Transcript - Thursday 16th June 2022 - Press Conference The Hon Angus Taylor & The Hon Senator Michaelia Cash

Thursday, 16 June 2022

CASH: I'm here with my very good friend, and Cabinet Colleague or Shadow Cabinet colleague now, Shadow Treasurer in Angus Taylor. It was wonderful yesterday to be able to host Angus, the Opposition leader Peter Dutton and the Shadow Cabinet here in Perth, Western Australia for our very first Shadow Cabinet meeting. As Peter Dutton said yesterday, this is a clear indication of just how important Western Australia and Western Australians are to the rebuild of the Liberal Party. 

But of course, today, we've had the employment figures come out for May 2022. In relation to these employment figures, the surveys were taken prior to the election. So what we've seen in terms of the level of unemployment today, it remained steady at 3.9%. We saw around 60,000 jobs created and almost all of the jobs created, were actually full-time jobs. And you know, I do recall what Jim Chalmers said prior to the election, on many occasions, the test for the Coalition Government was the level of unemployment in Australia, well it continues to remain at an almost 50-year historical low. And today's figures again show, we have more people than employment than ever before. The under-employment rate, it dropped .4 percentage points to 5.6%, youth unemployment 8.8%. What this shows is that the economy and the Australia that the Labor Party have inherited, despite the last two years of COVID-19, is in good shape. The only reason you have an unemployment rate that is remained steady today at 3.9% with the creation of 60,000 jobs, and the majority of those jobs being full time jobs, is because of the decisions that the former Coalition Government took when they were in office. And these decisions have meant that you have seen the economy growing, you have seen record low interest rates, you have seen, in particular, that decrease in electricity prices. And so the test now for Anthony Albanese and Labor is to ensure that that unemployment rate stays at the almost historic record lows to ensure that every single month, we continue to build on the number of Australians who are in employment. Again 3.9%, I'm very pleased that these figures do see this job reflect the strong economy that the Coalition Government has handed over to the Australian Labor Party. But the test for Mr Albanese and, in particular Mr Tony Burke now as the relevant minister, is what policies are you going to ensure are in place to keep Australians in work? To ensure that we continue to see the decrease in the under-employment rate, and we keep unemployment in Australia at those historic lows? I’ll now just hand over to the Shadow Treasurer, Angus Taylor.

TAYLOR: Well, thanks Michaelia, it's wonderful to be with you. And of course, just a fearsome advocate for Western Australia, always making the case for Western Australia in Cabinet, now Shadow Cabinet and will continue, we need those strong voices here in Western Australia, around the Cabinet table and we certainly have that in Michaelia. 

What these figures today show is what an extraordinary, strong economy it is that we handed over to the Labor Party. 3.9% unemployment, strong growth in jobs for young Australians in particular, it’s an important part of what we have handed over. A cash rate of .35% and an economy that is very robust given the circumstances we faced in the last couple of years and as Michaelia rightly pointed out. The question for Labor is, what are they going to do to take what they have inherited and maintain that strength in the economy? Now we are seeing very strong inflationary pressures around the world and in Australia. And we don't need policies from Labor that add fuel to the fire of those inflationary pressures, pushing up interest rates, making all those Australians, three-and-a-half million Australians who have a mortgage pay more for those mortgages. They are the policies we don't need and we will be looking very closely at what the Treasurer announces in the coming months in terms of their policies to make sure that Australians aren't suffering from inflationary pressures and the Reserve Bank doesn't have to push the interest rate to a level which would put Australians out of work. None of us want to see that. 

I do want to make a couple of comments up front on energy, we saw a remarkable press conference this morning from the Prime Minister and the Energy Minister where they showed they were more interested in personal attacks than in problem solving, more interested in personal attacks than problems solving. What we need in the east coast energy system is a focus on dispatchable reliable supply in the system. That's why when we were in government we invested in the Kurri Kurri gas generator, we supported the development of the Tallawarra gas generator in the Illawarra with Energy Australia as well. It’s why we supported Snowy 2.0. It’s why we supported a capacity mechanism, which is technology neutral, which Western Australia already has. All of these were initiatives at various times and members of the Labor Party resisted, or indeed opposed, including the big stick legislation, which was all about making sure we had enough supply in the market. The focus must be on supply. That's how you solve the problem. But that wasn't what we saw the Government doing this morning in their press conference, they focused on personal attacks. Well it's time to focus on problem solving, it's time to take responsibility. Anthony Albanese said he'd take responsibility as Prime Minister, it’s time for him to step up and do exactly that. 

JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister said you failed to do your job as Energy Minister by delaying climate policy. What do you make of those comments?

TAYLOR: What's needed in the system right now is dispatchable, reliable supply and Labor opposed dispatchable reliable supply for years. They opposed the Kurri Kurri gas generator. They showed no interest in a technology neutral capacity mechanism that we already have here in Western Australia. What we need from this Labor Government is stepping up and realising that that agenda, we've been pushing for many years to their opposition, it's time for them to embrace it, and to embrace reliable, affordable supply in the grid. They haven't noticed yet that the problem we have in the east coast grid right now is when the sun goes down in the evening, that's the time when Chris Bowen has asked people to turn out the lights, and that's the time when you need the gas generation, the dispatchable generation that is absolutely necessary that we've been investing in, that they’ve never embraced, it's time for them to embrace.

JOURNALIST: Australians clearly voted on more climate action though and members of your own party have said that. Do you think this crisis could have been avoided if your government had acted more on climate policy?

TAYLOR: We reduced emissions between 2005 and when we left government by 20%. That's better than many benchmark nations across the world. At the same time, we delivered a reduction in electricity prices of 8% for households, 10% for small businesses, 12% for industry, we delivered those outcomes. When we ran into issues in the electricity grid, the energy system more broadly we managed those through the suppliers. That's what we achieved. Now the question is what is Labor going to do in the next couple of years? What are their outcomes going to be? The outcomes for us when we left government were very, very clear.

JOURNALIST: Is it disingenuous for the Coalition to try and claim credit for the low unemployment rate while trying to wash its hands of the energy crisis?

TAYLOR: I'm not sure how you're linking those two things together. But at the end of the day, we left government, we left government with a 3.9% unemployment rate, with a .35% cash rate and with a strong economy. We also left government having reduced electricity prices in contrast to Labor when they were last in government, which doubled. Now it's now for Labor to take responsibility. And there are global inflationary pressures, we accept that, we absolutely accept that. But when you are in government, it is time for them to step up and deal with the issues. Now what's needed in our energy system is affordable, reliable supply, the focus needs to be on supply, not eliminating the market, getting more supply into the market. And that needs to be the focus.

JOURNALIST: You left government with skyrocketing wholesale prices. *Inaudible*

TAYLOR: We left government with electricity prices that had fallen for households by 8%, for small businesses by 10% and for industry by 12%. Labor when they were last in government doubled electricity prices. Let's see how they go. They were the ones who promised electricity price reductions in the lead up to the election. It was around $250. They made that promise. Let's see how they perform. They promised a strong economy. They promised strong employment. We left them with those things. Strong position. Let's see how they perform over the next year.

JOURNALIST: They've committed to a 43% emissions reduction target by 2030. Do you think it's possible?

TAYLOR: Oh, we'll wait and see. I mean, at the end of the day, we delivered on Kyoto, we delivered on a 20% reduction between 2005 and 2020. What matters at the end of day for emissions policy and climate policy is delivering outcomes, and we delivered the outcomes. Let's see how Labor goes.

JOURNALIST: Will the Coalition support that 43% emissions reduction target? 

TAYLOR: We've been very clear about that policy in the lead up to the election. But let's see what Labor is going to do to achieve what they promised. They’ve promised a 43% emissions reduction target, at the same time as a reduction in electricity prices. I don't know how they're going to do it. I can't see how they are going to deliver all of that. Let's see. It's up to them. But we've left the economy in a very strong position. Let's see how Labor performs over the next little while.

JOURNALIST: *Inaudible* Interest rates are going up and up and up. You’ve got, you know, the cost of living going up and up. Did you overcook the economy? 

