Radio Interview - 2CC Canberra Breakfast - 15 June 2021

Radio Interview - 2CC Canberra Breakfast - 15 June 2021 Main Image

By David Smith MP

15 June 2021


SUBJECTS: ACT Energy prices and nuclear power; National Archives and War Memorial; Tamil family from Biloela; and seventh Vinnies CEO Sleepout challenge.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Time for our regular political panel - representing the government is the Liberal member for Hume, the Minister for Energy and Emissions reduction, Angus Taylor. Good morning, Angus.


CENATIEMPO: And David Smith is the Labor member for Bean. G'day, David.


CENATIEMPO: Angus, I'll start with you. Energy prices going up here in the ACT. The ACT government insists it's got nothing to do with their renewable energy policy, despite the fact that the price rises is because of feed in tariffs for solar energy.

TAYLOR: Well, that's absolutely what it's about. Look, we're seeing on average across Australia an 11 per cent reduction in retail prices in the last year. The one place that's bucking the trend is the ACT where we're seeing a 12 per cent increase because of contracts that were entered into a number of years ago that I was opposed, strongly opposed, to at the time. They were set at too high a price and consumers are paying the price. I mean, this is what happens when you get these crazy policies that are done because they're considered by a government, a state government, to be popular and the ACT is sadly now paying the price for that. And I hope that the lessons are being learnt about entering into those sorts of ridiculous contracts.

CENATIEMPO: David, federal Labor has a risk of going down this similar road. I mean, the more sensible members on your side of the House are obviously, you know, understand that we have to move towards renewable energy, but there's got to be a transition period and we've got to be sensible about it. But there's a risk that if we go too woke, we'll go broke.

SMITH: Stephen, I think the issue here as Angus has alluded actually relates to contracts that were signed some years ago. So, I think it's pretty easy to get over excited about it. The truth is that ACT prices are still incredibly competitive with prices around the country---and for those in need here in the ACT, the government has done the right thing and announced rebates.

CENATIEMPO: Angus, I want to stay on the energy thing for a moment. Australia and Germany are now going to invest in new hydrogen initiatives as part of our ambition to develop the cheapest, cleanest hydrogen in the world. The government is also expanding the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to fund carbon capture and storage. When are we going to be fair dinkum and start talking about nuclear in a real way?

TAYLOR: Well, when the Labor Party is prepared to actually have a serious discussion about it. I mean, we've made very clear in our technology investment roadmap that the emerging new nuclear technologies for modular reactors are something we're looking at very closely. But at the end of the day, you know, it's an emerging technology. But the one thing that's blocked nuclear throughout Australian history has been scare campaigns and if Labor's not prepared to work with us, it's too easy to stop this. So, you know, there are sensible people within the Labor Party I know, who are who are supportive of going down this path. But right now, we don't have that bipartisanship and that would be critical to getting an outcome.

CENATIEMPO: Dave, I mean, that's a bit of a cop out, isn't it? I mean, it's all well and good for --- and I agree with Angus that, you know, some members of the Labor Party have been obstructionist on this. But the government should show some leadership, shouldn't they?

SMITH: Completely. Why are they in government? It's extraordinary, Stephen, how often somehow, particular things are a consequence of Labor's position. Last time I looked, I might have hoped that we had a majority in the House of Representatives, but we still don't.

CENATIEMPO: Wishful thinking, mate. But I do want to stay with you for a moment. This National Archives thing, I think is a national travesty. For the sake of 70 million dollars, we could lose some of our most important memories and I think from a conservative government's perspective, I mean, as conservatives, we're supposed to be the people that want to conserve these type of things, whereas Amanda Stoker's been almost flippant about it. You've signed up with these membership payments, but you've kind of tied this into the Australian War Memorial thing, aren't they two separate things?

SMITH: Well, Stephen, at the end of the day, there are opportunity costs and they're choices that government makes. I think to be brutally honest the government could fund all these things appropriately, so they shouldn't necessarily be at the cost of each other. But if it does come down to the amount of money that the government is willing to put into the ACT there were some pretty reasonable alternative approaches for the War Memorial (redevelopment) that would have allowed us to easily resource not just the National Archives, but a number of our other critical institutions that are struggling with cuts to their resources as well.

