Anthony Albanese accuses Coalition of 'scare campaign' over energy claim as Scott Morrison makes resources pitch

Anthony Albanese and Scott Morrison are on the campaign trail targeting marginal seats on Tuesday, with both leaders ruling out deals with independent candidates to form government.

A man is seen listening during a press conference.

Labor's NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten. Source: AAP / LUKAS COCH

Anthony Albanese has labelled claims Labor's plan to power Australia will mean higher energy prices a "scare campaign", saying the country is "missing out on opportunities" in climate policy under the Coalition government.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the claim by Energy Minister Angus Taylor showed Labor did not understand the consequences of its energy policy proposal.

It comes as Mr Morrison announced two new hydrogen hubs while making his pitch to the resources industry in Western Australia on Tuesday, as the Opposition leader pledged $38 million in disaster relief funding over three years in Queensland.

Both leaders ruled out deals with independent candidates to form government in the event of a hung parliament, and Mr Morrison also said he would not allow Liberal candidate Katherine Deves "to be silenced".
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr Taylor said that power prices would increase under Labor's Rewiring the Nation plan to update Australia's electricity transmission system.

"Energy consumers would be left $560 per year worse off by 2032-33, on average across the country, under Labor's plan to increase the size of the transmission network to almost $100 billion," he said.

He said the independent regulator set prices for poles and wires and claimed increasing the value of the network as Labor plans to do would increase household energy prices.

"When Labor say they want to increase the value of the network by $78 billion, what they are saying is they are happy to slug Australian families with a higher bill," he said.

But Mr Taylor's statement does not include detail on the modelling which underlines its claim, and was questioned by Labor's climate and energy spokesman, Chris Bowen.

"Hey Angus! Who did this "modelling"? You don't mention a department or a firm. Was it your office?" he wrote on Twitter.
Speaking later on Tuesday in Brisbane at Tritium, an electric charging station, Mr Albanese described the "so-called costings" as a "scare campaign about action on climate change that flies in the face of reality".

"That scare campaign is based upon a view somehow that renewables aren't the cheapest form of new energy," he said.

"And we know that is why the market is choosing clean energy and renewables for new energy growth. That is something that is happening in spite of the government, not because of the government."

Mr Albanese said Labor "did the modelling through Australia's leading energy economists" and that its proposals "stack up".
He said Australia has lost its "first-mover advantage" under the Coalition government.

"The delay, prevarication and inaction from this government has meant that we're missing out on opportunities," he said.

“There’s such a thing as first-mover advantage. Now, we’ve lost that. But what we need to do is embrace the action that is there for climate change which will actually be good for our economy and good for jobs.

"And yet what today's scare campaign really highlights is that nothing has changed for this government. All they're left with is a scare campaign, no substance, which is why Scott Morrison went to the Glasgow conference, gave an empty speech to an empty room and has nothing to say about Australia's future.

Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said "a better future under Labor will be powered by cleaner and cheaper energy".

“That’s our commitment. The government is powered by these lies that they tell about climate change and energy. We’ve had enough of that over the best part of a decade.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference after visiting Woodside Karda Robotics on Day 9 of the 2022 federal election campaign, in Perth. Source: AAP / MICK TSIKAS
But Mr Morrison said his government weren't the only ones criticising Labor's policy and similar observations had been made by independent think tanks.

"This is like Labor's aged care policy which fell apart after a couple of days when they didn't know how many nurses they needed," he told reporters in Perth on Tuesday.

"Government is hard, government is complex, government requires an understanding of how the economy works and how the mechanisms of government work and that's what we've demonstrated."

Labor's claims of pensioners being put on cashless welfare card a 'despicable lie'

Mr Morrison also denounced as "a despicable lie" Labor's claims the Coalition government plans to put pensioners on the cashless welfare card.

Repeatedly asked about when a Liberal minister had made such a statement, Mr Albanese referred to comments by Mr Morrison's pick for health minister, Anne Ruston.

"Well, here's what (social services minister) Anne Ruston said on 1 February, 2020: 'We're seeking to put all income management onto the universal platform, which is the cashless debit card'," he told Brisbane radio station 4BC on Tuesday morning.

"They're her words, not mine."
Senator Ruston ruled out putting pensioners on the cashless welfare card on the same station the day before, and accused Mr Albanese of twisting her words. Labor plans to get rid of the card.

Mr Morrison called the assertion a "disgusting lie", saying it was scaring and frightening pensioners.

"If (Mr Albanese) wants to talk about trust and integrity, then he should show some today, and the Labor Party should stop frightening pensioners," he said.

Scott Morrison's pitch to WA resources industry

Meanwhile, Mr Morrison has promised Western Australia's powerful resources industry he will make a fresh push to slash green tape and reform industrial agreements.

But unions are warning it will result in lower pay for thousands of construction workers.

The prime minister will revive efforts to extend the length of enterprise agreements for major projects if the coalition is re-elected on 21 May.