TAYLOR: Well, we've been very clear, there are strong global inflationary pressures. There's no doubt about that. That's why before the election, we delivered in the biggest improvement in Australia's budget position in 70 years, a $100 million turnaround in the budget delivered by Josh Frydenberg. And that was because we are facing *inaudible*. Now the question is what's Labor going to do to deal with those inflationary pressures, capital markets right now are predicting rightly or wrongly, skyrocketing interest rates. It's up to Labor to deal with this now, and the key to it is sensible, conservative approach to fiscal policy, and we'll see the money months whether the Treasurer *inaudible*.

JOURNALIST: *Inaudible* What do state and federal governments need to do about skills shortages in Australia?

CASH: Thank you. Certainly, again, the economy that we handed over to the Australian Labor Party, in relation to the investment that the former Coalition Government made in skills and training was actually unprecedented. And in particular, when you look at what we did to support the retention of apprentices, but also bringing new apprentices on throughout the COVID period, we now have more apprentices in training than ever before. So the investment we made into skills and training was actually and remains at historic levels. I worked very, very closely with my state and territory counterparts in an incredibly constructive way. If you recall, we announced JobTrainer. This was a huge investment by both the federal government and the state and territory governments in ensuring that we had free or low-cost training places available across Australia and the key was in key areas of labour market demand. So again, the test for Mr Albanese and his Ministers is, look at the figures, look at the records, look at the investment and look at how we did the work cooperatively with our state and territory counterparts. Are you able to maintain this investment in the system? Are you able to maintain the record number of apprentices that you now see, and that's coming out of a two-year period where we had a global pandemic. That is the test that Labor now faces. 

JOURNALIST: We saw Mark McGowan talking up Western Australia to the eastern states, *inaudible* houses are cheaper, electricity is cheaper *inaudible*.

CASH: Western Australia is a fantastic place to live. There is no two ways about that. And in particular, the WA Federal Liberal team, we are great advocates for this state. We were the team that ensured that Western Australia got its fair share of GST, and certainly in getting that fair share of GST, it contributed to Western Australia’s very large public budget surplus. The key for Mr McGowan is and again it goes back to the tests we have here for the Anthony Albanese Labor Government. You can make as many statements as you like. You can issue as many press releases as you like. It is the detail behind those statements and those press releases that people need to see. How are you going to affect your policy? And we've seen nothing coming yet from Mr Albanese. 

JOURNALIST: *inaudible*. Obviously 7.1% inflation here last so things are ramping up quicker here than anywhere else, is that a sign of trouble ahead? 

TAYLOR: Well, there's no doubt there's global inflationary pressures, as I said, there’s no question about that. That’s not the question, the question is how you respond to it? The thing about Government is that you have the respond to the circumstances you have and you have to take responsibility. The key for Labor is a sensible approach to their budget. We turned around our budget by $100 billion, the most in 70 years and the question is what's Labor going to take away those inflationary pressures? Adding fuel to the inflationary fire is not what Australians need. Those three and a half million Australians with a mortgage should be concerned to make sure that this is new Labor Government does the right thing by them in containing inflation and interest rates.

JOURNALIST: Was backing in the above inflation pay rise a mistake? 

TAYLOR: It's an independent commission. This is ultimately a decision for them. But the question the new Labor Government is are they going to trigger a price wage spiral. I lived through the last big price wage spiral in the in the 1970s. I saw how it played out. It's crucial that government be sensible in its approach, particularly in its spending and its budget to take those pressures away. The Labor Government in the 70s failed to do that. Will Labor fail to manage this? Let's wait and see. But it is the job of the government to manage this situation. 

JOURNALIST: Just quickly, with this energy crisis, do we think we need to keep coal fired power stations to keep them going longer? And also should the government look to take over coal fired power stations as well just how the Australian energy market operator has done overnight?

TAYLOR: We need a balance of dispatchable generation in the system. We've been saying this for a long, long time. That's why we back the Kurri Kurri gas generator, which Labor for a long time refuses to back, refused to back and resisted. Now you need that dispatchable generation and you need a mechanism to make sure that’s in place. That's why we drove the process of putting a capacity mechanism in place, it’s technology neutral that recognises the need for balance. So this is not saying … picking a fuel and saying yes, the answer to all the problems, it’s saying you need dispatchable capacity at six or seven o'clock in the evening when the sun goes down, it's that simple. And it's really now for the Labor Government to make sure that that happens. Thank you very much. Thank you.