Jennifer Westacott interview with Sandy Aloisi, ABC NewsRadio

06 August 2018

Event: Interview with ABC NewsRadio
Speaker: Jennifer Westacott
Date:  6 August 2018
Topics: National Energy Guarantee

Sandy Aloisi, Host: The Australian Business Council is warning that households across the country face picking up the bill if the states don’t reach an agreement with the federal government on the National Energy Guarantee. Later this week the states’ energy ministers meet for a crucial meeting over the policy with Victoria and the ACT ramping up threats to walk away amid dispute over emissions reduction targets. Jennifer Westacott is the CEO of the Business Council of Australia and she joins us now. Jennifer Westacott good morning to you.

Jennifer Westacott, chief executive Business Council of Australia: Good morning.

Sandy: Well this week’s meeting, the one on Friday, is billed by many as a make or break for the National Energy Guarantee. Do you agree with that assessment?

Jennifer: Well I think it’s a make or break for energy policy in Australia. I think it’s a make or break for consumers. I mean, we’ve had a decade of dysfunction on energy policy. We finally have a policy that business from all sides whether they are retailers, providers, users all say look we can work with this. We’ve got a policy that finally brings together affordability, reliability and our obligations to meet our emissions target under the Paris Agreement. So finally, we have this workable thing. So, if we walk away from this on Friday, I think we are back to ground zero and we have been at ground zero for a long time in this country.

Sandy: Some of the Labor states are saying that they feel with the federal government not even able to agree on the National Energy Guarantee itself, all that discussion and debate within the government itself it wonders why Labor states themselves should come to the table with any kind of assessment that the Energy Guarantee should go ahead.

Jennifer: Well it does require the states’ agreement so that’s a question of leadership. I mean, you know, people just can’t continue to play politics because the people who are impacted by this, as you know, are people whose bills are going to come in over the next few weeks for winter and they’re going to not be able to pay them. They’re going to say what are Australian governments, be they federal or state, doing about this? And for people just to continue to say we’re not doing anything, we’re not getting on the path of having lower prices, more reliable energy because we just want to, kind of, play politics with this, I don’t that’s good enough for the Australian people. So, you know, I think this is a question that, you know, people should not be second guessing what happens in a coalition party room, they should be doing the right thing by Australians and they should be getting some movement on this issue. Finally, we’ve got something we can work with and many other things have to be resolved, we know that. But here’s a scheme, here’s a framework that everyone says, “yep we can make this work. It helps us meet our Paris obligations, let’s get on with it”.

Sandy: So, do you feel the issues you just alluded to can be resolved before Friday’s meeting?

Jennifer: Well these issues, you know, the whole question of playing with the target – we’ve got a target. We’ve got a target that’s ambitious but achievable. We’ve got a target that’s been through an exhaustive process as part of the Paris Agreement. We’ve got a process that we can review that target every five years. So, why don’t we just stick with the frameworks that people have agreed with rather than trying to bring in new issues, bring in more complexity, bring in something new which is just a political excuse to say we really don’t want to do anything. Now, this is just a question of leadership, now we get on, we do it, we move forward.

Sandy: Is the federal government showing leadership here given the debate that’s been within its own ranks over this issue?

Jennifer: Well, look I’m not going to comment on the internal workings of the coalition but I do believe this Minister and the Prime Minister have tried to put a comprehensive energy policy together. They’ve allowed the independent experts, the National Energy Security Board, to actually do the work. They’ve consulted with business. They’ve put a lot of detail on the table with the states. They’ve worked at resolving some of the issues that business raised. They’ve put forward something that can work and, you know, I think that’s their job and I think they should be allowed to get on with their job and I think the states are crucial to kind of get behind it, get some momentum and not play second guessing what happens in the coalition party room.

Sandy: Jennifer Westacott good to speak with you. Thanks for joining us.

Jennifer: Thanks very much.

Sandy: Jennifer Westacott there, CEO of the Business Council of Australia.

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