DEBORAH KNIGHT, HOST: And here they are Angus Taylor, Minister of Energy, and Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor's Member for the Hunter. Fellas, thanks for joining us. Angus to you first, is this a good move by the Victorian Government to announce a snap lockdown, five days, which is what's expected?
ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well, I mean, obviously, we've got to keep this thing pinned down and the interventions have got to be as minimal as they can to pin it down. I mean, we've had great success in recent times with isolated tracing, tracking and lock downs. And I hope that continues because we've had a very good run and we want to see it continue.
KNIGHT: Absolutely. And the Prime Minister has been saying that the state and territory leaders have been doing a good job and by and large, they've been getting on with the job. But Joel, we keep hearing from Daniel Andrews, you know, he keeps putting his foot in it and misstep and you know, only a few days ago before we had this cluster emerge, here he was bragging about having higher standards of hotel quarantine in states like New South Wales.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: What is extraordinary, Deb is the attitudinal change from Angus and his colleagues. You remember Angus and others would be on the radio, on television every day, every week, hopping into the Premiers about lockdowns and now suddenly, they have worked out that the community appreciates the strict and cautious approach premiers have taken and suddenly those are good things. That’s the first thing I would say. But look, I'm not here to defend Daniel Andrews, but I can defend anyone who continues to follow solid expert medical advice.
KNIGHT: Yeah, well, that's what we have...
TAYLOR: ... Can I respond to that, Deb? The thing we have always objected to is widespread lockdowns which are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. And what we have seen, I mean, if you saw what New South Wales done with some of the isolated outbreaks we had in the Northern Beaches, it was very targeted. That's the right way to think about this problem. It's the right way to approach it. It's not sort of panic where you lock everything down across the board, simply because you've had a small outbreak and I think New South Wales’ precedent on this has been absolutely right. I had that's what Victoria is going to do.
KNIGHT: Yeah well, we'll know the next twenty minutes or so, I'll bring you that announcement when it happens. Now energy policy, you'll probably be on the same page with this one, Delta Electricity, their decision to dump plans to refurbish the coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley. I know you've given this the thumbs down Angus.
TAYLOR: The thumbs down, oh yes, absolutely. I mean, what's happened is diabolical. And this is a proposal to upgrade a turbine which would reduce emissions, put downward pressure on prices, and increase the reliability of supply of electricity in New South Wales. And the reason it's not going ahead is because of New South Wales’ completely unprecedented plan and it has resulted in this project not proceeding. Well, you know, frankly, that is not good for the people of New South Wales. We need to see projects like this proceeding and we're very disappointed with the outcome. And remember the root cause here, the cause of this is New South Wales' intervention before Christmas.
KNIGHT: And it's in your neck of the woods, Joel.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, you called it, Deb. Angus and I are going to agree on it, and I'm not far from that power station as we speak. And you know, a lot on the left wouldn't have liked to see money going to a coal-fired generator, but as Angus said, this was money which would have derived more power out of the generator with less coal, therefore, of course, more efficiency and less carbon. But alas, Matt Kean has this grand plan despite the fact that for the last two years alone – Angus knows this as well as me – we've had the equivalent of 7 Liddell power stations, or 7 Vales Point power stations, coming to the system in the form of solar. So, it's not as if the markets not moving, it's not as if solar is not going, it's not as if there isn't a transition in the energy sector already. The fact is that markets long ago gave up waiting for politicians to dither and procrastinate any further, they are moving without them. The last thing we need now is suddenly more government intervention, which is just going to upset the orderly transition.
KNIGHT: And just on the issue of carbon tariffs too, Angus. I know that you don't like them. You've made that very clear. But we've had some of our biggest partners, global partners, the UK, they're going down this path. Are we looking like dinosaurs here compared to the rest of the world on energy policy, particularly with carbon tariffs?
TAYLOR: Well, I tell you what's dinosaur-like, it's actually imposing tariffs. Look, free trade has been good for prosperity around the world. And particularly for a big exporting country like Australia. If you're an exporter of dairy, an exporter of beef, you don't want to have tariffs on your products. I mean, our farmers rely on having open access to markets. Now, if...
KNIGHT: So, the UK got it wrong here?
