Interview with David Koch

Transcript
17 Mar 2017
Sunrise, 7
Prime Minister
Gas roundtable, Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0, interest rates
E&OE

DAVID KOCH:

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull. Just got off the number 11 tram at Melbourne to visit our studios, he joins me now. Trust it was a good trip Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER:

It was, it was great.

DAVID KOCH:

Look, the average Australian is thinking to themselves: “We are the biggest energy exporter in the world, and we don’t keep enough to keep our own lights on. What the hell is going on?”

PRIME MINISTER:

Well you’re absolutely right about gas. That’s why I got the gas executives from the east coast in to meet with us earlier in the week. They have given a commitment to increase the provision of gas for the domestic market and give a guarantee that there will always be gas available for peak supply for the electricity market. But we’ll be meeting with them again in a month. I’ve left them, I’ve been very clear to them, that we will not hesitate to use the powers of the Commonwealth Government to ensure that Australian families and businesses have access to adequate and affordable gas.

DAVID KOCH:

Jeff Kennett, earlier in the program, said: “Why don’t the Feds take control of the energy sector, rather than leave it up to a whole bunch of states to do their own thing. It is so important, it’s critical.”

Why don’t you take the powers over yourself?

PRIME MINISTER:

Kochie what we’ve got to do is take action now. As you know, the states own a lot of the energy assets and they are largely – almost entirely – regulated by the states in terms of electricity provision.

DAVID KOCH:

Well, you take it over.

PRIME MINISTER:

Rather than embarking on a massive constitutional battle which may or may not succeed, the better point is to work together and to deliver the secure and affordable energy Australians need. Australians want action, they don’t want stunts, like Jay Weatherill pulled. They don’t want political argy bargy. They want their leaders to get on and lead and deliver. That’s what I’m doing, with the biggest expansion into storage for generations.

What we’re doing with Snowy Hydro is taking that extraordinary vision, that extraordinary engineering achievement and we will increase its capacity by 50 per cent.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah but that’s going to take four years. What happens in the meantime?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well what we’re also doing is, as you say, is making more gas available. What we’re also committed to is ensuring that we provide the leadership that will put in place the capacity for us to have more secure and more affordable energy. You know, people often say Kochie, that politicians are too short sighted.

DAVID KOCH:

Fair enough. Fair enough.

PRIME MINISTER:

So I don’t think it’s fair to criticise me for saying I’m building for the future.

DAVID KOCH:

Okay, it is fair enough to criticise you for slagging off the South Australians with their power blackouts, when it was really the national grid that let them down.

PRIME MINISTER:

David, David that is absolutely not true.

DAVID KOCH:

Hang on -

PRIME MINISTER:

I’m sorry to correct you, but the failure in South Australia was for one very simple reason. What Jay Weatherill did was introduce an enormous amount of wind power into his state -

DAVID KOCH:

Which you supported.

PRIME MINISTER:

Let me finish - which enables that wind sector to deliver well over 100% of the state’s demand one hour, or zero per cent the next, if the wind stops blowing. What he failed to do was put in place the backup, the storage, to fill in when the wind isn’t blowing. That was his decision, and he actually closed down baseload coal-fired power stations and gas-fired power stations and he left his state completely dependent on a very long extension cord into Victoria. That’s the vulnerability that Jay Weatherill created. That’s why he’s so angry. He’s angry because he’s made a mistake.

DAVID KOCH:

Yeah, those Victorians take all the water out of the Murray before it gets to South Australia, now they’re taking the electricity. He’s cranky with you. He took it out on your Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg. Let’s take a look, it was a classic.

JAY WEATHERILL [Excerpt]:

Him suggesting we want to work together is a disgrace. The way in which your Government has treated our state, it is the most anti South Australian Government we have seen from a Commonwealth Government in living memory. What we have is a national energy market that is broken. 

DAVID KOCH:

Okay, so is the national energy market running well? You’re saying it is.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I’m not.

DAVID KOCH:

He’s saying it’s broken.

PRIME MINISTER:

No, David don’t put words in my mouth. We’ve got our chief scientist Alan Finkel leading a team that is reviewing the energy market rules. It certainly does need reform. But let’s just get back to South Australia. I think we all agree South Australia needs more storage. Doesn’t it? It has basically none at the moment. The first major storage project that has received funding is the one that we’re supporting on the Spencer Gulf, the Cultana project pumped hydro. That was announced some weeks ago. What Josh was announcing yesterday, was announcing federal money to another storage project. So when Weatherill says we’re not doing anything to help; we’re acting, he’s berating.

DAVID KOCH:

Let’s move on to the economy, some soft jobs figures coming out yesterday, which was a bit of a concern. Then National Australia Bank put up variable home loan rates for both investors and owner-occupiers. It’s got a special for first homebuyers, which is lower. Banks putting up their rates when the Reserve Bank is keeping official rates on hold. That’s going to weaken the economy even further isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s certainly not welcome. But as you know, the banks have obviously got to manage their own affairs. They have funding costs that are related to the overall market, particularly what’s happening internationally and you’ve seen rates going up in America. But the fundamental fact that the banks have got to recognise - it is Australians expect a higher degree of accountability from them. We’re hauling them in regularly before the House Economics Committee and you’re seeing action from the banks. Look what they’ve done on credit card interest rates. They are starting to respond and they’re recognising – and I’ve said to them – that everything they do, every step they take, they are going to have to be accountable to the people of Australia through the Parliament. That will be regularly, a couple of times a year.

DAVID KOCH:

Not a banking inquiry though. Alright Prime Minister, I’ll let you get on the tram back again. Appreciate your time.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thank you very much.

 [ENDS]