Radio Interview - 2CC Canberra Breakfast - 16 November 2021


Subjects: Climate change and the Glasgow26 summit and the role of government in steering Australia to meet our commitments, Scott Morrison’s volte-face on electric vehicles and celebrating the end of year 12.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Well, two blokes I'd be happy to have a beer with are the Labor member for Bean, David Smith. G'day, Dave.


CENATIEMPO: And Angus Taylor, the Liberal member for Hume and Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Angus, good morning.


CENATIEMPO: You blokes are both sort of country members, though. So you're the kind of blokes you could sit down and have with be with. These inner-city blokes like Morrison and Albanese. You wouldn't go to a pub with them.

TAYLOR: Well, I have been to a pub with Scott ... Scomo a few times, but not Albo I have to say. I'm the other way around from you, Stephen, on this one.

SMITH: Clearly, I mean Albo's got a beer named after him. So, he's particularly worth having a beer with.

TAYLOR: Yeah, boutique beer.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah one of those inner city ones.

TAYLOR: Craft beer.

CENATIEMPO: Now, of course, the big news, Angus, and you've been over there, Cop20—Copout 26, as I like to call it—is all wrapped up. It turned out to be a bit of a fizzer. Now, obviously, there were certain nations that thought we were going to phase out coal. I can't imagine that even a Labor government would have signed up to that had they been in power at the moment. But it seems to me a bit hypocritical for the developed world to suggest well we got to where we are off the back of coal but now developing nations should not be able to enjoy the same, I guess, productive measures that we did to get ourselves into the position we're in, Angus.

TAYLOR: Well, look, that's right and it's understandable. I mean, there was good progress made on key issues at Glasgow, like transparency of reporting, which hasn't been good at all across many countries. But the point I would make is the pattern we see in Australia—where in regional areas and out of suburban areas, people are very concerned about electricity prices and jobs—is a pattern we see across the world, where countries like India are deeply concerned about making sure there are jobs, that they have affordable, reliable energy and the pathway through this. It was very clear to me at Cop this time, and in previous occasions when I've been there, that the way through this is technology, not taxes, it's not about imposing costs and shedding jobs. It's about getting low emissions technologies to a point where people choose them because they're good for them. We see that in solar in Australia, highest rate of household solar in the world, and eight times higher renewable investment in Australia than the OECD average. But India is going down exactly the same path, exactly the same path, 500 gigawatts of solar they're building. And that is the way through—technology, not taxes—not just for Australia, but across the globe. And Australian technology was on display in Glasgow and I was very proud of the companies from right across Australia that we're showing their incredible wares and the work they're doing.

CENATIEMPO: Dave, it seems to be a battle of the major parties trying to out woke each other on this, though, with criticism of the government not changing their plan to 2030 when the reality is that on projections, or the government at least tells us, that they will meet and exceed their targets that they've set for 2030. It's a bit disingenuous of Labor to say, "Well, hang on. You need to do more" when we don't have a plan ourselves.

SMITH: Well, Stephen, I think there are two things here, and obviously Cop26 has only wound up a day ago. But one of the keys is that we're going to be reconvening again next year and one of the issues that will be on the discussion table, and it's been agreed amongst the global company is about 2030 targets and the pathway to net zero and how we move towards a position where we can limit dangerous climate change and keep the planet safe.

But look, I think it's a fair point in terms of we did say that we'd have a position out there once the Glasgow conference had concluded and once the government provided its modelling for the commitments that it's made. What you're going to see over the next few weeks and months as we've worked through that modelling is exactly that and there will be a clear position for voters to make a choice on.

The position we'll put out there will be based on three things. Firstly, how we reduce emissions, we've got to do that. Secondly, how we drive down the price of electricity for households and businesses and thirdly how we drive more jobs at the same time, particularly more manufacturing and industrial jobs for Australia's regions and suburbs. Those three things will be underpinning our policies as we put those out over the coming weeks and months.

CENATIEMPO: Angus, both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party have the same problem, obviously coming from different angles in that you've obviously got to appease the Nationals, whereas Labor has got to try and appease the Greens. How do you arrive at a reasonable situation in Australia when you've got those two competing—and I don't want to call them extremes—but certainly from the perspective of the more centrist parties. How do you manage that?

TAYLOR: Well, you focus on technology, not taxes, you don't want to shed jobs, you don't want to put up the price of electricity and you focus on choices, not mandates. The PM actually captured this beautifully the other day when he said, look, our solution here is through "can do capitalism", not "don't do government", don't do government where government tells you what you can't do. You can't have this kind of car; you can't have this kind of electricity. That's never going to be the answer. And that approach, which is to say, we're going to get the cost of low emissions technologies down through the work of businesses across Australia and people will choose those technologies and are choosing them already now because it's good for them. That's the way through this and it's the way through it not just in Australia but right across the globe. We hope Labor joins us in that approach. We haven't ... 130 weeks we've got no climate policies out of Albo. He's been there for a long while. He still hasn't got there—telling us he's going to put it out on Christmas Eve—but we would like a bipartisan approach to this. That would be good for this country.

CENATIEMPO: Dave, I want to touch on this bipartisan issue because—and I'm critical of the government for not taking a leadership position here—but nuclear is clearly the way out of this. I mean, it is the way to get reliable baseload power emission free. Albo has told me on this programme that Labor will not touch nuclear. They're not interested because nowhere else in the world is moving towards nuclear, despite the fact that almost everywhere else is except for Australia. The government won't take a leadership position on this. Why doesn't somebody on the backbench like yourself speak up and say we need to take a leadership position here?

