Sky News Live, Interview with Kieran Gilbert and Laura Jayes

Kieran Gilbert: Let’s go live to the Population Minister Alan Tudge. Melbourne MP Alan Tudge, your thoughts on where this Adani situation is at and whether or not Melissa Price is holding up the final approvals here?

Alan Tudge: I think Melissa Price is just going through a methodical process. So there’s a bunch of environmental approvals which have to be done. She consults with the scientists and she gets advice and then will make the final decision as to whether it can go ahead. Now, that takes time, she wants to do it right, it’s a big decision and she’s doing it properly. And so I have full confidence that she’ll make the right decision in the end.

Laura Jayes: How much time does she need? And will that decision be made before you go into caretaker period?

Alan Tudge: Well, I mean the decision is not going to be rushed and I appreciate that some people such as James McGrath are very passionate about this, and he’s a Queenslander and a proud Queenslander, and Queenslanders want to see this enormous economic opportunity come to fruition. But it does have to go through that process and she is consulting properly and then we’ll make that final decision and you’d have to ask that question when she is likely to make that.

Kieran Gilbert: In relation to the- McGrath- you say that McGrath’s passionate about it, obviously he is, he’s saying that if there is not an approval coming that she should be sacked as Minister. What do you make of that? Because that’s certainly stepping up the pressure on this particular issue.

Alan Tudge: I know that a lot of the Queenslanders in particular are very keen to see this enormous economic opportunity come to fruition. Now, the Coalition government is very much about supporting jobs growth, about supporting wealth creation and more opportunities for all Australians.

At the same time, we do have strict environmental standards and we have strict processes which new things like mines have to go through. And that’s exactly the process which is going through at the moment, so let’s just follow that process methodically, calmly and assuredly and let’s see what the answer will be, which the Minister will make in due course.

Laura Jayes: With respect, you don’t have that much time to be calm and methodical though, do you? Melissa Price is looking at this approval; it’s already been approved by her department. Approved by her department, so Queensland MPs are asking what the holdup is and what are they going to sell to their electorates once you get into the campaign proper?

Alan Tudge: Well, at the end of the day, this is a- my understanding is that it’s a ministerial decision having received the advice from the department. So she’s taking her time, quite rightly, on a big decision and I have full confidence in her decision-making capabilities. She taking her time, she’s being methodical, she consulting properly before making the decision.

Kieran Gilbert: Do you feel that it would have adverse impacts in terms of the politics of your seats in Melbourne, your seat of Aston and others in nearby electorates? Because there is also a sense that Josh Frydenberg’s been putting pressure on Melissa Price to not allow the final approval. What’s the view from Melbourne on this?

Alan Tudge: I mean all members of the Coalition, whether you’d be from Queensland or from Melbourne or Tasmania, want to see more jobs created, want to see more wealth created and you can only do this when you’ve got strong viable growing businesses.
At the same time, we do have strict legal and environmental frameworks and so we want to see those strict legal environmental frameworks properly adhered to and that’s exactly what is occurring with the Adani proposal.

There’s a proposal being put forward, the offer is for more jobs, for more economic opportunities but it must go through all those steps. It’s properly going through those steps and it’s now resting with the Minister who will be making a decision in due course, and I think that’s the proper process.

Laura Jayes: Okay. Let’s look at this electric cars policy now. Can you please explain the difference between your electric car policy and Labor’s?

Alan Tudge: Well, what Labor is proposing is that people will be forced to buy electric cars within the next decade and whereas we are putting some investments in to try to encourage more innovation and R&D. But I think that’s the key difference, and Labor’s proposal basically will mean that cars will become more expensive. And there’s new analysis today from the Centre for Independent Economics which says that the average car will be $5,000 more expensive under Labor’s plan.

Now, that will just put it beyond the reach of many everyday Australians and it will also mean particularly those larger vehicles, which are so popular for Australians, will be completely out of reach for everyday people.

And so we are deeply concerned about that. I don’t think they’ve thought their policy through. We do support electric vehicles, we support people who make their own choice for electric vehicles and we’ll support the R&D in that. But we’re not going to force anybody to make the decision. And we certainly don’t want to see cars to be $5,000 more expensive then what they are today.

