Related ministers and contacts
The Hon Richard Marles MP
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Defence
26 May 2023
KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, in Geelong and Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton, in Brissy. Morning guys, nice to see you this morning. Richard, first up, Labor promised to reduce power bills by $275 a year by 2025. Can we now, officially this morning, call that a broken promise?
RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well Karl, what we said then was that the cheapest form of electricity going forwards will be renewable energy and we needed to see more investments in that. And that's what we've done as a Government after a decade of stagnation. But, look, we get that power prices going up are real pressure on households and on businesses. That's why we've been acting from day one in relation to this. At the end of last year we had a $3 billion package which was about putting downward pressure on power prices. We capped gas prices. Peter opposed all of those. At the end of last year the energy price regulator was expecting power prices to go up by 50% this year, that's not what's happened, it's much less than that. So, we get the people are doing it tough. It's effectively a function of the protracted conflict in Ukraine, which has seen a total disruption of energy markets around the world. But we are a Government which is focused on that and we're doing that despite the opposition of Peter and his party.
STEFANOVIC: Pete, you'd prefer no cap and higher bills?
PETER DUTTON, OPPOSITION LEADER: Karl, a couple of points. I mean, firstly, we want to see more gas in the system, because what the Government's doing here is turning off the old system before the new one is ready. And that's what's driving up prices. And you hear the Prime Minister and Richard say “oh, well, renewables are the cheapest form of energy”, have a look at your bill and work it out for yourself as to whether that's true or not. The Prime Minister lied at the last election, let's be very clear about it. He promised on 97 occasions that your bill would go down by $275. He promised it after Russia went into Ukraine. So, forget about that sort of nonsense argument. A lot of families are hurting. It comes off the back of huge increases in mortgages and your grocery bill is going up, your energy bill otherwise is going up, your insurance bill is going up. And I think the Government's completely underestimating how much families and small businesses are hurting at the moment.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Richard, you mentioned the transition to renewables. This week we've seen some pretty alarming figures about how much that transition is going to cost. It's into the billions, and it's more than we first assessed. It's only going one way, realistically, not just for families, but for businesses. And that's up.
MARLES: Well, from the moment that we've come to office, we've faced an inflationary environment around the world and we've faced really disrupted energy markets because of a protracted conflict in Ukraine. And Peter can make the point he has, but when that war started no one was imagining that we'd still be going today in the way that it is. And that has disrupted energy prices. And that's what we've had to deal with and we've been dealing with it. We put in place a really significant package at the end of last year, which has had a significant impact in putting downward pressure. Now, we would be seeing energy prices much higher today but for that. And we've been doing that in the face of consistent opposition from Peter and his party. Now, if Peter had had it his way, we'd be looking at energy bills 50% higher, because that's what the energy regulator was saying at the end of last year. But if you want to talk about broken promises, Peter and his party in 2019 was saying that the wholesale energy price– electricity price, would be $70 a megawatt by 2021. When we came to office, it was $286. That's actually what we inherited. What Peter is talking about is absolute rubbish. We are doing everything in our power.
STEFANOVIC: Pete, how would you, from tomorrow, reduce power bills? Is it even possible at the moment?
DUTTON: Karl, you've got to bring more gas into the system. The Government's attacking the gas sector at the moment and reducing the amount of gas that's coming into the sector– into the system at a time when there's more demand for it. And if you've got more demand for any commodity and you're restricting supply, the price spikes. And the trouble with, I mean, we're all in favour of renewable energy but it needs to be firmed up during the hours of darkness when the solar panels won't work and you've got the baseload cost. So, you've always got – whether you've got 65%, 85% of renewables in the system – you've always got to firm that up. And the trouble is that they're turning off coal and gas way too early before– the latest technology battery lasts for an hour. And when the new battery comes, that's great, but it's not here yet. And $100 billion they're proposing to spend on new poles and wires. Every dollar will be passed on to consumers.
STEFANOVIC: Yep. Let’s move on. A senior member in the US Army says –
MARLES: Karl, I just want to say this. Peter is making stuff up here. At the end of last year, our intervention was about getting more gas into the East coast energy market. That's what we were doing. And Peter opposed it. That’s in the here and now. He can bang on about batteries, but at the end of the day when there was an opportunity to act he opposed it.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, let's move on. A senior figure in the US Army says we've got blind spots in our military. This is your wheelhouse, Richard. Considering that the entire ADF is smaller than a single US Marine division - it's obviously the size of the dog and the fight and all of that, but there are calls for a US base to be established here on Australian soil. Would you approve that?
MARLES: Well, we're not going to have bases in Australia and it's been bipartisan policy in this country not to do that. But we do have a really high degree of coordination which exists between the Australian Defence Force and the US Defense Forces. We've got embedded Defence Force personnel in Indo-Pacific Command in Hawaii. And indeed, there are embedded American officers throughout our Defence Force, including in the Joint Operations Command at Bungendore.
STEFANOVIC: But they're not sharing their technology with us at the moment.
MARLES: And that's then a separate issue. And it's a really important issue –
STEFANOVIC: So what's happening with that?
MARLES: Well, it is a real challenge to break down the barriers in both our systems, but particularly in the US, to make sure that we do see the sharing of technology across our defence industries. I think at the highest level, I mean, between President Biden and Prime Minister Albanese, there's a real commitment to trying to break these barriers down. So, the will is there. America is a big animal when it comes to this. It’s a challenge and we don't underestimate it. But I'm actually really confident that one of the real benefits that comes from AUKUS is the ability to create that seamless defence industrial base, which will see a much better flow of technology and information between our systems.
STEFANOVIC: All right, let's hope it happens quickly. Look, we’re celebrating her life, but mourning her loss at the same time. Legendary Tina Turner. And looking back at her amazing legacy here in Australia. Look, I can see you two bopping along. Hey, back in the day when you were clubbing. How good is this shot of Tina and Alfie Langer, Andrew Ettingshausen. I mean, my wife saw that shot of Andrew yesterday and went “who the hell is that?” She's so young. So, while we're talking about young, hot players we thought we'd dig up some shots of you guys back in the day. Let's start with you, Richard. Have a look at him. Sizzle.
SARAH ABO, HOST: That's not Richard. Is it?
STEFANOVIC: Sizzle, sizzle.
MARLES: Yeah, that is me. It’s a long time ago.
STEFANOVIC: This one's even better. You ready for this, Australia? This is Peter Dutton in his prime. Oh, people would vote for him.
ABO: He’s like a watch model.
STEFANOVIC: There you go, Pete.
DUTTON: That’s a lesson for all the kiddies watching out there: don't go into politics. Because of the before and after shots.
STEFANOVIC: Good to talk to you guys. Have yourself a great weekend.