26 May | '2023

Angie Bell MP
Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education
Shadow Minister for Youth
Federal Member for Moncrieff



25 May 2023

Subjects: Electricity prices, PwC, the Voice


It’s time to move on to our political panel and joining us this Thursday right here in the studio, Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Minister, Labor’s Kristy McBain.

Welcome back Kristy and Shadow Early Childhood Minister, Liberal MP for Moncrieff, Angie Bell. Welcome to you to Angie.

Kristy, we’d like to start with you around electricity pricing or what they call the default offer. How’s that promise of $275 worth of savings are looking today?

Well, if we went to an election, with a promise of electricity savings by 2025, for we know things have gotten really difficult for businesses and for householders right across the country, which is why we recalled Parliament in December last year and moved a motion to cap coal and gas prices.

You know, the Opposition voted against those at the time. We’re not sure whether they’ll vote for our budget measures to assist businesses and householders and this from an Opposition, that when they were still in government, hid power price increases before the last election so very significant issue for householders and businesses across the country, but without that intervention, prices will be significantly higher.

Well there’s Kristy’s invitation to you Angie. I think the hints are that you will support energy bill relief as presented in the Budget, is that correct?

Of course, we support anything that relieves Australian families from the cost of living pressure. As we’ve seen, the Prime Minister has broken his promise of a $275 reduction in your power bills. He has broken that promise. Instead, we’ve seen in the Budget papers, that power bills will be increasing by $500.

We’ve heard today from the DMO that more than a million homes will be affected by the increase and homes across the country will pay 25 per cent more for their power. Small businesses, very important, the backbone of the economy, they will pay 29 per cent more. The Prime Minister has broken his promise.

But would you acknowledge that any relief is meaningful relief, particularly as I think the Budget effect of these subsidies is worth in itself about 25 per cent less than what it otherwise would have been?

Well, it’s about bringing prices down Greg, and that’s what the government is not focused on. I ask Australians, are you actually better off now, a year later, under the Albanese government than you were 12 months ago? The answer is an outright No.

Having created the expectation Kristy, that relief is not only appropriate but almost necessary in the current climate. If the war in Ukraine continues, prices remain elevated, you’re going to have to repeat this again next year, aren’t you?

Well, you know, interesting to hear what Angie said, but the Leader of the Opposition has just gone to a conference and said that he would repeal coal and gas caps. So saying to Australian householders and businesses, sorry, great policy to reduce our power prices, but we won’t keep it if we were in government.

We’re not going to take lectures from an Opposition that had 22 energy policies didn’t land one. Saw four gigawatts of power go out of our energy market and only one gigawatt come in and replace it after 10 years of denial and delay over climate energy.

This is a government that’s focused on dealing with the big issues and that is making sure that we’ve got dispatchable energy into our grid at a time when people need it, and we need to plan for that which is what we have.

All right. Well, I think elevated energy prices going to be with us for a while. We’ll probably talk about it next time we have you both back. Now the dominant story here today, Angie PwC, different arms of the government are really muscling up now, we heard from the Finance Department, there is 53 staff involved here.

Is it appropriate and should this company lose potentially millions of dollars’ worth of federal work because of this scandal?

Greg at this point in time, it has been referred to the AFP for an investigation and so it’s not appropriate for me to comment at this time on this particular issue. I won’t be saying any more on that here today.

All right, but Kristy, the Secretary of the Finance Department certainly has. It obviously didn’t meet their expectations of probity or conduct. It does sound, signals are being sent by the bureaucracy, aren’t they that this will be a costly mistake by PwC. Is that appropriate?

Well, the Treasury has obviously referred the matter now to the AFP for investigation, which is appropriate, but we need a whole of government response now. There are a number of contracts that the government has with a number of consulting firms across the country. I think $20 billion in consulting contracts that the now Opposition had in the budget in 2020-21.

There are a series of changes that will obviously need to take place in terms of making sure that contractors advise the government if there are any notices that we need to be aware of, and making sure that the government as a customer is advised of any potential adverse outcomes. But the matter rests with the AFP and I think everyone will be interested in what happens in that case.

Yeah, there are big contracts as we’ve tallied across multiple estimates hearings this week.

To the voice. I’m not sure I’ve caught your speech, if you’ve actually given one yet, Angie, on the Constitution Alteration Bill. I assume you’re going to. What’s the position though, of the Liberal Party, as you understand, is every MP going to support the Alteration Bill or do you think some will act out of conscience or objection, and actually oppose it?

Well, I think that’s up to each individual MP as to what they do with that.

Your own intention?

On the Voice, which is the substantive question and our position on it. If this were a debate around constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians, it would be bipartisan. That is something that the Liberal Party has always supported. But frankly, it’s not. It’s about the risk to our Constitution, our foundation document, it’s about the risk to it, what the voice will do, which Australians won’t know until they vote yes, six months later, then they’ll know what and how the Voice is going to work within our system of government.

There are risks associated with that. It’s permanent, it can’t be undone, which Australians really should consider as well. There are so many unknowns. We haven’t had all of the questions answered. Australians really need to ask themselves, do we know what this is going to look like? Do we know how it’s going to change our system of government? And what are the outcomes?

And just on the party position on voting about the Alteration Bill? What is your intention? Am I correct in assuming you’re bound by the position of frontbenchers?

I’m in the Shadow Ministry, in the Outer Ministry. So yes, that is the position of the party. However, we will vote for the referendum to go ahead because that’s an act of democracy, and it’s up to ultimately the Australian people, the Australian public to make that decision. I would urge Australians to look very carefully and think very deeply about changing our Constitution.

A bit of a side bar issue, Kristy, I think you’ve established on this program before, exactly where you stand on the voice, but New South Wales Supreme Court Judge Ian Harrison writing to Nationals MP, Pat Conaghan seems highly unusual. Does he breach in doing this the doctrine of separation of powers?

Look, I think that’s obviously a matter for the New South Wales Supreme Court, and I think we’ve had the Chief Justice already come out and issue a statement in that regards. So I’ll leave that matter with the New South Wales Supreme Court.

But it is interesting, the Liberal’s position that on one hand, they don’t want us to do anything symbolic because they want practical action. Yet on the Constitution, they want a symbolic action and not a practical action. You can’t have one without the other and we have had now hundreds of years where well intentioned and sometimes not so well intentioned decisions have been made on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The reason that this constitution referendum will go forward is because grassroots communities have come forward and said, we want it in the Constitution, so that no government can change it and that you will be required to listen to our voice going forward.
The scare mongering over changing the flag or interrupting Budgets or changing public holidays is just that, it’s a scare campaign. This is about trying to bridge the gap that we know are there for First Nations people, in age expectations, in health expectations, in education or housing and social expectations.

It’s time to get on with this, that Uluru Statement from the Heart came to us this month in 2017. It’s 2023. And I look forward to that referendum and Australians having their say.

Well one way or another it looks like it will because the Bill is going to pass Parliament. More we’d love to have time to discuss with both of you. We’ve got the fire to keep an eye on in Sydney as well, so we’re going to wrap up.

Angie Bell, Kristy McBain, thanks so much for joining us on afternoon briefing.


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