25 October 2018
Transcript - #2018053, 2018

Interview with Alan Jones, Alan Jones Breakfast Show 2GB and 4BC

Subjects: Wentworth by-election; energy and power prices; Labor’s housing tax and negative gearing policy; Daniel Andrews’s union march; and Labor’s retiree tax.

ALAN JONES:

Treasurer, good morning.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Nice to be with you, Alan.

ALAN JONES:

Thank you, Josh.

Can I just ask you this, there are a whole stack of people and some in your own party, I read today, saying we must listen to the message that’s coming out of Wentworth.

Now, two messages, can I ask you to comment on?

One, the winner here in Wentworth is the person who got 29 per cent of the formal votes; the loser got 43 per cent. There are people out there who find it very strange. Or put another way; of those who were eligible to vote, the winner got 20 per cent of the vote.

How then could the Liberal Party in government be seduced into saying, well climate change is a big issue because the person in charge, who won the day, talks about 100 per cent renewable energy. Is someone going to dismantle this argument immediately?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, climate change is no bigger issue after Wentworth than it was before. That’s the reality, Alan.

We obviously had a pretty tough few weeks in the lead up to that campaign, but we had an outstanding candidate in Dave Sharma and we came within a whisker of winning that seat. I believe that the Party is now uniting, that we are working on our economic plan which has delivered the lowest unemployment in six years, it’s created more than a million new jobs, it’s seen the economy growing at its fastest rate since the height of the mining boom and it’s seen Australia maintain its AAA credit rating.

That’s what your listeners are interested in, having more money in their pocket, getting a job if they’re in the market as they want and that is what Coalition government, Liberals and Nationals deliver...

ALAN JONES:

But what they’re angry about is, I won’t push this too far, we’ve got other things to talk about, but nonetheless, it gives us an opportunity, I hope, to have a sensible debate.

What they are angry about is, if you voted for Kerryn Phelps and if you voted for Dave Sharma, your vote counted once. But if you voted for Sustainable Australia, the Arts Party, the Science Party, the Animal Justice Party or you voted for the Peoples’ Party or the Voluntary Euthanasia Party or Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party or the Liberty Alliance, that vote kept on counting over and over again.

Isn’t there something wrong with a system where the person who gets 29 per cent of the vote, primary vote, this is, they walked into the booth and said, this is the person I want, wins, and the person who gets 43 per cent comes second.

There’s something wrong with that system.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I think we have a two party preferred voting system for a reason. It exhausts the public’s vote...

ALAN JONES:

But, why should people who’ve been kicked out in the first round have their vote counted again?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Oh look, everyone gets their say and ultimately they get...

ALAN JONES:

Shouldn’t we have a debate about this?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, I don’t think so. I think that the fact is that the two party system has suited Australia. It has supported our democracy which is alive and well.

ALAN JONES:

Well, the person who is going to go into Parliament was unwanted by 70 per cent of the electorate. If that’s democracy, there’s something wrong with democracy.

Let’s go to this business, the announcement this week, which you’ve been talking about and the Prime Minister, about electricity prices.

Can I put this to you, in 2008 before Rudd introduced the insane Renewable Energy Target, electricity prices in Australia were on a par with those in America. Since then, 2008, electricity prices in America have declined by almost six per cent, in Australia, they’ve increased by almost 100 per cent.

The disconnection rates here, and we’re talking about the standard of living, have risen by 140 per cent in the six years up to last year. Isn’t it true that the only way you can guarantee cheap electricity is if you give primacy to coal fired power?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Coal, gas, renewables, they all have a role. But, when you point to the United States, bear in mind two things. Firstly, they’ve had the shale gas revolution and states like Texas have seen a huge boom as a result of people developing the gas under the ground, whereas in Australia, we’ve been locking it up on the east coast, in Victoria...

ALAN JONES:

We’re exporting our coal to other countries. Forget shale, gas.

We’re exporting our country to other countries, so they can have cheap power? And we’re demonising it here.

It was the fourth item on your energy announcement this week. In fact, Angus Taylor was talking about a default price. Now, do you understand out there in listener land, they haven’t got a clue what a default price means?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the reality of a default price is it just removes the confusion, the complexity on your power bill. That is something people understand.

ALAN JONES:

No, they don’t. You explain it to me.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, basically the…

ALAN JONES:

I don’t understand it.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the Energy Regulator will set a price under which discounts can be made and, as a result, you don’t get each company offering higher prices than the other.