CENATIEMPO: Angus, one of the things David's been critical of is the funding of the National Capital Authority and its ability to actually assess these things. But when it comes to the War Memorial, and I say this time and time again, it's our most important cultural institution, a lot of the---whilst there was 600 submissions, most of them against---a lot of it was based on misinformation. I mean, it wouldn't matter how much you funded the NCA. They've still got to basically wade through B.S. to come to the decision.

TAYLOR: Yeah, that's right, and look, I mean, you know, I'm one of the greatest supporters of the War Memorial and the National Archives. Look, we've just given 10 million dollars to support the digitisation of Second World War Service records through the National Archives and we have to make sure it's properly funded and that's something I've been strong on for many years as with the War Memorial. I mean, these are important institutions. We've got to make sure they're run effectively and efficiently and we don't want to be wasting money. Taxpayers money needs to be treated with the greatest of respect. But, you know, it is important we keep these things funded and it is also important that we treat them as national treasures, which is as they are.

CENATIEMPO: David, I just want to touch on that for a moment, because a lot of the, you know, I've read a lot of the reports on this and, you know, one person suggesting they're going to turn the War Memorial into a theme park and others saying, you know ... I mean, the impression is that the original building is going to get torn down where that is so far from the truth it's not funny.

SMITH: And you're right, Stephen. I think my concern, as you're probably aware, is that there were other options which could have explored the use of the Treloar Resource Centre out at Mitchell quite effectively to particularly house bigger items. So, there's a way where you can actually support some much-needed change to the War Memorial. I think there is change needed there. But at the same time actually come up with an approach that was actually more cost effective and didn't necessarily require the demolition of Anzac Hall.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, I mean, this is a discussion we can have ... we can spend hours on this. I want to move on, though. Angus, this decision on this Tamil family from Biloela that are in detention on Christmas Island, with suggestions that Alex Hawke might step in and use his discretionary powers here. Are we letting the emotion of the fact that they have two daughters get in the way of the fact that at every stage along the way, this family have not met the legal requirements to remain in Australia?

TAYLOR: Look, at the end of the day, these are difficult decisions and they've been around for a long while. You know, Labor and the Greens will constantly want to let everybody in and this has been the great history of this issue for a long period of time that they've been inclined to do that. We always seek to strike a balance between our commitment to strong border protection, which is obviously a hugely important commitment given the 1200 deaths we saw at sea when Labor was last in government, with an appropriate level of compassion in circumstances which are appropriate. Now, we've got to get that balance right, because what we don't want to do is open up the trade in people smuggling and that would be a disaster for this country, as it has been in the past and getting that balance right I'm very confident Alex Hawke will do exactly that.

CENATIEMPO: Dave, I want to go one step further than that. I'm not so concerned about the opening the floodgates to people smugglers, but certainly if we make a decision here, and we all feel compassion for the two little girls, but what message does it send to other asylum seekers who are on, you know, Temporary Visas who, again, don't qualify to remain in Australia, from then using this as a precedent if we do make a decision here?

SMITH: So, Stephen, there's ministerial intervention in hundreds and hundreds of cases every year based upon the particular facts of those cases. I'll tell you the precedent that we will set here is that where a mum and dad are wanted and valued as members of this regional community of Biloela --- and where their children are born here in this country --- then that's what the public wants. They want that family to have an opportunity to live their lives here in Australia.

CENATIEMPO: I'll finish off, Dave, with you. You're taking part in your seventh Vinnies CEO Sleepout at the arboretum. You've gone mad. I mean, sleeping at the arboretum in this weather, geez.

SMITH: I am Canberra born and bred, Stephen, and it's going to be very, very cold. I think the option was to either sleep there, or I think some businesses that are taking part from Fyshwick are also doing a bit of a sleep out there. But look Vinnies do amazing work right across our region. I'm hoping, Stephen, there will come a day where I don't have to front up for another sleep out.

CENATIEMPO: You know, I agree with you. Angus, can we rope you in too?

TAYLOR: Well, I've had lots of nights out under the stars in this region over my lifetime, but it won't be that one. But good on you, David, for doing that, well done.

CENATIEMPO: Go on you. Angus, thanks for your time this morning.

TAYLOR: Thanks, Stephen.

CENATIEMPO: And Dave Smith, good on you.

SMITH: Thanks, Stephen.

CENATIEMPO: Dave Smith, the Member for Bean and Angus Taylor, the member for Hume.