The Prime Minister has faced a tough grilling as the deadline to his promised power bill cost relief plan draws closer.
Anthony Albanese is in South Australia’s Riverland region, where rapid preparations to fight off a rising River Murray are underway.
But he couldn’t escape questions about the nation’s ongoing energy bill crisis, as media grilled him on his promise to fix the situation before Christmas.
“We‘re consulting with industry, with states and territories. We are getting proper advice, working these issues through. We will make an announcement prior to Christmas,” Mr Albanese said as the barrage of questions began.
“We said that, and one of the things I would say is that much of the speculation I read – if people write a different story every day, then by definition, some of those stories have got to be wrong,” Mr Albanese said.
When asked if there would be a price cut coming up, Mr Albanese said there would “be an announcement when there is an announcement,” but denied an allegation he had left it too late.
“No, we are working this issue through with states and territories. Clearly there are limits on what the Commonwealth can do by itself. That’s why we are working this through cooperatively.
“I met with Sanna Marin, the Finnish Prime Minister just yesterday. This is a global phenomenon that is occurring as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we have had a considerable rise in global energy crisis. Australia is dealing with that, as other countries right around the world are. We are dealing with it constructively, we are working it through, and you work that through by engaging with experts.
“You don’t work it through at a press conference.”
The PM and SA Premier Peter Malinauskas spent the morning meeting locals, as well as members of the State Emergency Service and Renmark Paringa Council members to be briefed on the Riverland’s situation.
The pair were later joined at the press conference by emergency services Minister Joe Szakacs and police commissioner Grant Stevens.
Mr Albanese praised those who had worked tirelessly to prepare for the incoming water rise.
“Quite clearly what we’ve seen here is an extraordinary effort to prepare – the levy here and the levy that we visited near the hospital before here shows the extraordinary work that has been done by local government, by the South Australian state government, but also by the contractors and the people who’ve done the hard yards, and I’ve got nothing but praise for them,” he said.
“It is expected that the waters here will peak for the first time on 14 December.
“What we have seen is a preparedness that is being put in place for that event. What we are also seeing is the resilience of the local community – I’m always so proud to lead a nation where, at the worst of times, we see the best of the Australian character. People helping each other out. Our emergency services, our SES, our volunteers, and I want to pay tribute to all of those who have made an astonishing effort to prepare this community for the coming days, weeks, and indeed months.”
Premier Malinauskas said the government has been actively monitoring the flood levels, and the current flow is now consistent with the 1974 flood disaster in the area.
“The flow modelling has proven to be accurate, but we have to continue to monitor how that operates relative to the height of the river itself,” he said.
“We also know that there is an inevitability unfortunately to approximately 3,504 properties being inundated at the river peaks throughout the course of this month to that end, it is about preparation and individuals themselves to address that effort.
“We announced at the beginning of the week that an unprecedented effort by the South Australian police would see to the door-knocking of every home we reasonably know will be affected, to make sure they are aware of what is coming, to make sure plans are in place for those individuals, but also to ensure that where they are not ready, where they have no alternative accommodation, that the State Government is providing that support where we can.”