Senate debates

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Questions without Notice

Energy

2:47 pm

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann, who I understand missed me dearly earlier this week. In an article in this morning's Australian Financial Review entitled 'Energy heavyweights back the revival of the NEG', the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, is quoted as saying:

Adopting a durable cross-party framework would be much better than surrendering to political dysfunction and trying to bind future governments to hastily drafted contracts for controversial projects.

Does the Prime Minister agree?

2:48 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister agrees that we need to do everything to bring down electricity prices and ensure Australians can benefit from reliable energy supplies, and that is precisely what the government is doing. I'm quite happy to take you back through the four key parts of our plan: a price safety net, stopping price gouging, backing investment in reliable power, supporting 24/7 reliable power. There are, of course, many components to it, and we invite the Labor Party to join the coalition in working hard to bring electricity prices down.

The first thing that the Labor Party could do, here and now, is rule out the reintroduction of a carbon tax. The other day, earlier this week, we had the shadow Attorney-General being asked whether he could rule out a carbon tax, and what did he say? He said something. He said, 'I'm not going to play the rule in, rule out game.' At least—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senator Cormann. Senator Marshall, on a point of order?

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On direct relevance. I clearly simply asked the minister whether the Prime Minister agreed with the comments of Innes Willox? I can repeat those comments again if you'd like, but that is all I asked.

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

You've reminded the minister of the question. I note he has a minute and one second remaining to answer. Senator Cormann.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much, Mr President. I think that I very directly addressed what the Prime Minister agreed with, and that is our plan to bring electricity prices down and to ensure that Australians can benefit from reliable energy supplies. Of course, I understand why a Labor senator would jump up when I start talking about Labor's plans for a carbon tax, though I was surprised that Senator Marshall was so quick in jumping up to defend the shadow Attorney-General. I didn't know that they were part of the same dysfunctional Labor family in Victoria. We hear a lot from the Labor Party—

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

You want to talk about dysfunction, do you?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Here we have the senator for Pyongyang! There's still a lot of division going on inside the Labor Party in Victoria.

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I note that Senator Marshall stood up—

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senator Cormann. The time for the answer has expired. Senator Cormann! It might help if you would look occasionally at the chair. Then I might not have to be so loud. Senator Marshall, a supplementary question.

2:51 pm

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, well we could and should talk all day about the Victorian Labor Party. Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of Australia, has called on 'all sides of the political divide to support the NEG to end the political paralysis that has stalled much-needed investment'. Will the Prime Minister heed Ms Westacott's call and work with Labor to deliver a National Energy Guarantee?

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

Ms Westacott is an outstanding Australian. I've got a lot of time for Ms Westacott, who does a great job as the CEO of the Business Council of Australia. One of the missions that Jennifer Westacott has pursued in recent years is a lower and globally more competitive tax rate for businesses in Australia. So I assume, now that Senator Marshall is a fan of the BCA and is promoting the arguments put forward by the BCA, that Senator Marshall is now going to advocate for a lower, globally more competitive business tax rate.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thought that wasn't your policy anymore.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm just noting that Senator Marshall associates himself with the BCA. I know that he's a right-wing free marketeer from way back. Nothing surprises me about the Victorian Labor Party anymore. Maybe that is a rearguard action by Senator Marshall to switch courses. (Time expired)

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Marshall, a final supplementary question.

2:52 pm

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Given that the chief executive of Alinta Energy, the chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, the chief executive of the Business Council of Australia and the former deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop all agree, when will the Prime Minister end the political dysfunction that has stalled much-needed investment and work with Labor to deliver a National Energy Guarantee?

2:53 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Vice-President of the Executive Council) Share this | | Hansard source

The Prime Minister will continue to do what we've done as a government over the last five years, and that is to make decisions to put the Australian economy on a stronger foundation and trajectory for the future, to create more jobs and indeed to get the budget back into surplus as soon as possible while bringing electricity prices down by making sure that we've got reliable energy supplies into the future. We know that Labor governments around Australia in the past, most famously the Labor government in South Australia, have failed to keep the lights on in their state jurisdictions. We know that Labor governments in the past, having promised, 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead,' have then turned around to push up electricity prices in a way that hurt the economy, put jobs at risk and hurt the opportunity for families around Australia to get ahead. Under our government, you will get a continuation of stronger growth, more jobs, a stronger and improving budget position, lower electricity prices and more reliable energy supplies. That will be the choice before the Australian people at the next election. (Time expired)