Energy Minister Angus Taylor has vowed to target big power companies, saying they have breached Australians’ trust in the same way as the big banks.
The newly-appointed minister on Thursday outlined his approach to driving down power prices, in a speech scathing of energy providers.
He foreshadowed heavy-handed intervention if companies failed to help consumers with skyrocketing bills.
“The loss of trust and the failure to deliver acceptable outcomes has reached the point where the government has no choice to wield a big stick, which we will use if we have to,” Mr Taylor said in a speech to the Council of Small Business in Sydney.
He defended claims he is a climate change sceptic, while also arguing against renewable energy subsidies.
The minister said his concerns about the climate did not justify the hard-earned wages of Australians being funnelled into expensive programs that did nothing to cut energy costs.
“I am and have been for many years deeply sceptical of the economics of so many of the emissions-reduction programs dreamed up by politicians, vested interests and technocrats around the world,” he said.
Mr Taylor, who supported Peter Dutton in last week’s Liberal leadership challenge, promised to bring the same focus to cutting power bills as now Prime Minister Scott Morrison did to stopping the boats when immigration minister.
“The electricity sector, like the banks, needs to re-establish its credibility or social licence with the community,” he said.
The three planks of his plan are introducing a price safety net, increasing competition in the sector and stamping out price-gouging.
“It would be marvellous if we could fix these problems by leaving industry alone, but unfortunately we’re well past that point,” he said.
Senior Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said Mr Taylor held the same views as hard-right conservatives who challenge climate science.
“I don’t think there’s been a climate minister, energy minister who’s been more anti-renewable than Angus Taylor,” Senator Wong told Sky News.
“You can dress up his language all he likes, but we know he’s actually just Peter Dutton, Tony Abbott with a fresher face.”
The NSW MP was an opponent of Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee and his efforts to legislate the Paris emissions reduction targets.
Internal division in the Liberal Party over the NEG was one of the catalysts for the successful challenge to Mr Turnbull’s leadership.