Sky News - The Morning Shift
Laura Jayes: Let's talk more about this Energy Policy. There's been a pretty good reaction from business. In your line of work, that's good news.
Steve Ciobo: Sure, absolutely. Well, I mean it's a good policy. It's a policy that brings together reliability and, of course, affordability, which is we know what not only the business community wants, but also what consumers want. The only people who don't stand ... The only people I should say stand in the way of this, would appear the Australian Labor Party and some State Labor Premiers who are more concerned about propping up their own government's bottom line.
Laura Jayes: And perhaps Tony Abbott?
Steve Ciobo: Well no, I mean you've got State Labor Premiers who, let's be frank about this, they're invested in making sure they can make as much money as possible from the network. Because the State Labor Premiers are the ones who are actually the beneficiaries of that revenue. Take for example Queensland. It's Annastacia Palaszczuk, the more she can charge for energy, the more her government's fiscal position looks good. So I find it extraordinary that State Labor Premiers are in a position where they're actually actively fighting against reliability and affordability, it's madness.
Laura Jayes: How can you say that Annastacia Palaszczuk - that's her end-game here? Because if people have higher electricity prices don't they punish her at the ballot box in the next election?
Steve Ciobo: Well, you know, the simple statement of fact is that the Queensland Labor Government is the beneficiary of higher energy prices that comes through network charging. Because they are ripping hundreds of millions of dollars out of their energy generators and energy distributors in that state, to help prop up their budgets. So I'm not surprised, frankly, that the Queensland State Labor Government is apparently come out arguing against a policy that brings together reliability and affordability. Because the only reason you'd do that, surely, is because it's actually a policy that's going to mean less revenue for the Queensland State Government and more money in people's pockets.
Laura Jayes: What are you trying to achieve here though, bipartisanship? Because that's what business industry-
Steve Ciobo: Absolutely.
Laura Jayes: -is crying out for or are you trying to have a fight with Labor at the next election?
Steve Ciobo: No, what we want is more reliable and more affordable power. That's what Australians want, that's what businesses want. They want reliability and they want affordability. So we've put on the table a proposal that's going to deliver those two things and now we've got State Labor Governments coming out opposed to it-
Laura Jayes: Well you've put it on the table but you haven't released the modelling. And I think you're dealing with a very sceptical public that's seen many iterations of energy policy from Cash for Clunkers to Citizens' Assembly, Direct Action, which no one's talking about as a solution now, so if you really want bipartisanship, put the modelling on the table and talk to Labor behind closed doors. Not just setting up a fight for the next election.
Steve Ciobo: No, we're happy to have that conversation. And this is precisely why we went, and this isn't a political solution, this isn't the politicians or Josh Frydenberg-
Laura Jayes: Really?
Steve Ciobo: -that have come up with this.
Laura Jayes: Then why didn't you go down the CET path-
Steve Ciobo: Well, because it's the Energy Security Board, we went to the experts, we asked them for their advice. This is their recommendation from the experts in the field. Not politicians. This is coming from the Energy Security Board. And bear in mind, too, Laura, that the Energy Security Board is actually a creature of the State governments. It's actually a creature that… When these appointments were made, the Labor party lauded them and said they were such terrific people and now because it cuts across their ability to secure revenue they now suddenly are going, "Oh, this is not a good idea."
Laura Jayes: When you go back to your electorate and you go straight to pensioners and young families in Moncrieff, what do you say to them about what your plan will save them in terms of their bill? Because when it comes to bottom line here, it's people care most about what they're paying.
Steve Ciobo: Absolutely, that's correct.
Laura Jayes: So what can you guarantee them?
Steve Ciobo: Well that's what we talk about. We talk about the fact that we have a plan to make energy more affordable and more reliable.
Laura Jayes: But what's the bottom line? What's the dollars?
Steve Ciobo: Well, as we said, the projections that we've seen at this stage that's been put forward, is around the vicinity of $115 a year. But what's more important than that is that we're actually seeing a reduction-
Laura Jayes: After the next election, not 'til after the next election.
Steve Ciobo: Well, but, hang on, what's more important than that is that we have had now, as a consequence of what has been poor policy, thus far, massive increases in the cost of energy. Now we are now, hopefully, going to stop those energy increases off the back of being able to put this policy into place and not only stop those energy increases but actually turn the needle back the other way and get a decline. Now that is a very good outcome, and if we can do that in a context where we're also guaranteeing more reliable power, that's a terrific outcome.
Laura Jayes: Okay. But what are you promising in terms of power prices coming down this year? Next year? The year after that?
Steve Ciobo: Well, you know what? I'll tell you this. One thing that is absolutely a fact; the sooner the State Governments get on board with this plan, the sooner we can deliver savings back to Australians. Full stop. If they want to stuff around, if they want to drag out, if they want to have arguments about how much revenue it's gonna cost in the case of Queensland, the Queensland Labor government, then it's gonna take longer to deliver cheaper prices for Aussies.
Laura Jayes: Okay, let me ask about your portfolio a little bit more specifically. Free trade agreements, I know you're working on them with India and Indonesia, are you any closer?
Steve Ciobo: Absolutely. Indonesia is tracking very well. We're hopefully going to be able to conclude a comprehensive free trade deal with Indonesia by the end of this year. And we've got nine free trade deals underway bilaterally and regionally. The people at Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working really hard on securing these deals. We've got them underway with Hong Kong, with Peru, with Singapore, we just put through the Parliament yesterday with Indonesia, with the Pacific Alliance countries, there's a really active agenda because we want to work on our trade opportunities because we know if we open up trade opportunities for Aussie exporters, we drive economic growth and we drive jobs.
Laura Jayes: Okay. India is a bit more difficult, isn't it?
Steve Ciobo: India is much more difficult and I've indicated that as much. I'm not going to just take a deal that's not a good deal for Australia. The only deal I'm interested in is a good deal for both parties.
Laura Jayes: Okay. We'll see. Trade Minister, thank you for your time.