talk about. From my point of view, as the Minister for Finance, I will be an active participant in all of the discussions in the Cabinet. I will be an active participant in the discussions within our party room. When relevant announcements can be made, they will be made.