SUBJECTS: Energy; Relationship with Japan; AUKUS.
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, there is a lot of finger pointing in Canberra. Blame being pushed around for the east coast power crisis while there is still a risk of blackouts. We’re joined now by Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles in Geelong and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Brissy. Morning, lads. So nice to see you this morning. Richard, to you first of all, the new PM has bravely declared the climate wars are over. Kind of reminds me a little bit of George Bush declaring ‘mission accomplished’. He hasn’t gone too early, has he?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we want the climate wars to be over because the climate wars, and particularly inside the Liberal Party, is what’s left us in the position we’re in the at the moment. The failure to invest in renewable energy, the failure to invest in a modern power grid, is why we’re all facing the problems we are right now with ageing power generators which are not operating at the moment, and an ageing grid, which means we are dealing with a crisis. And that’s what we’ve got to focus on.
STEFANOVIC: How are renewables and storage going to solve anything short-term? They’re both big expensive and long-term projects, aren’t they?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, that’s true, and we’ve got our eye on what we need to do in the long term to get this right. What we’re experiencing now in the short term is the failure to do that on the part of the former Liberal Government. Right now, Chris Bowen has been leaving no stone unturned in terms of getting us through the immediate crisis. He’s spoken with the state Energy Ministers during the week. Working with AEMO they’ve suspended the spot market. That’s an unusual step to take but an important one to make sure there is supply. We will be working with the large energy companies, the large users, to try and make sure we can moderate the supply and demand in the market. We’re working our way through this crisis. But we’re in this situation because of the failure of the former Liberal Government to do anything in relation to energy policy, and the wars which were going on inside their party room is why we have the crisis we’re experiencing right now.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Peter, surely, you’ve learnt some valuable lessons out of that crushing election defeat. The war is over, isn’t it, and you have to support Labor’s targets now, don’t you?
PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Morning, Karl. Look, I think people are going to get sick of hearing Richard reading from the same talking points. He’s in Government now. He’s not in Opposition and his job is to fix this problem. It’s remarkable how Labor always has this bad luck when they’re in Government. Whether it’s in relation to the economy, it always sours on their watch. It’s in relation to an energy crisis, it always happens when they get into Government. Borders breaking down, always happens – you know, they’re the unluckiest people in politics, but the reality is that we were dealing with these issues every day. The Ukraine hasn’t just gone into war. It’s been in war for months. It hasn’t just been a problem in relation to energy supply since Labor got into power. Angus Taylor was able to deal with all of these issues and Chris Bowen, you know, is the bunny in the headlights. He has no idea what he’s doing or which way to turn and he’s a bad minister making a situation worse –
STEFANOVIC: Will you support Labor’s policy?
DUTTON: Karl, the problem here – let’s have a sensible discussion about this. You could have 100 per cent renewables tomorrow and under our Government, on a per capita basis, we had the biggest investment in renewables in the world. This is not the problem. The problem is that you’ve got the firming up difficulty. If you had 100 per cent renewables tomorrow, when the sun doesn’t shine, you’ve got to have either coal or gas underpinning it. That’s the scientific reality. The talk of a battery and storage, which Anthony Albanese is talking about, is just not a scientific reality in 2022. I wish it was, but it’s not. And the problem is that they keep talking about renewables. That’s not the problem here. The problem is that, you know, gas companies have heard Labor say that they won’t support gas. And in terms of wars going on, you’ve got Madeleine King, the Resources Minister, and Chris Bowen, the Energy Minister, at complete odds within the Government. So, let’s have a sensible discussion instead of the Labor talking points that just want to blame the previous Government.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Richard, you do have – I mean, there is a war coming. You’ve got massive problems coming with the Greens. Are you going to smoke the peace pipe with them or go to war with them as well?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No, we’ve made it really clear, Karl. We took a set of policies to the last election and they’re the policies that we’re going to pursue in Government. And we’ve made it really clear that it’s not about working with the minor parties, it is about doing what we said we would do and what we took to the election, and that’s where we’re going to be at. But you know, you listen to Peter talk – we’ve been in Government for about three and a half weeks. The issues that we are dealing with now, any person with common sense can see is the legacy of the last 10 years of Government that Peter has been responsible for. And, you know, we get the role of baseload energy. But there isn’t modern energy going into the system in terms of renewables. Our grid has had no money spent on it, and that is a function of 10 years of internal fighting within the Liberal and National Parties, which have meant that we’ve had no consistent energy policy, and that’s why we’ve got a crisis now.
STEFANOVIC: Richard, you’re just back from Japan. How did things end up with Japan? Did you anger the Chinese?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re working very closely with Japan. When you look at the strategic challenges we face with China seeking to shape the world around in a way we’ve not seen before, our relationship with Japan has never been more important. There’s an enormous willingness on the part of the Japanese to do more with Australia. We all understood how important Japan is for our future. What was really gratifying is that when you go to Japan, they see us in the same light. And actually, I was really excited about the prospect of what we can do together, and this is going to be an even more important relationship going forward than it has been in the past.
STEFANOVIC: You’re not backing out of AUKUS, are you? You aren’t subbing that one out, are you?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Look, Peter will try and spin everything that is possible to spin about that –
STEFANOVIC: Aw, that’s a bit unfair.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We’re complete supporters of AUKUS. No, I actually don’t reckon that’s unfair. We are complete supporters of AUKUS.
DUTTON: You’ve gone all nasty. What is going on?
STEFANOVIC: I will say, Richard is making you look bad. He’s travelling all over the world, getting these deals done. He’s actually talking to the Chinese. I mean, it’s humiliating for you.
DUTTON: Richard’s not talking. He’s just sitting there listening dutifully (inaudible), Karl.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: That’s you, Peter. You’ve gone all silent, Peter.
DUTTON: Just patting Richard on the head. Pat, pat, pat. No, no. You can’t claim the relationship, you know, is great with the Japanese, which we have been working on day and night actually. They’re an incredibly important partner. You’ve been in Government for three weeks, as you say, and all of a sudden, you’ve created the best relationship with the Japanese. So I don’t know whether you want to give kudos to the previous Government, Richard, because possibly – this couldn’t possibly be your work. You’ve only been in Government for three weeks.
STEFANOVIC: No. I don’t know, he’s going all right –
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Let me extend an olive branch here. The former Government did do good work with the Japanese. We want to continue that. And it’s a really important relationship.
DUTTON: Oh, thank you, Richard. Thank you. That’s very gracious.
STEFANOVIC: This takes all the pressure out of your tyres. Great stuff, guys. We’ll see you soon. Appreciate you being on the show.