SUBJECTS: Electricity prices; Rising cost of living; World Teachers’ Day.
NATALIE BARR: Energy ministers will meet in Melbourne today to tackle those skyrocketing power prices. It comes after revelations in Tuesday's budget that electricity bills are forecast to rise up to 50 per cent, that's in the next two years.
The New South Wales Energy Minister is demanding the Federal Government provide financial relief to households, but the Treasurer has defended the lack of assistance, saying more handouts could then contribute to higher inflation which we're all fighting.
For their views let's bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to you both.
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: G'day, Nat.
SUSSAN LEY: Good morning.
BARR: The Prime Minister says the Government is strongly considering intervening in the energy market to bring down those prices which are going to hit people soon. Jason, how soon could that be done? How soon could you help families?
CLARE: It's a fact, Nat, that Aussies are under the pump. I think I've said to you a couple of times on the show that things are expected to get worse before they get better. And this is happening not just here, it's happening I think in almost every country around the world. That tells you something.
This is caused not by anything we've done here in the couple of months since we won the election but because of a war in Europe. But that doesn't mean that we can't do anything. And this meeting today is looking at what are the sort of regulatory interventions we can take here to help to keep prices down.
BARR: Sussan, what would you support, a cap on energy prices, a cap on exports, what does the Government do here?
LEY: Nat, I can't believe the Labor Party is still talking about this. This was very apparent when they came into government which is why this week's budget was a budget of broken promises; a 50 per cent hike in power prices, and when Anthony Albanese became Prime Minister, he said he would leave no one behind. Millions have been left behind in this budget.
This is a problem for the Government to sort out, to deal with. And they knew about it well before they came into government. The war in Europe started in February. This trend internationally has been with us for months and months and, as I said, I can't believe the Government is still casting around for ideas about what to do about these power prices that are going to add to the cost‑of‑living squeeze that is hurting everyday Australians every single day.
BARR: Jason, you're shaking your head but she's right, the war was on when you got in and you've made that promise that's in everyone's mind, that they would save $275 on their power bills, and power bills are skyrocketing. They're going to go up and they're going to keep going up. So that's broken, isn't it?
CLARE: I'll tell you why I was shaking my head. What wasn't apparent before the election was that Sussan and her team in the Liberal Party covered up a 20 per cent increase in power prices. They changed the law so that instead of it being published before the election it was published after the election. They kept us in the dark. They kept the entire Australian people in the dark. A massive cover up.
Sussan covered up a report, a damning report on the environment, made sure that wasn't released before the election either. Scott Morrison covered up the fact that he was basically every Minister in the Government. They were all responsible for more cover ups than a dodgy tattoo parlour.
Now if we want to tackle this issue you've got to build more renewable energy. Our coal-fired power stations are running out of puff. Renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy. We're saying build more renewable energy. What we heard last night from Peter Dutton is build nuclear power stations. If they get in at the next election, they think the solution is to build 80 nuclear power stations right across the country. Come on, that is crazy stuff.
BARR: Sussan, is Jason right because –
LEY: People are tired of these excuses, Nat. People are tired of these excuses.
BARR: But your government, the Morrison Government delayed that pricing update till after the election. It was 18.3 per cent on average. Jason's right there, isn't he?
LEY: People are tired of all these excuses and all this looking in the rear-view mirror. For goodness’ sake.
CLARE: Ducking and weaving.
BARR: Isn't that right?
LEY: A promise made, a promise of $275 ‑ not at all.
CLARE: Ducking and weaving.
BARR: ‑‑ back on that question –
LEY: A promise made to bring down your power prices. The circumstances of the global economy, the national economy, and all of the dynamics we face in the energy markets were well known to the Government when they came into power. They had access to all of that information.
BARR: So, they knew that that was delayed?
CLARE: No, we did not.
LEY: And I totally disagree –
BARR: Did they, Sussan?
CLARE: Not the cover up.
LEY: They knew, they knew exactly what they were going into.
CLARE: No, we did not, Sussan.
LEY: Because that information ‑ that modelling and all of the circumstances that every single country faced was well known. In fact, your Treasurer, Jason, said, "In our budget what we need to do is tackle the spike in inflation". At this budget he said again, "What we need to do is tackle the spike in inflation".
There's been absolutely no movement, no understanding of the pain that ordinary Australians are facing, and it seems once again no ability to deal with that by dealing with the rising cost of living. So yes, a broken promise on a $275 reduction in power prices.
CLARE: Sussan, you're doing the old political trick, you're ducking and weaving. You're not answering the question.
LEY: And millions of Australians left behind.
BARR: Okay. So, Jason, now, I mean this has happened, so now you're stuck with it, you've got to work out what to do. Do you cap energy prices? Do you put a cap on exports? And then if you do, who pays for that? Does the Government pay for it? Do the energy companies pay? That's going to be the big question next, isn't it?
CLARE: I'm not going to speculate on that here today on the show. It's what the key Ministers in this area are having a look at: what are the sorts of things that we can do to put downward pressure on prices? One of them I mentioned is you've got to build renewable energy but they're looking at a whole raft of options.
BARR: But that takes a while. That's not going to help people in the next year or two.
CLARE: That's right, and that's why we're looking at other options as well.
BARR: Like what?
CLARE: Well, I'm not going to speculate on what they are, but Chris is leading that discussion with Energy Ministers today.
BARR: Well people are sitting here in their lounge rooms and they're going to be opening their bills and they want to know what the solution is.
CLARE: That's why I started the show, Nat, by saying that Aussies are doing it tough. You mentioned inflation. We've got to get that zombie back in the grave. If we don't get inflation under control, then you're going to have real problems. That's what's pushing up interest rates. A war in Europe doesn't help either. But you asked a question of Sussan -isn't it a fact that they covered up the fact that prices were going up? And she ducked and weaved like Neo from The Matrix.
She won't answer the question because she knows it's true. They covered it up from the Australian people.
BARR: Well, I was going to move on because I think we've sort of covered that. Everyone ducking and weaving. Let's go to World Teachers Day, shall we? Something better to finish on. Let's go to the teacher who changed your life because most of us have one. If they have a big impact on your life it's really something, isn't it? Jason, the teacher who changed your life.
CLARE: Yeah, we all do, don't we? You know you don't remember much about when you were five, but we all remember the names of our teachers and it tells us just how important they are. The first thing I did when I got this job was go back to my old primary school, Cabramatta Public School, and give Mrs Fry a hug. Cathy was there then. She started there in 1978 and she's still there more than 40 years later, changing the lives of thousands and thousands of kids in Cabramatta.
I want to give a quick shout out to Cathy, and to Peter Valenti, my history teacher from Canley Vale High. Peter and I are still great mates, we catch up all the time, and Pete, looking forward to seeing you at Christmas.
BARR: Oh, well, happy World Teachers' Day to both of them. Sussan, do you have any teachers to thank?
LEY: For me it was a university lecturer, Nat. I was 30 years old. I was starting university. I felt I didn't fit in. I had a, you know, background on the farm and all of this education around me seemed very grand. And I was waiting there with my baby in the capsule, and out strode Dr Julie Jackson and she picked up the capsule, she looked at me, she gave me a huge smile. She said, "Can I help with that? Come in, let's have a chat", and she gave the confidence that yes, I could do this, and then followed ten years of part‑time study. So, you think back to the people who gave you that sense that you could believe in yourself.
BARR: Yeah and going back to uni with a baby. See, that's a great story too. Thank you very much. That's a nice way to end. We can do this. Thank you, see you next week.
CLARE: See you guys.