ALAN JONES:

This sounds like Jeremy Corbyn to me. You mean Government is going to tell…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

That’s what you said to Angus yesterday.

ALAN JONES:

I did. You’re a very good listener. But just tell me, why are we out there as a Liberal Government telling the provider what they can charge?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Because we don’t want them ripping off the customer and there’s too much confusion and complexity…

ALAN JONES:

Well, you don’t worry about it at the bowser. They’re being ripped off for petrol. You don’t seem to worry about that.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the issue of petrol is very different because as you know we import 80 per cent of our petrol, but when it comes to energy, we want to take a big stick to the energy companies. Labor opposes that. We want coal to be part of the mix. Labor opposes that…

ALAN JONES:

How can it be part of the mix...

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

...we want gas reserved for Australians before it’s exported overseas.

ALAN JONES:

Well, how can coal be part of the mix when you let AGL dictate terms to you? Are you going to do something about it; is AGL going to close Liddell by 2022, if you’re saying coal’s part of the mix. Are they going to close it? That’s what they have said they’ll do.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we made it very clear. We do not want any gap in supply in the market…

ALAN JONES:

Well, what are you going to do about Liddell?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the date that it is floated to close is 2022.

ALAN JONES:

But, if you don’t get cracking now, the thing’ll be dysfunctional by 2022.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it’s just operating now, it’s profitable for the company, so they’re not about to close it.

ALAN JONES:

No, they’re chasing renewable energy subsidies, AGL. They got 200 million bucks last year.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

But Alan, the key point from the announcement that Angus, the Prime Minister and the Government have made is that we want to see more generation come into the mix. We’re prepared to use the Government’s balance sheet to support those companies that want to build firm power. Power that is available…

ALAN JONES:

I know.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

…day and night. That includes having thermal power as part of the mix…

ALAN JONES:

But, you know Josh, you know Josh, you know, you know that if you’re giving a subsidy to one outfit and not to the other, the market is distorted. The renewable energy subsidies have got to end yesterday.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well as you know, the large scale renewable energy target phases out from 2020 and ,as you know, we’ve said…

ALAN JONES:

2020…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

…we’re not giving new, we’re not giving new subsidies to these companies; we are ending the subsidy game.

ALAN JONES:

When, in two years’ time? Who is going to build a coal-fired power station in the interim?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the point is the market makes those decisions and…

ALAN JONES:

Well, you are interfering with the market. You are giving subsidies to one arm of the market.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Alan, we have taken the advice of the ACCC.

ALAN JONES:

You don’t need advice, you’ve got 15 degrees, you are smarter than the ACCC. I mean, you know the reality here. You know that coal-fired power is cheap and that is why it is being monitored all around the world, we’re not doing it here.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the reality about coal is that existing coal is cheap, you are absolutely right…

ALAN JONES:

Well, you let Hazelwood close, it’s in your own state.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I didn’t let Hazelwood close, that’s wrong…

ALAN JONES:

Well, did you speak in the Parliament about it? Can I have the Hansard?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

You go to the Labor Party in Victoria and they tripled the coal royalties on those suppliers in the Latrobe Valley…

ALAN JONES:

Abbott wanted Hazelwood to stay open and Turnbull said no.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

There was a fifty year old plant, the reality is the Victorian Government completely mismanaged their energy system; they’re now totally exposed coming into this summer as a result of their obsession with renewables.

What we are doing as a government is being technology neutral. We need to have all of the above…

ALAN JONES:

You’re not.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

…coal, gas and renewables, but we are saying Alan…

ALAN JONES:

Renewables, you’ve got a wind turbine, you get 700,000 a year for a wind turbine, holy nelly. Can I get into that game? I mean nuclear, we have got 40 per cent of the world’s uranium. When are we going to make nuclear energy apart of the mix?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, it’s got to stack up, Alan, and at the end of the day…

ALAN JONES:

Well, the market will tell you whether it will stack up.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, Alan, what you will hear from us when it comes to energy, is that our priority is to get prices down…

ALAN JONES:

I know.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

But, hear me out. Prices doubled when Labor was last in office…

ALAN JONES:

God, don’t start me on them. They’ve got a 50 per cent renewable energy target, they should be unelectable.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, you should start on them, because...

