Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Nine, Today

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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30 September 2022

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, groceries, fuel, your mortgage; now you can add gas bills to your long list of things becoming more expensive by the day. The government inking a deal with gas suppliers meaning no more shortfalls, but it will cost you.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Dutton join me now. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you all this morning.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Karl.


STEFANOVIC: Richard, to you first up, these cost-of-living pressures are getting excessive aren’t they, through the roof. This is the last thing households need.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are a lot of pressures, and we really understand with things like rising interest rates what that means for household budgets. Easing that pressure has really been core business for the government since the moment that we were sworn in. Seeking a real increase to the lowest paid is what we achieved at the start, we’ve obviously seen the biggest increase in the pension last week and during the course of this week, we had legislation in the Parliament which was about making childcare more affordable, medicines cheaper.

So, we are really focused on that, and what has been achieved through Madeleine King’s efforts with the gas market is trying to do something about the east coast gas market, which after a decade of the Liberals being in office, despite the fact that we are massive gas exporter, we don’t have a functional gas market in the east coast and that’s what we’re trying to achieve. But there are a lot of pressures on cost of living, and it is core business for us right now.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Coal-fired power plants are closing. When conservatively do you think renewables will be at a level where they can safely sustain supply to Australians? What year do you think?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, what’s a real difference for now compared to when I entered parliament, say, back in 2007, is that cheap energy is renewable energy. And we need to get it online as quickly as we can. And that’s not going to happen overnight.

STEFANOVIC: But how long?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, it’s not going to happen overnight. But we have in place a policy which makes it clear that we will get to an emissions reduction target of 43 per cent by 2030, and that is all about getting renewables online and it’s about making sure that our electricity grid is able to take those renewables. Again, a lost decade in terms of action on renewables and investment in renewable energies is the negative legacy that we’re trying to deal with now. We can’t do this overnight, but we can start the job, and we’re doing that.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Peter?

DUTTON: Good morning, Karl. Well, a couple of points. I mean, firstly, you know, people are going to grow tired pretty quickly of constantly Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles saying, ‘well, you know, it was the other mob’s fault’. They were elected in May of this year. They haven’t got a plan. They told the public before the election on 97 occasions that they were going to guarantee a price reduction of $275 in people’s power bills. They’ve refused to mention that figure any day since the election. And the problem with the rhetoric around cheap energy, when the sun’s shining it’s all free, the fact is that the sun doesn’t shine 24/7, Karl. So, it needs to be firmed up. And this is the problem that the government’s got. You can only – everybody wants renewables in the system. That’s fine. But the question is how you firm them up and the costs associated with that. And that’s either through coal or gas. If you don’t like that, then it’s through hydrogen, which is potentially years and years away.

And what I’m worried about is that Labor’s marching us down the track that Germany’s in at the moment or that California is in, where they’ve got rolling blackouts and families just can’t afford ever increasing power prices. And at the moment with the system that Labor is promising to roll out these poles and wires, which is going to take decades, to distribute the energy that they’re talking about, it’s just – it’s a pipe dream. It’s not going to happen. And we’re going to have the rolling blackouts that we’ve seen in California, the desperate situation in the United Kingdom where pensioners can’t afford to turn their heaters on over winter. That’s exactly where Labor is taking us, and we need to be very careful.

STEFANOVIC: It’s got to be dealt with. Moving on, there’s plenty of anger about Aussies who’ve had their personal data stolen in this Optus hack. Richard, you vowed to crack down on cyber security. Are fines really going to be enough, though?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, fines are part of it, but what we need to be doing is making sure that the whole of corporate Australia and government is obviously as robust as possible for these kind of hacks. I think what’s happened with Optus is it has been a wake-up call for corporate Australia. We’ve obviously been working very closely with Optus from the moment we became aware of this, both to minimise the impact of the hack but also to maximise the protection of those Optus customers who have been affected.

But ultimately people have a right to feel that the information that they’ve given to companies is going to be robustly protected and stored. This has been a massive wake-up call for corporate Australia, and we need to be doing everything we can to make our private sector more resilient.

STEFANOVIC: Peter, Mark Dreyfus, the Attorney-General, was on our program yesterday saying there’d be some sort of legislation around this by the end of the year. What do you think about that time frame?

DUTTON: Well, Karl, it should have been in the parliament this week. I mean, Parliament’s been sitting. The government was aware of this problem. And I think 10 million Australians should be white hot with anger at the moment that their information was compromised and the Home Affairs Minister went missing for three days. Time is of the essence. Time is critical in these circumstances. And people need to secure their information because identity theft is a huge problem. You can lose your credit rating, you can be responsible for debt that you never ran up.

The government has completely missed the ball here. So, I think customers really are angry in these lines at the moment. We suggested that the Passport Office should be issuing the passports for free and then the money recovered from Optus subsequently so that you can get it done quickly before the information can be used to start bank accounts or create credit cards, because it’s too late then. I just can’t believe that the minister sat on her hands for three days, didn’t come out. She was tweeting about the AFL Grand Final but didn’t, you know, give a stuff, frankly, about the customers of Optus. And they’re trying to sort of gather it all together now and send Mark Dreyfus out instead because he’s a bit of a stronger voice than the Home Affairs Minister. But she was missing – completely missing – in action.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Richard. I wanted to get your thoughts on that, but it was pretty strong and I kind of agreed with him.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, he’s wrong. I can tell you he’s wrong.

STEFANOVIC: Let’s get your opinion on the NRL Grand Final, it’s coming up on Sunday, which is going to be absolutely fantastic. Richard, who do you think the main playmakers for Penrith are going to be?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: To ask a specific question like that of me is obviously above my pay grade, and you’re not a nice person for doing it.

STEFANOVIC: I’m joking. I’m joking.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I had my lines prepared. I know nothing about this, as you know. Anyway, I’m going to give you my line.

DUTTON: I can’t see him, but what tie is he wearing, Karl?

STEFANOVIC: He’s still got a Geelong tie on – blah, blah, blah.

DUTTON: Still got the Cats tie on?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Yeah. And it will come off, I don’t know, New Year’s Day.

The head says Penrith, heart says Parramatta.

DUTTON: You’ve got to go the underdogs.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Did you get a Geelong premiership tattoo? And if so, where?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I’m not going to show you the tattoo, but it did get a bit messy on Sunday morning.


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: It was very good is the answer.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Pete?

DUTTON: No, I want to hear the tatt story, Karl. Keep going with that.

STEFANOVIC: Hey, thanks, guys. We’ll talk to you very soon. Appreciate it.

DUTTON: Go the Eels.


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