TAYLOR: Well, I'm saying that we're against tariffs, we don't, there’s no proposal, Deb, but we're dead against tariffs being imposed on our products we sell to other countries. And always have been, in fact, we played an enormously important role as the government in trying to get tariffs down so we could get more access for our products like our beef, like our dairy, like our lamb, like our grain and that's been very successful for us, we want it to continue.
KNIGHT: And we're also trailing the pack in terms of the commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. The PM says, that's his intention. We've talked about that in the past, but no solid commitment. And we pride ourselves in many areas in leading the world and you know, we put our own necks on the line calling for a COVID inquiry with China, we've seen that that's been justified, but of course, we put our neck on the line and we've been copping it from China. why are we sort of trailing the rest of the world on this?
TAYLOR: Well, we're not, Deb. I take extraordinary exception to the words you're using there. We're not travelling the world on anything. We achieve; we deliver. Look, if you look at...
KNIGHT: ... But we're not committing, though, we're not making a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.
TAYLOR: Let me let me finish. Let me finish, Deb. It's my go here.
TAYLOR: But the fact of the matter is, we have smashed our Kyoto targets, we will smash our Paris targets. We don't grandstand as a country. We have never done it. We haven't done it on the Coronavirus, despite our extraordinary achievements. We didn't stand up at the beginning of the Coronavirus and say Australia is going to beat the rest of the world, we just went and did it. That's what we do as a country.
KNIGHT: Well, why not commit to it? Why not back it with commitment?
TAYLOR: Well, we've committed to a 2030 target, which is as good as...
KNIGHT: ... Yeah, but not 2050, which is what the rest of the world is doing - the US, the UK.
TAYLOR: Honestly, Deb, the target that matters in the Paris agreement has always been 2030. We've said we want to get to net zero by, preferably, by 2050, preferably before, but what we do as a country best, this is Australia's hallmark, our fingerprint is we get on with the job. You know, we're delivering household solar, highest in the world, one in four houses...
KNIGHT: ... But isn't the reality you're just trying to avoid an infighting and a blow up within your party, because if you do commitment, if you do make that commitment, it'll cause an almighty blue within the government ranks.
TAYLOR: Look, you know, you're making a lot of heat, light and sound about something 30 years ago when we're getting on with the job now, Deb, and that's what counts. What counts at the end of the day for this issue is getting on with the job now, as well, at the same time, as keeping electricity prices down. Now over the long term, we absolutely will continue to achieve what we have achieved because that's what Australia does. We're doing it through technology, not taxes. Labor, meanwhile are sitting there talking about 2050, ignoring 2030. There's no 2030 targets from Labor. And you know what they really want to do. It's what they've always wanted to do. I know Joel's, not in this area, but Bowen and Butler and the rest of them are, they want a carbon tax. They want a carbon tax and that's what this debate comes down to.
KNIGHT: Now, Joel, I know you're going to respond to that, but I want to ask you too, why aren't you happy with Chris Bowen? You weren't happy with Mark Butler in energy, and then I think Albo probably thought you'd quieten down after he replaced Mark Butler with Chris Bowen, but now you're not happy with him. Do you need some happy pills?
FITZGIBBON: Gee, I'm going to need about 30 minutes, Deb. The point I made in the Telegraph newspaper this morning was that the tables have finally turned on Scott Morrison. He's played the climate was too long and he's been caught out. I mean, this zero net emissions by 2050 is almost universal across...
TAYLOR: ... What’s your 2030 target, Joel? What's your, what's your party's 2030 target, mate?
FITZGIBBON: You have had your go, Angus...
TAYLOR: ... It's the question that matters.
FITZGIBBON: Scott Morrison says oh I want to get there but he just can't bring himself to commit. One, because he's not, you know, he stopped his opportunity and two, because the National Party will blow him up if he does. Angus said we met our Kyoto targets – yes, thanks to a Labor Government. We don't know yet whether he will meet his midterm 2030 target. And on the Europeans and UK look, we're 1.3 per cent of global output. Go and hop into the Chinese or the Russians, or India, you know, the big players, why are you picking on us? You know, we are doing our bit here in Australia and if Angus does meet that 2030 commitment, then we will have met our Paris obligation, the commitment we made under the Paris Agreement...
TAYLOR: ... I need an hour to respond to this.