ALAN JONES:

Well, I am every day, but you’re not. Cause you are in the renewable energy game and giving them subsidies. I mean, if it is illegal to have, if it’s illegal to have a nuclear reactor, we will never have, we will never have nuclear power.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Alan, the reality is we are getting prices down; wholesale prices have come down 25 per cent this year. We saw in Queensland, South Australia and in New South Wales, prices come down from the 1st of July. We’re on the side of the customers, not the big companies…

ALAN JONES:

Well not on my accounts, they haven’t. Have they come down on your account?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

…big sticks which Labor opposes on energy companies…

ALAN JONES:

What about your account? Has your account reduced?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, I did shop around actually, changed provider and I got my price down and I encourage your listeners to do that…

ALAN JONES:

I want to go onto negative gearing here.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Let’s do that.

ALAN JONES:

On negative gearing, Labor says they will wind it back, what’s this going to do to the renter and what’s it going to do to the home owner? This is diabolical policy. Are you in the ring?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We are in the ring until the bell goes and it is a lose, lose policy. If you own your home, it will be worth less, if you rent your home, it will cost you more. This is cradle to the grave taxes from the Labor Party. As I said in the Parliament yesterday, Alan…

ALAN JONES:

Stop, stop please, can you just say that again? I mean the argument here, this is where you’re on strong ground in my view, because you’ve prosecuted that simply.

Just say that again, what these changes mean. If you own your home?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

It’s worth less.

ALAN JONES:

Yep. And if you’re renting?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

If you rent your home - it’s going to cost more.

ALAN JONES:

That’s it. Full stop.

Let’s go to the protest in Melbourne. 150,000 people, you’re a Victorian, headed by Daniel Andrews. They want industry wide bargaining, the Union. They want unfettered rights to strike. They want easier rights of entry to the workplace. They want an increase in the minimum wage to bring it to 60 per cent of the median wage. The march was led by a major political figure in the Labor Party. Is this being prosecuted? This is a recipe for chaos.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we’ve said under Bill Shorten, if he gets into the Lodge, the union law breakers will become the union law makers. Bill Shorten will give the CFMEU a seat at the Cabinet table, that’s the reality. Sally McManus as the head of the ACTU has said that it’s okay to break the law. They want to dismantle the Australian Building and Construction Commission. If they do that, construction costs will go up by 30 per cent.

ALAN JONES:

Well, my view is that nothing of what you have said is alarmist talk and I think that we have got to take this seriously. I don’t see any of that as alarmist talk. That’s not just simply anti Labor rhetoric, that’s a reality.

Can I just take you, because we’re running out of time, in a piece you wrote last week, you said about these franking credits, a dreadful expression, which I might add, Simon Crean supported when they were introduced in the year 2000.

You said, the Opposition likes to talk about fairness. How fair is it that somebody with a high income of $200,000 a year and who is receiving a $7000 dividend on their shares…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Correct.

ALAN JONES:

…enjoys the full benefit of their $3000 franking credit, but a low income earner under the tax free threshold or a retiree in the pension phase of their self-managed super fund who receives the same dividend, can’t use their franking credits? So how do you turn that around?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, we’re prosecuting that case as well. As you say, Labor when they were in government and Simon Crean was a member of that government, they supported, they supported the excess franking credits and 84 per cent of the people who get the benefit of them have taxable incomes under $37,000 …

ALAN JONES:

That’s it, that’s it…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

There is 900,000 people across the country, 200,000 self-managed funds, 2,000 super funds that are going to be smashed by this Labor policy.

ALAN JONES:

Time we woke up. There’s another issue which I hope you would address. Because this is only, if they own Australian shares. So, the message Labor seems to be sending to retirees is don’t invest in Australian tax paying companies, invest offshore. How does that advance Australia?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Exactly. And this is one of the big negative consequences because less investment in Australian companies will mean they have less money to grow their business and employ Australians. What is more, because you’re taking money out of the hands of the lower income earners, as a result of Labor’s taxing policy on retirees, you will put more people onto the pension which means more people on the public purse…

ALAN JONES:

Correct. No doubt. Correct…

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

…which means higher taxes into the future….

ALAN JONES:

Absolutely, but when you’re sick of saying it, the public are only starting to hear it.

Very simple one to finish up. We’ll talk again next week. A simple question. Yes or no, the Australian owned APA, the massive Australian infrastructure outfit which own virtually the entire east coast gas pipeline grid, are you going to allow them to sell to China?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Two words – no comment.

ALAN JONES:

When are you going to be able to make a comment?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

When I make it. When I make my final decision.

ALAN JONES:

I see. I don’t understand how it’d take that long, but good to talk to you, we’ll talk next week.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We’re doing it properly.

ALAN JONES:

We’re doing it properly. There he is, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.