Karl Stefanovic, 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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11 October 2022

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles joins us now. Richard, good morning to you, thanks for your time this morning. Labor pledged to cut bills by $275 a year, that ain't going to happen now, right?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Well, we stand by the modelling, but what we need to be doing is making sure that we are upgrading our power grid so that it is modern. Fundamentally, what we are facing now is ten years of inaction where under the former government four times as much dispatchable power was removed from the grid as was put on to it. We had complete paralysis in terms of energy policy over the course of a decade. We have changed that. We now have settled energy policy. It is through the parliament. Unlike when I first entered the parliament 15 years ago what is clear now is that the cheapest form of power is renewable energy. But you need to have a grid which can accept it, and that is what we are building and we are going to make sure we get renewable energy on board and that is going to drive power prices down. In the short-term we are going to be working with, and we are working with, power companies to try to alleviate those short-term pressure, but we are actually dealing with the issue.

STEFANOVIC: I get the complexities, but how long will it be before you save people $275 a year on their power?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: You can't fix ten years of mess in just a few months, and we have never pretended that you could. But you can start the job and we are starting the job, and we are now taking the country down a path of a much more efficient electricity grid which will have downward pressure on power prices. But we understand the challenges that we are facing now, which is why we are working with power companies to try and alleviate those short-term pressure.

STEFANOVIC: If bills go up by 30%, though, there are going to be some people out there who go broke while waiting for wind to power up their blenders.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I mean we understand the pressures that people are facing, and that is why there needs to be immediate action in relation to our power grid, which is why that is what we are doing. It has really been one of the key focuses of this government from the moment that we were sworn in. We now have settled energy policy through the parliament for the first time in more than a decade. And that is going to pave the way for us to get to a better place when it comes to the way in which we put in place energy in this country. But, you know, we have had ten years of nothingness on the part of the former government and that is what is creating the pressure that we are facing now.

STEFANOVIC: I get that, but I don't think promising a $275 saving during an election campaign a year does anyone any good because it is just not going to happen.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: No one is saying that was going to happen straightaway. It was modelling which was based on what we are going to do and we are working on that. We have never said that you could solve this problem in just a few months. It is a mess that we have inherited from the former government but we are fixing it.

STEFANOVIC: Military projects, we have learnt this morning, have blown way over time and over budget. Given what is happening with our place in the world with ongoing dramas, are you going to make more cuts or are you going to get this sorted out?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, again, we have inherited 28 projects from the former government which are running an accumulated 97 years overtime. That in turn is an absolute mess. It is because the former government was asleep at the wheel. We saw six, really seven, defence ministers in the course of nine years. If you are turning a defence minister over every 18 months it is not really a surprise there was no leadership being provided to defence. We are going to change that.

But we do expect the defence budget to rise. In a rational world, and we’re rational people, defence spending is a function of strategic threat, and we are in a very precarious set of strategic circumstance. But all of that means that our defence spending needs to be excellent, it needs to be quality, and it can't be wasteful. And that means it needs to be properly managed. That is what we intend to do going forward, so that Australian taxpayers get bang for buck, but so that we actually produce the highest capabilities that keep Australians safe.

STEFANOVIC: I don't think anyone in Australia is going to be upset with you spending more on defence given our circumstances right now. Deputy PM, we’ll see you Friday.



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