PETER KHALIL MP
MEMBER FOR WILLS
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY 21 JUNE 2022
Subjects: Energy crisis in Victoria caused by high gas prices as a result of the war in Ukraine, Adam Bandt decision to remove the Australian flag from his press conference
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s bring in the Labor MP, Peter Khalil and the Liberal Senator James Paterson for a look at today’s top stories. Gentlemen, good morning to you. Thank you for your time. Now, seeing as you’re both Victorians, we will start there and with the ongoing energy crisis. The Victorian Government has point blank refused to allow payments to coal and gas generators to help avoid blackouts. Peter, just want to a start with you on this one. Is that a dangerous approach?
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Well, first of all, Pete, good morning, and the work that’s been done by the Federal Minister, Chris Bowen, to ensure that there is a capacity mechanism and I think it’s going to start in 2025, it’s a longer-term solution, is to ensure that there is back up there available as we transition to renewable energy. And it’s a safe and sensible approach that’s been taken by the Government. Part of the mechanism is the states and territories, I think territories, but states certainly have the option to opt in and not pay certain producers of energy if that’s their decision. Now, the really important element about all of this is that Chris Bowen has successfully found a way to provide some certainty going forward as we transition to renewables. And remember, we’re picking up a mess of nine years in the making without any real energy policy, where everything was kind of left and politicised and not dealt with. And in a short couple of weeks, we’ve managed to get some real agreement with the federal minister and the state ministers as they’ve met the energy ministers, to try and find pathway forward and make sure that we have the energy needs of Australia looked after.
STEFANOVIC: James, The Energy Security Board has warned of a renewable’s drought in winter. We have seen plenty of that this year already with so much rain about because of La Niña. If Victoria continues on this path, will it have to sponge off Queensland and NSW, though?
JAMES PATERSON, LIBERAL SENATOR: Peter, it’s a very big call by Victoria to say that they can get through this winter without any blackouts, without relying on any incentive payments at all to bring more gas or coal into the system when virtually every other jurisdiction in the country is looking to do exactly that. And it’s a very big call by Chris Bowen to let them get away with it, because if there are blackouts in Victoria this winter, it won’t only be the fault of the Andrews Government and its ideological pigheadedness on these issues, it will be the fault of Chris Bowen for being weak and not pulling them into line. He’s got to take responsibility here. Let’s remember what Anthony Albanese said throughout the election campaign only a few weeks ago. He said he would show up, he would take responsibility, and he would fix the problems. It’s all very well and good to blame your predecessors, but if there are blackout on his watch, Anthony Albanese has to take responsibility for that, and he also has to take responsibility for prices, because it was again only a few weeks ago that he was promising $275 reduction in everyone’s power bills. Now, he knew everything he needed to know about the state of the electricity market a few weeks ago. There’s no new information today that he didn’t have a few weeks ago when he made that commitment and yet he’s already walking away from that commitment. And my prediction is that will be Labor’s first broken promise to the Australian people.
KHALIL: Can I just, I know James is in Opposition now Pete, but he does sort of sound the Greens because you know, the other party that’s actually been opposed to this capacity mechanism and the good work that’s been put in place by the energy ministers of Australia and that’s Adam Bandt and the Greens. They’ve opposed it as well, and they’ve said, “it’s not good enough, you can’t back up and provide support for generators of energy in times of need”. The reality is this; the government has had to act because nothing was done for nine long years. It was a complete mess. And Chris Bowen has managed to work with the other energy ministers around this country to put in place a mechanism that provides certainty around our energy needs when there are periods of time where there’s fluctuation.
STEFANOVIC: Should that mechanism be national though, rather than states opting in and out?
KHALIL: Well, it is national, Pete, I should say. It is a national mechanism in the sense that the whole system if you like, is predicated on making sure that there are generators that can provide the necessary energy in times of need, if there is a situation where there is a shortfall. And that’s exactly what the mechanism has been designed to do.