Kieran Gilbert: But obviously, this is an evolving technology, isn’t it? Do you agree with Josh Frydenberg who likened EVs to the iPhone in terms of those who are sceptical about it now will end up buying them, and the fact is that some motoring manufacturers are only going to build electric and hybrid vehicles from 2020, those including Jaguar and Land Rover?

That was a point that was made by Mr Frydenberg last year when he wrote an opinion piece in support of EVs.

Alan Tudge: There is no doubt that many people will make a choice to purchase an electric vehicle, as they are doing now and they will do so in the future. But it’s their choice, and it will be in keeping with the technology.

I mean, we never forced anybody to buy the iPhone - to use the analogy which you were just making - but when the technology is there people started to purchase it …

Kieran Gilbert: [Talks over] Yeah, but Labor’s not going to force people. It’s a target, they’re setting a target. You're not going to be forced to sell your Hilux or hand over your Ford Ranger. That’s not [indistinct]…

Alan Tudge: [Talks over] Well they have- no, well, to be fair, they have not provided that detail. I mean they've made these bold assertions that 50 per cent of all vehicles will be electric in 10 years’ time, which is a completely unrealistic assertion unless you are basically forcing the retailers – which I understand is what they're proposing – that the retailers will have to ensure that 50 per cent of their cars which are sold are electric.

That is my understanding of the policy. Now if they want to come out and say something different they should …

Laura Jayes: [Talks over] It's actually, Alan Tudge, it’s actually-  I think this has been a little bit mixed up in some of the debate, but my understanding of Labor's policy is that they want to target of 50 per cent of all new cars to be sold by 2030 to be electric cars. That is firmly in line with the government's goal, isn't it?

Alan Tudge: We want people to be able to make their own decisions in relation to purchasing vehicles, and we want those vehicles to be affordable. And if people want to buy an SUV because they've got a family or they want to go camping on the weekends, then good luck to them.

Whereas the Labor policy is going to price those vehicles out of reach of many Australians. And as I said earlier, the front page of one of our newspapers today shows that independent economic analysis shows that many vehicles will be up to $5,000 more expensive because of Labor's policy. Now people won't- many people won't be able to afford that, and particularly those larger cars which are so popular.

That's my deep concern about this. Not only is it unaffordable for some people, but also I just don't think it's been thought through in terms of having the networks around the country for people to be able to charge it, for people to be able to efficiently be able to – if they run out of battery power – to be able to efficiently and quickly get more battery power in. The technology will come eventually, but it's not going to come overnight.

Kieran Gilbert: The Environment Department though confirmed last week in questioning from Kristina Keneally that the abatement measures that you are putting in place through various policies – one which was spruiked just as recently as last week by the member for Kooyong, the Treasurer Mr. Frydenberg – that they do amount to an abate- a target, whether you want to call it a target or not, of up to 50 per cent electric vehicles by 2030. As Laura said, it's the same.

Alan Tudge: Well, I'll let the Environment Minister or the Energy Minister deal with those questions. This is not my portfolio.

I am concerned though about the implications of Labor's policy of forcing people, forcing the retailers and forcing the manufacturers, to have to sell 50 per cent of their cars being electric when the market is just not there to purchase them. And that means higher prices for everyday consumers when people cannot afford that right now.

Laura Jayes: Minister Tudge, you’ll be happy to know that Kieran and I delved quite deep into the Budget papers – Budget paper No. 4 – and we looked at the overseas net migration figures. It shows not much change over the forward estimates. It showed barely a change in the figures that your government is forecasting. So what is your population policy? Is it to reduce or just to disperse?

Alan Tudge: So a population policy actually has a number of parts to it.

One is in relation to reducing the overall permanent migration cap, as well as encourage more new migrants out into the regions. Two is to invest much more money into congestion-busting infrastructure, including fast rail, to further disperse the populations. And three to have a better planning framework with the states and territories.

Now in relation to that first part, so yes we have reduced the permanent migration cap from 190,000 down to 160,000. And within that, we've got 23,000 dedicated places which can only be used for the regions and the smaller cities. So that alone will take pressure off the big capital cities, because nearly everybody goes to those big capitals right now, and then those other two elements of the plan complement that.

Kieran Gilbert: Alan Tudge, thank you, appreciate it.