Television Interview - Today Show

17 Jun 2022
Prime Minister

ALISON LANGDON, HOST: The Prime Minister joins us now from Canberra. Good morning, Prime Minister. You’d like a night noodle market, wouldn't you?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Night noodle market is pretty sensational. It got suspended there for a couple of years like everything else, but it's very good. I don't mind that.

LANGDON: Good stuff, we're on the same page.

PRIME MINISTER: Is it back in Hyde Park is it?

LANGDON: No, we were talking to Tim who is up in Queensland at the moment. So, I don't think you are able to hear us at that point. But hey look, talking about food, dinner last night, selfies with the Premiers, we saw. To be honest, it's not something we're used to. How long do you reckon before it all turns nasty?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, no, I'm someone who gets on with people Ally, as you know. And we had a really constructive discussion last night. It's a big agenda but we want to cooperate. I said during the election campaign I wanted to bring people together, end the division and arguments and look for solutions. And last night I was very pleased that all of the Premiers and Chief Ministers were on that page as well. We need to work through these issues, but we need to boost productivity. We need to return to micro-economic reform. We need to remove duplication where it's there between the Commonwealth and States and Territories. We all have big jobs to do and I think your listeners just want to see us cooperating and getting on with achieving outcomes.

LANGDON: Look, I mean I think you are right. I think it was really nice for all of us to see that last night, to see everyone getting on. But you are going to have some big issues to talk through today. Top of that, of course, will be the power crisis. Is more coal part of the short-term solution?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's nothing to stop a coal-fired power plant having been built in the last decade, Ally. But it hasn't been. Why? Because the market knows that it doesn't stack up in terms of, compared with cheaper, cleaner energy. That's why it hasn't happened. And what we have now is an ageing coal-fired power stations, 25 per cent of the capacity is out at the moment on the east coast. Because that's what happens when infrastructure reaches the end of its life. And we had these ridiculous debates over the last decade, for example, over whether Liddell would stay open and the Federal Government were going to keep it open. And of course, reality hit and that is not what is occurring. What we need is investment in new energy, make sure that the grid is fit-for-purpose for the 21st century and ensure that businesses and households can benefit from cheaper energy.

LANGDON: The question there though...

PRIME MINISTER: Yesterday you had...



LANGDON: I was going to say the question there is how long will it take though to bring on renewables in storage. I mean, that is a long-term project. And I think what people want to know at the moment when prices are going up, we just spoke to a farmer in Queensland, 38 per cent of his electricity bill is going up by this year. What do people do in the meantime?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what you can't do, what I can't do, is stand here, Ally, and say that a new coal-fired power station or a new power station powered by any form of energy can be built in the next week, because that's not what occurs. We're suffering here, as well, from the fact that the transmission, the grid, isn't fit-for-purpose. So, you have energy being produced that isn't able to be stored, isn't able to enter the grid, and we've known that for a period of time and there's been no action on it. The Australian Energy Market Operator years ago developed what it calls the Integrated Systems Plan. It was the basis of our rewiring the nation plan to fix transmission, so that renewables can fit into the grid. I announced that in my first budget reply and the government didn't, hasn't done anything about it. They spent 10 years blaming each other, announcing 22 different plans and not landing one. We now have, with the new Government, a clear plan that was supported yesterday. I had the head of the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry group, the Australian Commerce and Industry, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the ACTU, all standing behind me as we signed the pledge. A pledge that Australia will take to a meeting of advanced economies being convened tonight by President Biden looking at how we deal with the challenge of climate change. But it's also a massive opportunity for us to drive down energy prices, for us to create new jobs, to create new industries because the way forward is to make sure that we create an environment whereby business has the certainty to invest.

LANGDON: Well, just talking about that certainty, because it looks like the Greens Leader Adam Bandt is spoiling for a fight in the Senate over emissions targets. Rocky times ahead?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you know, the Greens Party haven't learnt from what happened in 2009. I mean, both parties Kevin Rudd and John Howard both went to the 2007 election with similar plans to ratify Kyoto, to have, in that case at the time it was an emissions trading scheme going forward, and the Greens blocked that proposal and we have had a decade of problems wince. What we need to do is to recognise that business wants certainty. Yesterday we had businesses, farmers, the ACTU in terms of the workers directly involved as well as mainstream environmental groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Clean Energy Council, all on the same page. And if the Greens or other parties want to try and block it, well so be it. That will be a matter for them. But we will get on. It doesn't require legislation.

LANGDON: The drama, of course, is that you are going to need their support with getting stuff through the Senate.

PRIME MINISTER: No, we don't actually, Ally. No, we don’t by the way. It doesn't have been to be legislated. We are getting on with doing it. We've signed up to it. Whether it's legislated or not, is a matter for the Parliament but it's not necessary to drive this policy.

LANGDON: No but it’s something you wanted to legislate that you are not going to be able to because you can’t, because you don’t have the Teals, or Greens or Coalition.

PRIME MINISTER: We do. Well, we will see, Ally. People will go out there and do this.

LANGDON: Oh, look, I hope you do.

PRIME MINISTER: We will do this. It's on the front page of The Aus so that doesn't mean it is necessarily what is going to happen.

LANGDON: Okay, well, we will watch this space.

PRIME MINISTER: So, you have a bit of grand standing occurring. Watch this space.

LANGDON: There's something else I want to talk about too, because of course States want more funding for hospitals. That going to be on the agenda today. A 50-50 split. Are you ruling that out before you even sit down at the table?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we're inheriting trillion dollars of debt, Ally. What I will do is have constructive discussions with the Premiers and Chief Ministers. We did that last night. What we talked about was the need for health reform. It's not just a matter of funding. Premiers and Chief Ministers understand that part of the problem with the hospital system is that people are fronting up to Emergency Departments because they can't get access to a GP. People are fronting up to Emergency Departments who are aged-care residents because there's not a nurse present in nursing homes. The whole health system needs to operate much more efficiently to the benefit, essentially it's about the patients, it's about the people, rather than about the politicians or which level of government is doing things. People want to know that they can get the healthcare they need when they need it. And we're all committed to achieving that. There are real constraints on the Federal Government budget as a result of what's occurring. We will examine the immediate issues where the COVID healthcare funding is due to expire in September and we will have a discussion about that today.

LANGDON: Alright, look I tell you what, a lot on your plate in the first, what 3.5 weeks in the job. Just very quickly, did you make the Premiers all watch the Bunnies last night?

PRIME MINISTER: It's been a busy time. I was having dinner with the Premiers and I have never been so glad.

LANGDON: It was a good one to miss.

PRIME MINISTER: I have never been so glad to have missed a Souths game. Someone at the Lodge there told me that it was 28-0 or something or 32-0 after 28 minutes.

LANGDON: Wasn’t their best.

PRIME MINISTER: No, it was a shocker. I blame myself for not watching the game, so I accept some responsibility. So, sorry guys.

LANGDON: No, I think you just accepted all responsibility. So, we heard it on National TV. Prime Minister, we have to leave it there.

PRIME MINISTER: Latrell will be back soon.

LANGDON: Appreciate your time this morning. You have a big day ahead and we appreciate you talking to us.