STEFANOVIC: Right. James, Peter just referred to the Greens there. In Germany, the Greens have turned to an increase in coal. I repeat that the Greens have turned to an increase in coal because of the situation that’s continuing in Europe. I mean, is this the track that we are walking towards, given that fossil fuels here are doing 75% of the heavy lifting at the moment.
PATERSON: Well, you’re right, Peter; despite all the money spent all around the world in countries like Germany and Australia on transitioning to renewables, we are nowhere near close enough to a state where renewables can provide all, or even a majority, or even a significant minority, of the electricity demand needs that we have in modern industrialised countries. And you’re right, it’s a Socialist/Greens Coalition government in Germany, which is now turning to extra coal-fired power. In fact, lignite, brown coal fired power, in Germany to provide their electricity needs because they can no longer rely on gas and oil provided by Russia, understandably, and because they made a fateful decision to turn down their perfectly well functioning nuclear-powered plants which they previously were able to rely on as a low emission, reliable base-load source of energy. So, what’s left? If you’re saying, “no nuclear”, if renewables are not ready, and if you can’t do gas, well, brown coal is all you’ve got left in Germany. So, Australia shouldn’t be pigheaded about this.
STEFANOVIC: So, Peter, do you believe that there needs to be more investment in coal to work alongside the development of renewables?
KHALIL: I will answer your question, but just to pick up a couple of things that James sort of slipped through there. There’s a pretty significant reason that Germany is in the predicament they’re in and that is obviously that external factor of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and their overreliance historically on Russian gas supplies, and they got themselves into that situation, as well. There was a lack of diversity there, as far as the supply that they were relying on. So, let’s just put that context, with respect to what’s happening in Germany and other parts of Europe as well. The other point here, and it relates to your question, is this idea that we’ve spent all this money on renewables and so on. Yes, there’s been a fair bit of investment renewables. But let’s be really clear about this; the previous government has not made the necessary investment in the transition to renewables. That is why the Albanese Government has committed to $20 billion to upgrade and transform the grid with respect to renewable energy infrastructure so you can actually have the renewables in place and start providing that cheap energy because renewables are cheaper. So, these are realities that haven’t been acknowledged by James in his previous answer and the government is doing everything that it can to make a sensible approach to ensure that there is energy for Australia’s needs, as well as transitioning to that cheaper renewable energy by investing in the infrastructure necessary.
STEFANOVIC: Just a final thought here, gents. Over to you, James. The Greens leader you might have seen, he has removed the Australian flag from his press conference. It’s been called anything from childish to virtue signalling, even treasonous. How would you describe it?
PATERSON: I thought it was very disappointing and very immature behaviour from Adam Bandt and I thought it was particularly unhelpful and inappropriate for him to co-opt Indigenous Australians as his excuse for why he doesn’t embrace the flag. He said that Indigenous Australians are offended by it. I don’t doubt there are some Indigenous Australians who are offended by it, but there are many who are not, and for him to claim to speak on all their behalf and to use them as a shield for his own immature behaviour I think reflects incredibly poorly on him. He made a choice to run for the Australian Parliament, to represent the Australian people, and we have the Australian flag as our national symbol and for him to distance himself from it reflects very poorly on him.
KHALIL: So, I’ve got to share the story with you. I was at a citizenship ceremony and Adam Bandt was there, a local citizenship ceremony and all the people there who were new Australian citizens were waving those little Australian flags and I was waving one and he was sitting next to me and I said, “here you go, mate, have one of these” and he just completely stonewalled me. And I thought it was very, very odd. The two points here. One; you’re a member of the Australian Parliament and yes, the Australian flag and the Union Jack, it evokes some offence to people, not just Indigenous peoples. I’m of Egyptian background, there was a British colonial period in Egypt. But I’m an Australian, a proud Australian, and I am a member of the Australian Parliament. And despite some of that history, the flag represents Australia. Look, we might change it in the future, that’s fine. But right now, that is our flag, and I respect that flag as a member of the Australian Parliament and so should other members of Parliament, as most, or the vast majority of Australian citizens do.
STEFANOVIC: Ok, James Paterson, Peter Khalil, appreciate your time this morning. We’ll talk to you again soon.