Abbott ‘not a sniper or a wrecker’
LEIGH Sales didn't hold back on 7.30 tonight, grilling former Prime Minster Tony Abbott
on his position on the National Energy Guarantee.
When Sales asked the Mr Abbott what was his strategy for tomorrow's party room meeting, regarding the National Energy Guarantee, he made it very clear that he does not support the Prime Minister's energy plan, labelling it as a "very poor policy because it's about reducing emissions, not about reducing price."
But it was Sales' decision to play a clip of Mr Abbott when he was replaced as the Prime Minister that bristled with Mr Abbott.
"Leadership changes are never easy for our country. My pledge today is to make this change as easy as I can. There will be no wrecking, no undermining, no sniping," he said in the clip.
Wasting no time, Sales jumped straight in after the clip ended asking the former prime minister:
"Could you look Malcolm Turnbull in the eye and say that you have not been a sniper or a wrecker?"
"Oh look, there has been no leaking, there has been no briefing against the government," Mr Abbott responded, only for Sales to interrupt and repeat, "sniping, wrecking?"
"None of that. Look I have talked in this term of parliament, but not prior to the 2016 election," Mr Abbott continued, "I have talked a lot about policy because I want this government to be the best it possibly can be."
He said he has confined himself as he thinks is quite proper for a backbench member of parliament to policy.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg insist the National Energy Guarantee will cut electricity prices, boost reliability of supply and slash emissions, but Mr Abbott sees more issues than benefits.
"The second (issue) is legislating the Paris targets," Mr Abbott said.
He said the problem with putting voluntary targets into law is that it makes them mandatory.
"It means that they are now absolutely set in stone and there will be massive penalties if we don't make them," Abbott told the host.
Sales fired back saying that the whole point of legislation is that it provides certainty for industry and business.
"That's why there are penalties for noncompliance. And certainty is what the business sector and the energy sector has been crying out for?" Sales asked Mr Abbott.
"How can anything be certain if the whole thing is going to be reviewed in five or in three years' time? How can anything be certain when the Labor Party says that if the National Energy Guarantee gets into place, it will ramp up the emissions, the emissions reductions from where the government has them, 26 per cent to 45 per cent. So, there is no certainty in this."
Sales reminded the former Prime Minister that in August 2015 his government had a definite commitment to reduce emissions by 26 per cent by 2030, but said it could go to 28 per cent.
"So when you were Prime Minister, you were advocating a higher target than what is on the table now?" Sales asked.
But Abbott said that commitment was said to apply if every country was bound, if it was "applicable to all".
"We were advised at the time we could achieve 26-28 per cent without any economic dislocation and without new policy … and, again, Leigh, when circumstances change, you change your opinion. What was a reasonable position then in 2015 is a completely unreasonable position today almost three years later, but the other point that I really must stress - we signed up for voluntary targets."
In Question Time today, when the Prime Minister was asked about Mr Abbott's view, that power prices will not fall under the NEG, he slammed him, calling him both an idiot and an ideologue.
"Well, idiocy is doing more of the same and expecting a different result," Mr Abbott told Sales when she reminded him of Mr Turnbull's comments.
"We have massively increased renewables and what have we got? We have a doubling of price. We've got blackouts and rationing now routine. If you want to increase renewables even more, that is to say unreliable power, from the current 17 per cent to 36 per cent, we are going to get more of the same."
Sales went on to ask Mr Abbott if everyone has got it wrong.
"This energy plan has the support of everybody from the Council of Social Services to the Business Council of Australia, to farmers, to miners, to the clean Energy Council. Are all of them wrong?"
"Sure. The business establishment, which wants to be polite to the Government, because it knows that Labor's plans are even worse." Mr Abbott responded.
When Sales then switched the conversation to the company tax policy, Mr Abbott interrupted, refusing to answer any questions until he made his point clear about the National Energy Guarantee.
"I'll come to that in a second," he told Sales about company tax. "I really want to just conclude the energy discussion. This is by far the most important decision that this parliament will take. This is by far the most important issue that the government confronts because this will shape our economy, this will determine our prosperity and the kind of industries we have for decades to come."
When discussing company tax, Mr Abbott commended the Government for having a company tax cut in place.
"I hope that the tax cuts for very large businesses can also go into place but I think it would be a lot easier to get the final tranche of company tax cuts passed if it was in the context of wider tax reform," he said.
When asked if he is the country's most effective Opposition Leader, Mr Abbott reverted back to the energy program.
"I think it is very important to tell the people of Australia what is in our
long-term best interests and what we need is a power system which is run to give us affordable, reliable power, not run to reduce emissions."
"This is the flaw at the heart of the National Energy Guarantee."
The showdown between Mr Abbott and the Prime Minister will continue tomorrow when government backbenchers meet to consider the National Energy Guarantee.