2CC Stephen Cenatiempo Breakfast Show

13 December 2022


SUBJECTS: Energy prices; Gas price caps; .

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Joining us, I imagine for the last time this year, is the member for Canberra Alicia Payne. Good morning, Alicia.


CENATIEMPO: I think this is going to be last time we chat this year isn't it?

PAYNE: I think it is. Yeah. So it's the last before Christmas. So yeah.

CENATIEMPO: Okay. Yeah. Now, the big news this week, of course, is the government's energy policy. Parliament's been recalled, when is that actually happening?

PAYNE: So that's on Thursday this week. And this is to pass our energy price relief plan, to take action to limit gas and coal prices and provide some targeted energy bill relief for households and businesses.

CENATIEMPO: What's the point of capping the gas and coal prices, because the coal we use to generate energy here in Australia isn't based on the spot market, the overseas spot market, most of it? Well, 80% of it, in fact, is actually contracted at much lower rates. In fact, some of it below cost. So is this going to achieve anything?

PAYNE: Well, the reason for this is really to do with the Russian invasion in Ukraine and the impact that this is having on energy prices here in Canberra.

CENATIEMPO: But that doesn't have any effect on our on coal fired generation here in Australia.

PAYNE: Well, this is why we're taking this action is to ensure that that households and businesses can actually have cheaper energy, because prices are going up. If we did nothing, the average family will be $230 worse off next year. So that's why we've taken this plan, and part of that is capping those prices for gas and coal.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, but that's what I'm getting at. Nobody can actually explain to me the mechanism of how that's going to affect our energy prices. Given that the coal price or the coal that we use to generate electricity in Australia, isn't part of that overseas market. So capping the price, particularly when it's already contracted, and is usually contracted years in advance, isn't gonna have an impact

PAYNE: Well, my understanding is that it will. This is what the government have come up with, with the National Cabinet with the states. My understanding is that the war in Ukraine is really increasing these prices, because even though we have the coal and gas here in Australia, we are paying more for it because of a war that is happening overseas.

CENATIEMPO: With gas that's probably fair, yeah,


CENATIEMPO: My concern is, though, and I'm reading between the lines of this, is that the the targeted relief, which is going to be. How's that? Because that's not actually coming from the federal government that's going through the states. Is that right?

PAYNE: I think, yes, I think that's that's. No, sorry, I think some of it is coming from from us, or we're certainly working together on it.

CENATIEMPO: Okay. But here in the ACT, we're not going to see much of that, because we pretend that we operate on 100% renewables.

PAYNE: Well, we do and this is part of the government's longer term, the federal government's longer term plan as well, is investing in renewables because it is a cheaper form of energy and more stable costs going forward. And part of the reason that we are so exposed to the impact of the war in Ukraine is the fact that for the last 10 years under the previous government, we had 22 energy policies, and we didn't have the certainty that investors needed. And we didn't really support that transition to renewables as we should have been.

CENATIEMPO: You know, the experience in Europe would debunk that theory.

PAYNE: Ah, look, I'm sure you're gonna disagree with me Stephen.

CENATIEMPO: We usually disagree on things, Alicia. So what, why stop now? All right, moving right along, the Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, announced a policy that was rolled out last week. Explain that to us.

PAYNE: Yes, so this is our response to the Samuels Review of our environmental protection laws, and specifically the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act. And these are the laws that actually are there to protect our environment, natural environment, including species and forests and the ocean from the impact of developments that don't take proper respect of the environment. So what we're seeing at the moment, these laws that have been around for many years now and not actually protecting the environment as they should. But also businesses are waiting too long for the approval processes. And so this is our response to the Samuels Review, which was taken into these laws under the previous government. The previous government's response to that was actually to weaken the laws, but we want to strengthen the laws as well as getting things moving in a more efficient process. So this is our response to that. So what it's going to do is deliver stronger laws to protect plants and animals. It's also going to start a new environmental protection agency to make development decisions and enforce them. And it'll be better for businesses by delivering more certainty and less red tape. So it's a quicker, clearer process. But we really see that our environment here in Australia is really in trouble. We're the extinction capital of the world, and under this government, we've already, internationally, people are saying, Australia is back on the environment. And this is just one of many things that Tanya has already announced in this space. But it's a really important one

CENATIEMPO: Has this been passed by the parliament, though? Because I think David Pocock has criticized it for not having a climate trigger. And I'm just, I can never work out what a how climate trigger actually works. But is that still being negotiated? Or is that now a done deal?

PAYNE: So this hasn't been passed by the parliament yet. We've committed to give this response by the end of this year, but we do want to consult with the parliament, as we should. So a consultation paper will be out soon that members of parliament and others can consider, before we debate that in the Parliament next year. The climate trigger is an issue. I have actually been quite active on that issue as well. And it is something that ultimately I think, we would like to see in there. So that would be taking account of the impact on climate change of a new proposal. So at the moment, when you, say a mine or anything that's being proposed, the impact on climate change is not considered as part of that as part of that process. So the impact on the species that lived in the area is, but not the impact on climate change. So I think it is something important, and that's why we're consulting with the parliament and more broadly on these really important laws.

CENATIEMPO: Because I spent quite a bit of time in the Hunter Valley before moving to Canberra. And I know that when new mines were approved there, I mean, part of the environmental impact statements that were done, were the impacts on air quality and other environmental factors as well. So I mean, surely that plays into, that's effectively a climate trigger, isn't it?

PAYNE: Well, all these things are linked, of course. This is sort of something that's a really important point is that the environment and the policies, there are not 100%. They are they are interlinked with what we're doing on climate action. But I suppose, so it looks at those impacts, but it wouldn't look at the impact on emissions from that project going forward. So that is what the discussion about the climate trigger is about.

CENATIEMPO: Now with regards to the energy policy that's going to be debated on Thursday. That's obviously going to be contentious, too, because you, well, I guess you wouldn't read about it. The Greens are the ones that are going to block it by the sounds of things.

PAYNE: Yeah, they have been saying that. I'm honestly not not sure of all the positions across the parliament on this one yet. But as with everything, we're a government that's listening, and that's talking to everyone across the board about our policies. But this is a really important and urgent measure. I mean, the fact that we bought the parliament back on the 15th of December after it's adjourned for the year, is a pretty big deal. This is an urgent measure to try and stop these huge price increases from hitting families and businesses next year. And so I would hope that the Greens and others would see that as a priority as something they should support.

CENATIEMPO: Well, we'll know by the end of the week. Alicia, what have you got planned for Christmas?

PAYNE: Oh, well, I'm hosting it at my house, which is always sort of exciting, but a lot of work.

CENATIEMPO: Do you do the traditional Christmas or do you go the sort of seafood type stuff these days.

PAYNE: A bit of a mix, yeah. We'll have a little bit of seafood but I'll be just trying to keep it a bit simple this year. How about you Stephen?

CENATIEMPO: Well, my family are actually coming to Canberra for Christmas, but not to my place, thankfully. So I will catch up with them at some stage but I won't have to do all the elaborate cooking and everything which is good. Look, I actually like that because I find it therapeutic. But it does become a big deal when you go the whole hog.

PAYNE: It can. It's a busy time of year, sort of the thing you would enjoy if you had all kinds of time, but we don't always.

CENATIEMPO: And staff and all those kinds of things. Well, Alicia, I really appreciate you making yourself available to talk to us throughout the course of the year. I know these aren't the easiest interviews you do. So thank you for joining us and we'll catch up again in the new year.

PAYNE: Thank you Stephen. Happy Christmas.

CENATIEMPO: All the best. Thanks Alicia. Alicia Payne is the Member for Canberra.