SMITH: Stephen, I would if I actually agreed with you. I think the problem here is it has a role to play with many other countries across the world. I think that's quite right. But for Australia, our natural strengths are going to be in renewables. It's going to be in relation to solar and wind and I think if it had been something that was more of a natural strength, I'd be happy to provide a different answer. I just don't think the cost associated with bringing it online make it a viable solution.

CENATIEMPO: Okay—it seems to work everywhere else in the world, though. Angus, electric vehicles—the government seems to have changed its position on this. Why should it be government's responsibility to encourage people to change their consumer choices? Shouldn't it be up to the manufacturers to make these things more affordable?

TAYLOR: Well, it is about consumer choices—I agree with you on that—and that's the point. I mean, Labor at the last election has got a policy that would raise the price of a car by $5,000 and to sway those choices through punishing users of traditional cars—well, we're not going to do that. There is a role for government to play when new technology emerges to make sure the infrastructure is fit for purpose. We've got to make sure that we have an electricity grid that can cope, that we have the charging and refuelling for these vehicles across the country. We will rely on the private sector as much as we possibly can as we always do. That's what Liberals and Nationals do, because we believe, and we trust Australians to get on and do the job. But there's an important role here to play in making sure we've got that infrastructure in place. And that's always a role for government. We build roads, we build communication networks. That's an important role for government, but ultimately, the vehicle you choose, Stephen, all your listeners choose, is the vehicle they want, not the government tells them what to buy. "Don't do government"—you can't buy this kind of car, or we're going to punish you in some way if you buy this kind of car, that's just not where we will ever go.

CENATIEMPO: Dave, that's a fair cop, because at the moment, electric vehicles are unaffordable for the average person. It shouldn't be for government to make them more affordable. It should be for the vehicle industry to actually make their cars more economical.

SMITH: Stephen, what would be nice would be just a bit of leadership from this government in this area. It's pretty extraordinary what the Prime Minister said about electric vehicles and just in the last couple of weeks. It's just one of the great back flips in recent history.

But look, here's the reality, I was involved in the Senate committee review in relation to electric vehicles and we have a very small range of electric vehicles on sale for Australian customers. We're becoming a dumping ground for the world's lowest standard fuel vehicles because of the government's very poor framework. Sometimes you've got to provide incentives for change.

Everyone remembers—the Prime Minister might think they don't remember— but everyone remembers what the Prime Minister said about electric vehicles in the last election campaign. It was hysterical. It was silly. Now he's adopted a different position. But if you're serious, you've got to provide some genuine leadership and provide some incentives to increase that uptake. Introduce it in a government procurement policy. Start with your government fleet. There are some great opportunities to increase electric vehicle uptake and the market's going this way.

We know how many auto manufacturers are actually going to get out of combustion vehicles. It makes sense for us to actually show a bit of leadership here rather than being middle of the pack yet again.

TAYLOR: Well, the definition of leadership for the Labor Party is a tax. The definition of leadership for the Labor Party is a tax.

SMITH: We're not talking about a tax—

TAYLOR: What they proposed to the last election was a target for 50% electric vehicles—

SMITH: —it's standards. We're talking about standards, not a tax.

TAYLOR: —a vehicle fuel standard of 105 grammes per kilometre and that meant the price of an average car goes up by $5,000. That's Labor's leadership. I think the Australian people will have a different view.

SMITH: What rubbish.

TAYLOR: That's a statement of fact, David. That's a statement of fact.

CENATIEMPO: I want to change tack here for a moment. Well, it kind of flows into the same policy area, but there's a political group—so I know Angus is being targeted in his electorate by these" Voices for" mob—which now it seems to be beholden to this extension rebellion lunacy. Dave, the Labor Party needs to be concerned about this, too. I mean, I know that they're targeting Alicia Payne here in Canberra. Do we need to do something about the electoral rules to stop these fringe groups who are pretending to be someone they're not from targeting seats under false pretenses?

SMITH: Stephen, I don't know much about "Voices for Hume", and I certainly don't know if they've got any links to extreme groups. So I think there's a fair call that voters should have an understanding of who's supporting particular candidates and parties. It's the reason why we probably should have more transparent donation laws. In terms of Alicia Payne in Canberra she's doing a fantastic job. I don't think she's got any concern from either a Greens or independent opposition either and if you stand on your record and what you've done, you shouldn't have too much be concerned about.

CENATIEMPO: Angus, that's a fair call. But when you've got these nefarious groups running fairly dishonest campaigns, that's not always easy, is it?

TAYLOR: Well, look, I agree with David on this one. I respect my constituents, I'm sure Alicia does too, and I don't take any election for granted. I've always fought for Hume and I'll continue to do so, but people are entitled to run. I respect that. But sadly this is—we've seen this in the Daily Telegraph today, I think the article you're referring to, Stephen—sadly, this is just another front for green activists to play dress up as independents. We're seeing it around the country. I've seen it in the past, in my own electorate. It's not the first time and they should be upfront about who they are standing for, what they're standing for and who their links are with.

CENATIEMPO: I couldn't agree more. Now, Dave, quickly. Year 12s are finished. You're putting together some graduation packs?

SMITH: Yes, I am, Stephen. In fact, my own year 12 is finishing school today. We realise that year 12s in Canberra, but right across the country, have had a really challenging couple of years, and we're really proud of the efforts they've made and we’re trying to give them a bit of support and guidance on the next part of their journey.

CENATIEMPO: Good stuff, gentlemen. Always good to talk to you will catch up again in a couple of weeks’ time.

CENATIEMPO: David Smith, the Labor member for Bean and Angus Taylor, the Liberal member for Hume and Minister for Energy and emissions reduction.