Turnbull speech draft said Labor's 45% emissions target might not drive up bills
Malcolm Turnbull suggested it was possible Labor’s proposal to preserve the national energy guarantee, with a 45% emissions reduction target, would not drive up prices, in an early draft of his speech to an energy conference obtained by Guardian Australia.
Turnbull re-entered the energy policy fray on Tuesday at the New South Wales Smart Energy Summit with a full throated defence of his record, lauding the Snowy Hydro 2.0 expansion, and lamenting the demise of the Neg.
The former prime minister urged his Liberal colleagues to revive the Neg – abandoned as a casualty of the August leadership fight – arguing it was a “vital piece of economic policy and has strong support, none stronger I might say, than that of the current prime minister and the current treasurer”.
Labor is proposing to keep the Neg
with a 45% emissions reduction target.
The text of the speech the former prime minister ultimately delivered on Tuesday morning, now uploaded on his website, did not address the impact of Labor’s higher target.
But an earlier draft of the speech, did.
“Labor has announced it will adopt the Neg but with a higher emissions target,” the early draft, seen by Guardian Australia, said. “Ours, as you know, was 26% which was only just above business as usual so it obviously had no adverse impact on prices.
“There is some modelling already from Frontier Economics which suggests that Labor’s 45% target will not result in higher prices,” the early draft said. “That assertion deserves sceptical assessment, but it is also important regularly to review these models in the light of the latest technology and market information.
“A great deal depends too on whether a 45% reduction means simply that emissions in 2030 – in that year – should
be 45% less than in 2005. If that were the case, implying a hockey stick, the additional cost may not be as high as it would appear.”
Turnbull issued the following statement to Guardian Australia about the unauthorised disclosure of his draft speech to the energy conference. “The notes were obtained by Guardian Australia without my authority.
“They are incomplete draft material. The only remarks released with my authority was the speech that I gave at the conference, a transcript of which is on my website.”
The Morrison government, under political pressure both on climate change and on energy policy, is attempting to portray Labor’s higher emissions reduction target as irresponsible and “economy wrecking”.
The modelling referenced in the early draft of Turnbull’s speech, but deleted in the final version, found that power prices for households would fall by 2030 under four different scenarios modelled by Frontier Economics – business as usual and emissions reduction targets of 26%, 45% and 65%.
That research was commissioned by the Australian Council of Social Service (Acoss) and the Brotherhood of St Laurence, and was released in September.
Turnbull did not, in his public comments on Tuesday, endorse Labor’s 45% target. He said higher emissions reduction targets needed to be guided by “engineering and economics”.
When the general comments Turnbull made about reviving the Neg fuelled a Labor attack on the government’s energy policy in question time, the former prime minister took to social media to stress that he had not endorsed Labor’s 45% target.
“I have not endorsed Labor’s energy policy,” the former prime minister said on Twitter. “They have adopted the Neg mechanism but have not demonstrated that their 45% emissions reduction target will not push up prices. I encouraged all parties to stick with Coalition’s Neg which retains wide community support.”
Malcolm Turnbull speaking to the Smart Energy Summit in Sydney on Tuesday. An early draft of his speech implied Labor’s emissionsreduction target might not push up power prices. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP