Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann
Minister for Finance
Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for Western Australia
QUESTION: The citizenship legislation that the Government wanted to get sorted out last night, that has been taken out of the Senate debate now?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We remain committed to those reforms. These are important reforms. If we do not have the necessary support at this point we will have to continue to do some more work with non-Government Senators to achieve a consensus. That is work that Peter Dutton will now be undertaking. We are keen to secure the necessary support in the Senate to get these reforms through.
QUESTION: So what sorts of changes do you want to see? The main sticking point seems to be that the English test, or the new English test that the Government would like to see potentially is too hard.
MATHIAS CORMANN: I never make it a practice to conduct negotiations with non-Government Senators through the media. I will not be starting today, in particular in somebody else’s portfolio. All I would say is that we remain committed to these very important reforms. We believe that they are important for us to continue to be the successful multicultural society that we are. We welcome many people to Australia from all around the world, from all sorts of backgrounds. Overwhelmingly, migrants from all around the world make a great contribution to Australia, to our development as a nation. We want Australia’s success as a successful multicultural nation to continue, to strengthen and strengthen. These reforms are an important part of that. We will continue to engage with non-Government Senators to reach a consensus. As soon as that has been secured we will proceed.
QUESTION: Do you think that the Government will be able to reach a compromise with the Opposition on energy policy?
MATHIAS CORMANN: We have put forward our plan to put downward pressure on electricity prices, to improve reliability and to meet our emissions reduction targets in a cost effective way that does not put upward pressure on electricity prices. If the Labor party decides to support our very sensible and our very balanced reform proposals, based on expert advice obviously we would welcome that.
QUESTION: But the sticking point seems to be that even when it comes to savings of $110 or $115 that customers are meant to save, the Government can’t even seem to guarantee that though.
MATHIAS CORMANN: It is based on the advice of the experts. There is some further modelling that is being done now. The challenge is that if we do not implement the Government’s national energy plan, if we do not implement the plan that we have put forward, then we will continue to struggle attracting the necessary investment to boost supply in energy. That would mean that there would be significant increases in energy prices into the future, which is not in the interest of families around Australia, it is not in the interest of business. We want to put downward pressure on electricity prices, we want to improve reliability and we want to do so in a way that helps us meet our emissions reduction targets. The proposal that we have put forward, the package of reforms that we have put forward will help achieve that. We would call on Labor to come on board and to ensure that this can be legislated swiftly.
QUESTION: One of the things that Labor is concerned about or Mark Butler has expressed concern about, he is suggesting that the policy that the Government has put forward could destroy the renewable sector. He also seemed to suggest yesterday at a press conference that it would open up a second mechanism as well, so you would have the renewables, people getting no subsidies for renewable but also having to match that with coal and gas. He says that could open up some sort of secondary market.
MATHIAS CORMANN: Mark Butler has made some crazy comments. He came out on Insiders on Sunday opposing our national energy plan before he had even seen it. He came out swinging against what we were proposing before he had had any opportunity to actually review what was being proposed. I reject much of what you have put to me there just now. What we are proposing to do here is to stop providing subsidies as of 2020 for any form of energy. $66 billion worth of subsidies that would have to be paid if we went down Labor’s path, would have to be paid for by consumers around Australia. $66 billion worth of subsidies would come straight out of the pockets of Australian families and businesses, which would weaken our economy and put pressure on household budgets. We are putting forward a policy framework that is based on expert advice, that is technology neutral, that does not in any way discourage investment in renewable energy, in fact it will provide increased certainty to boost investment in renewable energy.
QUESTION: But can you understand if customers are saying oh well if I am going to get $100 or $115 at best in terms of a reduction on my power bill and it will not happen until after 2020, for a lot of people, they’ll say big deal, I want to see a reduction in my power bill now.
MATHIAS CORMANN: The National Energy Guarantee is not the only thing we are doing. This is one part of an overall plan. The Prime Minister has already secured the agreement of East Coast gas exporters to provide additional gas supply into the domestic market in 2018. It is already having an impact on electricity prices now. It will have an impact on electricity prices in 2018. This is a holistic set of reforms. All of these different parts of the reform package are important. Let me say that if are able to attract additional investment into energy generation, which this package would help achieve, then it will for the first time in a long time, for the first time since we abolished the carbon tax, put genuine downward pressure on electricity prices, instead of having electricity prices continuing to go up and up.
QUESTION: Just finally there is this news poll in today’s Australian suggesting that a lot of voters in South Australia would like to see Nick Xenophon become the Premier of that state. What does that tell you in terms of the standing amongst the public of the major parties?
MATHIAS CORMANN: I would recommend to every South Australian to support the Liberal team at the next election in South Australia, to support Steven Marshall and his team. Steven Marshall would make an outstanding Premier for the great state of South Australia. That is my perspective on that.