Under the proposal, the maximum term for greenfields agreements would increase from four to six years for projects worth at least $500 million.

The government had unsuccessfully pushed for an eight-year limit during the last term in parliament.

"Far from putting jobs at risk, this is about seizing investment opportunities that create high-wage jobs in mining, construction, transport and manufacturing," Mr Morrison told the Chamber of Minerals and Energy in Perth on Tuesday.
The deals would include annual pay rises in line with the Fair Work Commission's annual wage review.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the minimum wage had increased 2.7 per cent on average since 2015, compared to 3.1 per cent for greenfields agreements over the same period.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus accused the prime minister of proposing to cut workers' wages "while protecting the profits of big business".

"These agreements can also lock in high levels of casualisation, labour hire and the use of temporary visa workers," she said in a statement.

"They remove any ability for workers to resolve and improve these issues, including negotiating pay increases that ensure workers are not suffering real wage cuts."

Asked whether Labor would support the change, frontbencher Tony Burke said the party's industrial relations policies were already locked in.

"Unlike the government, our industrial relations policies uniformly deliver secure jobs, better pay and a fairer system," he told reporters.

Industry groups including the Business Council of Australia welcomed the proposal, saying it would help to unlock investment in major projects.

Mr Morrison is also promising to reintroduce legislation enabling "single-touch" environmental approvals if the coalition wins another term.

A previous attempt to legislate the reform, which would hand primary decision-making power to the states on certain projects, failed to win support in parliament.

While federal Labor has been critical of the proposal, it is strongly supported by WA's Labor premier Mark McGowan.

The prime minister accused Mr Albanese of failing to support the resources industry.

"Mr Albanese and federal Labor sided with the Greens and against Premier McGowan, against Western Australia and against the resources industry," he said.

"His record of flip-flopping over the resources industry is well known - and he certainly wouldn't be able to stand firm when it comes to the Greens or the unions."
Mr Morrison earlier unveiled new resources investments which he said would create thousands of jobs and shore up supply chains.

The government will spend $140 million on developing two new hydrogen hubs in the Pilbara and Kwinana, near Perth.

A further $67 million will go towards developing two carbon capture and storage hubs as well as supporting the appraisal of a third potential storage site in WA.

And $50 million will be allocated to a partnership led by Curtin University aimed at commercialising research into critical mineral supply chains.

Labor's NDIS pledge

Meanwhile, Labor has pledged to launch a sweeping review of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and provide better services for the more than half a million Australians relying on it for support.

The pledge - delivered by the Opposition's NDIS spokesman Bill Shorten on Tuesday, outlines six key measures it says will return the NDIS to its original vision.

The plan includes raising the staffing cap, streamlining the planning process and appointing a senior officer within the scheme's agency to deliver better services to regional areas.

Labor has also pledged to pause changes to supported independent living and investigate ways to cut red tape and stop queues mounting for people with a disability finding appropriate housing.

Mr Shorten said government mismanagement has led to a 400 per cent increase in NDIS decisions being taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the National Disability Insurance Agency spending $28 million in six months on legal fees.
Shadow Minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, speaking to people in a room
Shadow NDIS Minister Bill Shorten speaks to nurses ahead of a speech by Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation on day three of the 2022 federal election campaign, in Melbourne. Source: AAP / LUKAS COCH
"Labor wants to stop people with disability and their families feeling like they are trapped in a maze of reviews, appeals and legal action," he said.

"We also recognise the NDIS needs more skilled carers and whilst there are many good service providers, we will crack down on the fringe-dwelling unregistered cowboys ripping people off."

Scott Morrison won't allow Katherine Deves 'to be silenced'

Mr Morrison on Tuesday defended Katherine Deves, the Liberal candidate for the seat of Warringah, saying "I'm not going to allow her to be silenced".

It comes as NSW Treasurer and Liberal moderate Matt Kean said Ms Deves is not fit for office or aligned with the values of the party,

Liberal moderate Trent Zimmerman has appealed to senior members of the prime minister's office to have Ms Deves dumped, The Guardian reports.
SBS News has contacted Mr Zimmerman's office for comment.

Mr Morrison said on Tuesday that he supported Ms Deves as she stands up for women and girls "and their access to fair sport".

"I'm not going to allow her to be silenced," he said.

"I'm not going to allow her to be pushed aside as the pile-on comes in to try and silence her."
Also on Tuesday, Mr Morrison and Mr Albanese ruled out deals with independent candidates to form government in the event of a hung parliament.

The latest Newspoll has Labor on 36 per cent of the primary vote with the coalition on 35 per cent, meaning almost a third of voters don't support either of the major parties ahead of the election.

It's the lowest level of combined major party support during an election campaign ever recorded by Newspoll.

10 min read
Published 19 April 2022 at 8:09am, updated 19 April 2022 at 4:18pm
Source: SBS, AAP