Wednesday 22 June 2022
Topics: Energy Market Intervention, emission targets, Victorian health system

PETER STEFANOVIC: Joining us live here in the studio now is the Deputy Liberal Leader, Sussan Ley. Sussan good to see you, thanks for your time this morning.

SUSSAN LEY: Likewise.

STEFANOVIC: So, do you expect it to be lifted tonight?

LEY: Well, I hope that we get back to something that is well away from the chaos of the last few days. But this is huge problem for the Government. And it’s not one that was created since they arrived in power. Everything that they talk about, all of those factors at play were there when they came into Government with the plan. So, it is down to them to fix this.


LEY: But look, the messaging, I mean you know power generators are sort of being told they’re gaming the market by the Prime Minister, the Industry Minister is out this morning saying to gas producers, well appearing to issue veiled threats. Look, I’m sure he’s picked up the phone, but these conversations shouldn’t be happening through the media. They should be a constructive working relationship, and that relationship should be there already and I’m not sure that it is.

STEFANOVIC: Right. Many of those factors which have led to this mess are as a result of your government, of your former government, do you need to take or accept some responsibility in that?

LEY: Well, I can tell you what I did as Environment Minister. I approved the extension of three coal mines because we saw the need for continuing baseload power. Also, the huge gas project at Narrabri. And, you know, we were mocked from the sidelines by the Labor party and the activists that went to war with us. I mean they never said, Labor never said, a single thing about their actions, which were pretty appalling when you consider the strict environmental conditions that were placed on all those projects to make sure that we actually did this in the right way.

So, it comes back to the relationship which we know isn’t a great one. It comes back to Labor’s instincts, which is to always to put government at the centre of everything, not industry. Whereas we talk to industry. I’m out there talking to small and family businesses. I know hard it is for them, for people, energy retailers in the news this morning are going belly up. It’s tough times. It’s chaos and there is work to be done.

STEFANOVIC: So, but should you have done more when it comes to renewables to plan for inevitable problems that have now emerged?

LEY: Well, we did plan for the transition to renewables. Yes.

STEFANOVIC: Contributing to what?

LEY: Well, we didn’t plan to accelerate it at a rate that pushed up power prices. Now you’ve got it.

STEFANOVIC: So, is that what you wish you had done? Done it faster?

LEY: Well, no, no, no. We had the right of transition in place. It’s Labor that talks up the acceleration to renewables which of course takes confidence out of the fossil fuel market. And coal fired power stations heard those messages from Labor and there was a lot of talk.

Look, everyone wants the magic pudding of no more fossil fuels and renewables appearing on the horizon. It just doesn’t work like that. We understood that. We understand that and only yesterday I think the Government was saying the future is all about renewables. Well, yes, but the present is about managing the situation now and the people who are suffering are those who are consumers who are paying high bills – remember electricity came down 8% under us and for small business came down 12%.

STEFANOVIC: Well, they we’re already heading north though in the latter stages of your government though.

LEY: Electricity prices came down 12% for business.

STEFANOVIC: Towards the end there was, the trajectory was heading north.

LEY: Well, I can tell you what the trajectory is doing now Pete. It’s going in completely the wrong direction when it comes to, you know, this huge cost input for businesses and our own manufacturing businesses. So, Labor’s saying we want to have a manufacturing, a strong manufacturing sector. Well, I’m sorry you can’t unless you get the energy mix right.

STEFANOVIC: Well just back to coal, you’ve had the Energy Security Board which has warned of a renewables drought through winter. You’ve got governments in countries overseas, including Germany, where you’ve got green governments that are now, they’re heading back to coal. So as a short-term fix here, does there need to be a greater investment in coal now to work alongside renewables?

LEY: Well, the state governments are huge players in this market and so is the energy market operator. So, everything should be looked at. And I know that the Government is looking at everything because they’re desperate. So of course, they need to consider this. But at the heart of this problem is not understanding that a transition takes time, and a transition uses gas.

Remember, I talked about gas being mocked from the sidelines, there was gas everywhere in this country. And now, you know, we’ve got states with moratoriums on gas production that are getting gas from the pipelines in Queensland. So, you know, there’s a lot of failure of understanding the landscape when it comes to, as I said, the transition.

STEFANOVIC: Will you be supporting Labor’s 43% reduction?

LEY: Look, it’s a target, it’s a number, it’s what they do, it’s ideology, it’s not practical action. So, they’re even hinting that they won’t bring it into the Parliament. Of course it’s not necessary to do that. What we need to understand is, is not what they feel good targets are. We need to understand what they’re actually going to do to make a difference.

STEFANOVIC: They want to try and legislate it.

LEY: Well, they want to try legislate it because that’s easy to do. That’s their ideology speaking, not practical action that supports businesses and consumers. What I want to say is how that will work in the real world when it comes to prices, when it comes to costs of manufacturing, when it comes to imposts for small businesses. So, a target, as I said, it sounds good. It’s symbolism. It’s very Labor Party. What we are about is making a difference.

STEFANOVIC: Well, you have a target too. It’s not just the Labor Party. You’ve got a target but theirs is bigger.

LEY: We had a net zero by 2050 target. But we also described very carefully how we were going to get there, and we had a massive $21 billion road map which actually bought overseas countries into the mix, because it’s their emissions that need to come down for us to impact the emissions of the whole world.

STEFANOVIC: I just have one more question to ask you. I’m out of time, but we’ve got our own investigation into hospital problems, including one at Albury and Ambulance Response Times are deteriorating there. Does Albury need a new hospital?

LEY: Yes, it does. It’s a very interesting model. It’s a cross border hospital. It’s run by the Victorian health system. So, you go to hospital in Albury but the actual Victorian Government runs your hospital. Now that’s not working because Victoria has not put the capital investment into a facility in NSW. And I think actually wants to withdraw from the whole deal. So that’s a huge problem and what I’m focused on as local member is on the outcome for our patients, for our community that actually deserve a lot better.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Sussan Ley, thanks for coming in today. We’ll talk to you again soon.