Minister Rishworth interview on the Today Show with Sarah Abo.


Topics: AEMO; Energy transition; Steven Miles, Migration

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well, Australia is this morning is being labelled a nation lost in energy transition. The energy market operator warning NSW and Victoria, they're in for widespread power outages due to delays in battery, hydro, wind and solar projects. South Australia also impacted. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth and Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie. Good to see you both. Amanda, this warning comes two years to the day since Anthony Albanese became PM, elected on the promise he would turn Australia into a renewable energy superpower. How are we tracking?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Firstly, I'd say AEMO is doing its job of making sure it is looking at all scenarios. But what we've seen in the last year is record investment in large-scale energy storage, we've seen so many more solar panels on roofs, battery storage, large-scale storage. And what we're coming off is the back of a decade that was wasted – twenty failed energy policies. So we are working hard to make sure that there is more energy in the grid, to make sure that reliability is there. We have a plan and we're starting to see the outcomes of the plan. I'd say one thing, though, this report did not say that the answer was to stop investment in renewable and pivot to some nuclear plan that would be off in decades, decades away that may never be delivered, no costings, most likely to push up power prices. So, we need to get on with the job. We need to fix the decade of, of absolute chaos that was in energy policy and shore up our energy future.

SARAH ABO: I mean, I think, Amanda, you're right, there is a lot of catching up to do. And Bridget, maybe that is because of the previous government not doing enough.

BRIDGET MCKENZIE, NATIONALS SENATOR: Sarah, I think what you heard from Amanda was a lot of excuses. These guys came to power two years ago. I don't think there'll be many Australian households with a birthday cake celebrating that. But the candles on the cake might actually be critical infrastructure for Australian families going forward. Given the lack of momentum on this aggressive renewables approach, we are seeing our energy regulators saying we're going to see blackouts. We've got, particularly in Victoria and NSW, having to purchase emergency energy supplies – that's not cheap. So, your power supply is going to go up, not down. And what they also said was that coal-fired power stations are going to stay open for longer under Labor because these renewable projects. It's not all about renewables – they are being held up by environmental laws. So, there's no credible plan to net zero by 2050 under Labor. And that's the problem.

SARAH ABO: Amanda, obviously we've heard gas being now touted as a potential transition energy source. I guess it's clear that this $300 rebate that's been announced in the Budget is really just going to be a short lived sugar hit for households?


AMANDA RISHWORTH: These things are two different things. One, of course, is importantly giving people cost of living relief now. The second is making sure that we have the investment we need. We've always been clear that gas will play a role into the future. But if Bridget suggests that there is some sort of plan by those opposite, somehow that these coal-fired power stations were closing under them – there was no plan whatsoever to replace them. And now their plan is something in two decades, three decades time that we may or may not actually build. That is the challenge we've got. We are fixing that challenge. We're seeing more investment now than we have seen before and we need to continue on to make that investment.

SARAH ABO: Yeah, nuclear does seem like a faraway dream, but let's move on. Also making headlines, rare agreement between the two major parties. Queensland Labor Premier Steven Miles backing Peter Dutton's plan to slash migration. Bridget, Miles says it's good to see Dutton following his lead?

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: [Laughs] Success has many fathers, Sarah – I think we can all agree. The fact of the matter is that Labor's aggressive pursuit of bringing in migrants, 1.67 million new arrivals over their watch, means that our congested cities, feeling the pressure for infrastructure, our deteriorating roads, and putting critical pressure on housing, driving up the price of purchasing your own home for Australians, plus driving up the cost of rents. And so Labor's policies have seen not only that increase in migrants, put that pressure on, but also make sure interest rates have stayed higher for longer than they need to be because they haven't got inflation under control. And that is the problem for the Australian dream.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: [Interrupts] Let’s be really clear Bridget…

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Amanda, I didn’t interrupt you. The great Australian dream…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Bridget, let’s be really clear…

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: … it's becoming a nightmare under the Labor Government. That's the reality.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: These migration settings were the migration settings under your government. Nothing changed previously. So, by somehow misleading the Australian people that there have been changes. In fact, we have made changes in the last five months to agree with our number of international students.

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Will you agree to cutting your migration?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Bridget, we have agreed that migration is too high and in the last five months we've seen a 35 per cent decrease in international students. We have been fixing the mess that you left. And indeed, we have a plan. That is the difference between us and you.

BRIDGET MCKENZIE: [Interrupts] That’s not true Amanda…

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It is true – you can't argue with the facts, Bridget. You can't just have rhetoric and not actually back it up with a plan or facts. We have seen a reduction, and the projection is in the next financial year that we will see migration halve from its peak, in the next financial year. So, don't go misleading people that somehow there was a change in policies. These are your policies that you had in government.

SARAH ABO: We might have to take this discussion offline. Thank you both for your time. Thank you both very much for your robust discussion. I'm here for it.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: It was entertaining.