FITZGIBBON: The point I was making is that if we want to be honest with coal mining communities, we have got to be brutally honest, absolutely honest. And that is to say that our coal mining industry has a bright future. It is not in transition.
KNIGHT: Alright, we are going to...
TAYLOR: ... Well, hang on, hang on, hang on, Joel. Hang on Joel, mate. You know what, what, what is your plan here? You haven't even got a 2030 target, mate. That’s 10 years away so you're hiding behind something 30 years away. You've got to be, you've got to be, your party has to be honest with the Australian people. It's never been clear, you know from Julia Gillard on, there will be no carbon tax on there a government I lead. But you know what she did. Now, the truth of the matter is Mark Butler wanted a big carbon tax, and a big 2030 target. He was clear about it. But Bowen knows what he wants. He said many times he's in favour of a carbon tax, and he will quietly work away on it, because we know that's what they do. You as a party need to either resolve your differences, well you need to resolve your differences, and then you need to fess up as to what the plan is. Now, I know you're on the right side of this debate, Joel, I get that. But, you know, the clarity we need from the Labor Party on this, frankly, is just not there.
KNIGHT: Okay. I want to move on to another topic...
FITZGIBBON: Scott Morrison wants net zero emissions by 2050 but he can't bring himself to say it because he'll get blown up by his backbench.
TAYLOR: He has said it, you know, a week ago...
KNIGHT: ... Where's my gavel? Where's my gavel? I need my gavel. Right. I want to ask you about these too. Now, Health Minister Greg Hunt is copping a fair bit of criticism for the social media posts he made about securing additional Pfizer vaccines with the Liberal Party logo on it. And he had a fair dig at the ABC's Michael Roland for asking him what was a legitimate question about that. Was that fair enough, do you think for that question to be asked, Angus? Was he being too sensitive by accusing the journalist of being left-wing?
TAYLOR: I just don't get what the issue is. He's a member of the Liberal Party. There's no secret to that. That's apparent. It's public, it's transparent. I don't understand what the issue is here.
KNIGHT: Do you think it's fair enough, Joel, to have the Liberal logo emblazoned across vaccine, you know, promoting vaccines?
FITZGIBBON: Well, first of all, his behavior on ABC television was extraordinary. And Greg's got a habit of this, he gets [inaudible]. He needs a bit of anger management, I suggest and look, it’s clear, it is very, very clear that that was a misuse of that information. Australian's are paying squillions of dollars for Covid responses, including the vaccines. And it's not for Greg Hunt to be using it against the Liberal Party logo as if it's all of his making. I think it is a clear breach of ministerial standards. But you know, I don't want people...
KNIGHT: ... It's not a party campaign announcement.
TAYLOR: Look, honestly, we are members of the Liberal Party, this is a Liberal-National Government. There is no secret to that. And I just find this, its bordering on bizarre.
KNIGHT: Alright well, let's end on some love, shall we? We need a bit loving this segment today, don't we? Goodness me. Now Valentine's Day on Sunday and a lot of people will be going out for a nice meal. Some people on first dates as well. Can we get your love advice, Angus? What's your advice for finding love and keeping the flame alive?
TAYLOR: Well, I'm not sure that my advice is necessarily going to be all that helpful. But my wife and I have been together for over 30 years.
KNIGHT: Well, there you are, you're walking advice.
TAYLOR: Our relationship started on the side of the Bogan River at a big party in Nyngan and we've been together ever since. So, you know, in good rural form. So that's the best that I have. I think what it comes down to though is we respect each other and love each other and I suppose that's what counts.
KNIGHT: Respect and love. That's pretty much a good summary of it. Joel, what about you?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I'm going to plead the fifth, Deb and completely avoid this question. And my wife won't be surprised. But, can I just quickly tell you, I remember about 20 years ago, a male colleague and I went out to dinner when the parliament rose, not realising it was Valentine's Day, we were sitting in this restaurant, sensing something was a little bit weird, and these were less enlightened days back then, of course, and suddenly we realise we were surrounded by couples celebrating Valentine's Day and they were a little bit concerned...
KNIGHT:...Well love comes in many forms, Joel, so you know, you have just got to embrace it. Have a wonderful day on Sunday. And yeah, we will be loving having you fellas back next week. Thanks so much for joining us.