SUBJECT | Energy Prices and Workplace Relations Legislation | 12 December 2022
DANICA DI GIORGIO: Joining me now live is the shadow immigration minister Dan Tehan; thank you for joining us. Will this energy plan actually reduce power bills?
DAN TEHAN: Well, we don’t know, Danica, and there’s been no modelling, it’s been rushed, and now we have this bizarre situation where the Albanese Government is going to have to negotiate it through the senate with the Greens and David Pocock. And as we know – and we saw this with the workplace relations legislation – when they negotiate with the Greens and David Pocock, you get extreme results which hurt business and, in particular, will hurt everyday Australians because when businesses hurt, they ultimately will be hurt as well.
DE GIORGIO: What's the alternative, then?
TEHAN: Well, the alternative was that they could have negotiated with us. We were very successful in our last term of government, getting downward pressure on energy prices. Our shadow energy minister wrote to the government, wrote to Chris Bowen, about six months ago, saying that we were prepared to work with the Government to put downward pressure on energy prices. Chris Bowen ignored that. He's now rushing through this piece of legislation. We have to come back to the Parliament on Thursday, and now he's left negotiating with the Greens, and we know in the longer term, this will reduce investment, which will mean that energy prices will go up. And we have no idea what sort of benefit it will add to consumers. And even worse than that, in the longer term, now we've discovered late Friday evening this reasonableness test, which means that the industry has this dark cloud hanging over it for years and years to come.
DE GIORGIO: But the government says it's about trying to provide relief as quickly as possible to households, in particular, before Christmas. It says that Australian households will pay about $230 less next year than had the Government not intervened. So what do you say to that?
TEHAN: Well, they’re saying ‘about,’ and you have to remember, they promised that all households would have a reduction of $275 before the last election on 97 occasions. We don't know whether that applies to all households. We don't know -there's no sort of guarantee from the government that that is what is going to be achieved. They're working with the states. It's not clear what responsibilities the states have on this. We know that over time it will lead to reduced investment in the market, which is going to drive prices up over time. So potentially a short-term hit and then further long-term pain. And as I've said, there's also this now dark cloud hanging over the industry from this reasonable test. And they're going to have to negotiate each path through the Senate with the Greens, which will get either more extreme outcome than what we've got at the moment. So this is a mess and a mess of the government's making, and they could have sat down with us six months ago, and we could have demonstrated to them how we were able to get downward pressure on prices in the last three years of our government and work with them to be able to get a successful outcome for Australian households.
GE GIORGIO: Alright, I just want to ask you about Labor's next wave of industrial relations reforms. The Government has flagged that a bill could be introduced in the first half of next year. We know that the first bill took a bit to get over the line, but eventually, it did. Do you expect the same debate next year?
TEHAN: Absolutely. And already, we've got the Business Council of Australia out warning about this next wave of extreme industrial relations changes. They put the business community offside with their first extreme legislation, and now we're hearing about this second wave. On top of this, we've now got this energy legislation which is going through, which business is also alarmed by, and what we've seen is a pattern now from the Albanese Government. They seem to be wanting to do everything they can to kill business confidence in this nation, and if they do that, that hurts jobs, and it hurts the economy, and that's not good for our nation.
DE GIORGIO: Dan Tehan, we need to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us.