News National Malcolm Turnbull defends government’s energy policy in testy ABC interview

Malcolm Turnbull defends government’s energy policy in testy ABC interview

Malcolm Turnbull announced more money for the Snowy Hydro 2.0 project on Monday. Photo: AAP
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has defended his government’s efforts to curb rising power prices while declaring Snowy Hydro 2.0 the “biggest renewables project” since the scheme was first built.

Speaking from Cooma on Monday, the Prime Minister said the federal government would commit an extra $8 million to a feasibility study into the Snowy 2.0 project, which is expected to take six years to build.

The government also announced it would haul in power companies for another dressing down but the industry quickly hit back, blaming rising costs on a lack of investment due to “a decade of national climate and energy policy uncertainty”.

“If you want to fix power bills, you have to fix that problem,” said Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren.

Mr Turnbull said the government “aimed” to make a decision on the key recommendation of the Finkel report – a clean energy target – before the end of the year.

In a testy interview on the ABC’s 7.30, Mr Turnbull also said the government had no plans to build coal-fired power stations, a proposal championed by conservative Coalition MPs including Tony Abbott.

The PM says the government has taken action on power prices. Photo: AAP

He rejected suggestions the Snowy Hydro project remained in the planning stages, saying drilling had already begun.

And he claimed he had taken “taken very strong, heavy-handed measures to protect Australian jobs” by intervening in the gas export market. 

The interview, Mr Turnbull’s first on the program since April, comes with the government under pressure over the citizenship crisis that has engulfed Parliament and amid public debate over same-sex marriage.

It followed a day visit to the Snowy Hydro project, which he toured from a helicopter and underground.

Bill Shorten says action needed now on energy prices

In Melbourne, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the government of inaction on energy policy, saying power prices were in “crisis”.

“Today, we are greeted by images of Mr Turnbull flying around in circles over the Snowy, talking a big game – and the Snowy is a good idea – but Mr Turnbull, the energy prices crisis is here and now,” he said.

“A joyride in a helicopter doesn’t help families with their energy bills … We need action now.”

Mr Shorten called on the government to immediately implement export control on the gas market to “make sure that there is enough gas available for Australian industry”.

The government has flagged those measures but is yet to impose them.

During the 7.30 interview, Mr Turnbull also took multiple swipes at the ABC, which including claiming the public broadcaster had no interest in the Snowy Hydro project.

It eventually prompted a response from host Leigh Sales, who shot back: “I think you’ll find plenty of stories on Snowy Hydro and power prices on the ABC.” 

Asked what would happen if the High Court ruled Barnaby Joyce was ineligible, Mr Turnbull said he was confident the Deputy PM would win his seat again in a by-election.

Elsewhere, when asked to name his signature achievement after nearly two years as Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull first named the government’s Gonski 2.0 funding package.

He rejected the suggestion that it was a continuation of Labor policy, saying “it is my achievement because it is our policy”, before offering a laundry list of legislative wins including childcare reform, company tax cuts and the reestablishment of the ABCC.

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