TRANSCRIPT - Sky News AM Agenda
with David Lipson
14 December 2015
E & OE
Paris climate agreement, nuclear energy, MYEFO, NBN
The Communications Minister Mitch Fifield joins me now. Thank you for your
company this morning, good morning.
Critics of the Government suggest that although this is a very positive deal in
Paris, it leaves Australia at the back of the back when it comes to emissions
reduction targets post 2020. Does the Government agree with that?
No I think Julie Bishop encapsulated things nicely in the grab you had of her
just before. Australia is a country that does what it says it will do. We are
on track to meet our 2020 targets and we have a plan to reach our 2030 targets.
In all policy areas David, ultimately you’ve got to put trust in the Minister
who has responsibility to deliver. I think people put their trust in me when I
had responsibility for the NDIS. Hopefully, they put their trust in me now with
communications and as a Government we put our trust in Greg Hunt to deliver the
commitments that we’ve made. Greg Hunt knows this area better than just about
anyone else so we’re very confident that we will be able to meet and honour the
commitments that we’ve made.
Julie Bishop says the deal also allows flexibility for Australia to actually do
more in the future. What sort of things could she be talking about there?
Greg Hunt is the Minister responsible in this area, is best placed to field
questions about specifics there. But obviously we have our commitment to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent on 2000 levels by 2030.
It already was announced that we would have a review of our policies in 2017.
So look we’ll take it as it comes and, as I say, Greg’s the person best placed
to field those questions.
Absolutely. One other question though. I suppose balancing the climate
commitments up against the Governments need to keep the economy in check. How
will the Government achieve that? What’s at the centre of the policy when it
comes to putting climate policy and the economy on similar footing?
Well I think we’ve demonstrated as a Government and as a Coalition that we
don’t put our economic growth at risk. We make sure that when we commit to
action on climate change, that we do so in concert with the rest of the world.
That we don’t do so unilaterally. So we’ve demonstrated that in policy, both in
opposition and in government.
What’s your view on nuclear? Is that a path we need to go down?
Well look I
think full credit to the Premier of South Australia Jay Weatherall for having a
Royal Commission into the full cycle of the nuclear industry. A brave thing for
a Premier to do. Ultimately nuclear power will be something that is determined
by two things. One is whether the community will accept it and the other thing
is the economics of it.
Okay, well I want to look at MYEFO, the mid-year budget update due to be
released tomorrow by the Treasurer. Now we know that the Government has said
indeed that any of the spending outlays since the budget, and that includes the
innovation statement $1 billion, $700 million on resettling Syrian refugees.
All of those spending measures will be more than offset by savings measures. So
will these savings measures be spread across all of government are we looking
out for a couple of big nasties?
I think that MYEFO
really has a few purposes. One is obviously to update the budget in terms of
any parameter changes, things like changes in commodity prices. Also to take
account of actions or decisions by government and we do have important budgets
rules which require any new initiatives to be fully offset by savings in other
areas. Now that’s something that happens across the board. There can be a
particular initiative in an individual portfolio. It may well be that there are
savings required across a range of portfolios to cover that particular
Have you made savings in your own portfolio?
Across the board in a range of portfolios. Look mine is an important
portfolio and obviously I don’t want to pre-empt what the Treasurer and the
Finance Minister will say tomorrow, but most portfolios have had to make a
contribution to savings as is appropriate. But I think it’s worth just pausing
for a moment to recognise that the MYEFO document that we have today is vastly
different to that which was before Peter Costello became Treasurer. The MYEFO
document before his Treasurership was basically a two page press release. As a
result of the Charter of Budget Honesty that he put in place, the MYEFO
document really is an open book. And that’s a good thing for budget
some areas outside of the Governments control that are going to have a negative
impact on the MYEFO document. That includes the collapse in iron ore prices and
alike. And the Government has said that it’s not going to chase those sorts of
revenue streams or lack thereof down the rabbit hole. This must mean then that
delivering a budget surplus is actually getting more difficult. Perhaps further
away from us?.
Well achieving budget surplus is a difficult task. It’s made difficult by
the legacy we were left by our predecessors. Unfortunately it takes much longer
to repair a budget than it does to damage a budget. I think there’s a rule of
thumb, which again Peter Costello used to cite, in general he thought it took
about three years of good government to undo each year of bad government. But
it’s important that we do make sure that we offset any additional expenditure
with savings. The task of budget repair is something for all of us. And it
would be terrific if the Australian Labor Party could join with us in the task
of budget repair, but I won’t hold my breath just yet.
I’ll be speaking to the Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh after the
break. But I do want to go to your portfolio area and the National Broadband
Network. In December 2013 malcolm Turnbull said that the cost to repair the
copper network would be around $55 million. A document has been leaked in the
past week or so from the nbn that reveals it’s now blown out to some $640
million. Why is that and is that document correct?
David, there have been a couple of documents which have been leaked from
the nbn. Documents which have been inappropriately obtained which have been
cited selectively. David the important point here is the nbn corporate plan
which was released in August, updates nbn costs. It provides a range for peak
funding of the nbn from $46 to $56 billion with a base case, or likely
scenario, of $49 billion. Now those numbers take into account every bit of
information, every bit of analysis that nbn has. So the documents which have
been leaked, there’s nothing in any of those documents that has not been taken
into account by the corporate plan in August. And the really important point
here is our proposition that we’re putting forward will see the NBN delivered
6-8 years sooner, $30 billion less cost than the full fibre alternative. That’s
a really important point David. And I’ve also just got to quickly nail a few
other falsehoods which have been put forward by Jason Clare. And they are that
this Government paid $800 million to Optus for an HFC network that was not up
to scratch. That is not the case, it’s actually the previous government that
paid $800 million to Optus to shut down the HFC network. What Malcolm Turnbull
said to Optus was ‘How about this, I don’t give you a single extra dollar but
you let nbn access the HFC network’. So it’s a complete and absolute falsehood
that has been perpetrated and put forward by Jason Clare. Under this Government
Australians will get the NBN sooner and at much less cost than the proposition
put forward by the Australian Labor Party.
Just very briefly. Is though the cost of fibre to the premises coming down
and will it continue to come down over time?
Well the nbn have a mandate to choose whatever technology will see the NBN
rolled out fastest and at lowest cost. It’s called the Multi-Technology-Mix
approach. It’s a technology agnostic approach. That is what the nbn is doing.
But there’s no doubt, there is no doubt, that the approach that the nbn is
taking is significantly less expensive than a full fibre alternative. I’ll say
again $30 billion extra cost. 6-8 years sooner. That’s $30 billion extra cost
to go full fibre. And we’re going to be doing it 6-8 years sooner.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield great to speak to you this morning,
thanks for that.
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