Source: Prime Minister of Australia
DAVID COLEMAN MP: Well good morning everyone and welcome to Ace Gutters here in Mortdale here in the heart of the Banks electorate. It’s really fantastic to be here and I want to thank Ace Gutters for having us today. Stewart Porter and Geoff Hall and all the team who have welcomed us to this substantial employer here in the St. George district. Great to be here with the PM, the Premier, Minister Taylor and Minister Kean to talk about the really important issue of electricity prices which matters so much here in the Banks electorate and indeed right around the country. So I’ll hand over now to the Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, thanks David, thanks also to Ace who are a tremendous local family company here in southern Sydney doing a fantastic job, employing a lot of people and one of the great things as you walk around this place is – it’s great to be here with Gladys, she would know as well – the number of people here who have been working here a long time because they’re a company that keeps looking ahead. As we look around at this factory, what we see is a company that is investing in its future, that it’s confident about its future, that it is taking the steps that it can to keep its electricity costs under control. In fact, they were telling us today they have been able to start getting them down in more recent times. They’ve invested using a lot of the programmes that are provided by both that state and the Commonwealth government for them to invest in their own renewable energy opportunities and we congratulate them for taking those investment decisions. Now, they’re taking their investment decisions for their future and the New South Wales and Commonwealth Government is going to take investment decisions to secure their future as a manufacturing company here in New South Wales.
What we’re seeking to do today by underwriting this investment together by Transgrid is to hook New South Wales up to reliable power generation coming out of Queensland where they have a lot more of that going into the future and we need to make sure that businesses here, manufacturing businesses here in particular in New South Wales get access to that reliable power that can help them get their power prices down. More competition, more supply, that’s how you get power prices down. And combined with the many other measures that we’ve been putting in place, particularly for our commercial and industrial companies. We want to get power prices down and have been having success with residential customers, ensuring that they get a better deal out of the big energy companies. Last week, we just passed through the House of Representatives the big stick legislation which gets consumers on more of a level playing field with those big energy companies. But the other thing we’re doing is we’re working to get a better deal for our manufacturing and our business customers because that’s where the jobs are. We’ve got record jobs growth around the country, three years of month after month after month of employment growth. And the same thing is happening here in New South Wales. The way you keep that going is you ensure that you keep businesses in business by getting their electricity prices down. So basically, investing in what is a very big extension cord and ensuring that we’re connecting up to that important power supply coming out of Queensland for New South Wales businesses is a great move for them and it will help them keep their energy costs under control, put downward pressure on those prices and ensure that they can keep employing the people they have in these incredibly far-sighted businesses that we see here in Ace Gutters.
It’s also great to be working with the New South Wales Government. Whether it’s on water security, on transport infrastructure or on energy security for the state, we have a wonderful partner with New South Wales, prepared to not only invest but to clear away the bureaucratic blockages which means these projects can go ahead. If we did not make this investment today as two government in underwriting this, we would have to wait until after next May before that happened through the normal AER process. So thank you so much, Gladys, we’re always around the same table together and getting things done.
THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NSW: Absolutely. Thank you, PM, and I think today demonstrates that when the federal government and the state government work together, we are able to ensure the really vital energy security of the future. And as we know, the Liddell Power Station ends its life in April 2023 and this is part of the solution for New South Wales. It’s ensuring our energy security for the future to ensure that households and businesses like Ace Gutters keep their prices down. We are proudly the state that has the highest jobs growth, the lowest unemployment, our economy is growing rapidly. We want to keep that going and we want to reduce the burden for businesses, for households wherever we can. More importantly, we also need to ensure our energy security. I want to thank the PM and his team for working so closely with the New South Wales government. This interconnector will provide an additional 190 megawatts of energy to New South Wales. It will also ensure a back-up system in place when the grid gets overloaded. This is the type of investment and the type of programmes we’re working on together to ensure that when it comes to energy security, not crisis managing but quite the opposite. We’re planning for the future, we’re making sure that we’re meeting the energy requirements now and also into the future and that’s the type of investment we like to make as a government. We like to plan ahead to ensure that as the system evolves, as new projects come online, that energy security is maintained, that downward pressure on generation prices is maintained because ultimately, that means that New South Wales can remain in the strong position it is. And again, I want to thank the Prime Minister and his team because by working closely together on energy security, on water security, we are able to get things done to make a difference for our citizens, not just today but also for decades to come. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Now, Angus and Matt have been putting this together. So tell us a bit more about it, Angus.
THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Thanks, PM. It is absolutely fantastic to be back here at Ace Gutters. I was here before the election talking to the business, as I did many businesses, about our election commitments. And this is part of a suite of initiatives that we committed to and are all part of making sure that we have affordable, reliable power for our electricity grid in the coming years. Now, this will add 190 megawatts of capacity to the New South Wales markets. And on the worst possible day, that can make the difference, that can make the difference between the lights going out and the lights staying on. So it’s a very substantial initiative from that point of view. But it also adds supply into the market to ensure that all the time, we’ve got extra competitive pressure in the market, pushing down wholesale prices. Now, industrial businesses like this one are very sensitive to wholesale prices. We know they need to be low to keep the jobs in businesses like this in the suburbs and the regions right across New South Wales and of course Australia. Can I add that this collaboration with the New South Wales government is enormously important. In this particular case, it’s an underwriting agreement to make sure we can accelerate the investment that will take place, preferably under a regulated framework, to complete by late 2021. But the broader collaboration with New South Wales in ensuring that we have reliable and affordable power is absolutely essential to the people of NSW and of course the people in other states. Because this is an extension cord between New South Wales and Queensland, it’s not just good for New South Wales, it’s also good for Queensland. So thank you very much also to the New South Wales government for being involved in this all-important initiative.
PRIME MINISTER: Matt?
THE HON. MATT KEAN, NSW MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT: Thank you, Prime Minister. Well, this announcement is all about keeping the lights on and driving prices down. And it’s great working with a federal government that is absolutely committed to these objectives. Today’s announcement will fast-track the construction of the Queensland-New South Wales interconnector, bringing 190 megawatts of additional capacity into the market just when we need it. With the proposed closure of the Liddell coal-fired power station in April of 2023, this additional capacity will ensure we achieve those objectives of keeping the lights on and driving down prices.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, can you be sure that prices will be lower? I mean, this is obviously a big investment from Transgrid, they’ll want to recoup the cost, won’t they? How can you guarantee that won’t be passed onto retailers?
PRIME MINISTER: The net present value of this, the additional net value that is put in the system, is some $200 million. So that is after the investment has taken place. And so that’s what this does, that actually puts value into the system and more power into the system and then the laws of economics do the rest. More supply, more connectivity and as Angus was saying, we are going into summer. Of course, there are going to be hot days in summer. There will be big loads on the system in summer and that 190 megawatts can be the difference in those circumstances about the continuity and reliability of supply but also the more regular supply, each and every day, that is offered by this interconnector between the two states means that that is keeping the pressure down on prices each and every single day. It is not the only interconnector we’re working on. As you know, the Marinus Link between Tasmania and Victoria is a project we’re well advanced in the feasibility of working with the Tasmanian government on. So whether it’s interconnectors, whether it’s underwriting, these are the things we need to do to guarantee the reliability of power supply as well as its affordability.
JOURNALIST: This guarantees the reliability for more traditional power sources. What about similar sort of underwritings or investment in renewables here in New South Wales?
PRIME MINISTER: We have had considerable across the country. As you know, we have record investments in renewable energy which has been supported by the RET and New South Wales has been doing similar things.
THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN, PREMIER OF NSW: We have about 17,000 megawatts of programmes in place in both traditional forms of energy but also renewables going through the pipelines in New South Wales. So we think we have the balance right in this state and most importantly we’re now securing our energy for the future as well. And to the PM’s point, New South Wales also has plans in relation to interconnectors with Victoria and South Australia and they are still in the planning stages. So for New South Wales, this is a four-pronged strategy in terms of our transmission. We are kicking it off with the Queensland interconnector.
JOURNALIST: PM, do you have a response to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi?
PRIME MINISTER: I will but I’m happy to take questions on energy before I move to other matters.
JOURNALIST: I have a question for Mister Taylor. Do you have any updates on the feasibility studies on the Collinsville power station up in Queensland?
THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Nothing additional to what is already out in the press.
PRIME MINISTER: There is an independent process going on in relation to north Queensland which is what we promised at the last election. That independent process has determined what are the best responses to ensure the reliable power generation capability to support north Queensland heavy industry. We expect that process should be concluded towards the end of this year and that would enable us to then consider what next steps are, in terms of whether it is Collinsville or others. The Collinsville project is a very good project but it needs to go through the same process as all the others. That is the integrity that Australians would expect.
JOURNALIST: Just back to the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. What is your response to that?
PRIME MINISTER: The first thing is to say that I welcome the significant outcome here which has seen Al-Baghdadi being killed as a result of this very targeted and very successful operation led by the United States. We welcome that, obviously. We have been involved in a campaign with our allies for many years now to defeat Da’esh and this outcome is a very significant one in that campaign. But I stress it is not the end of the campaign. This is a many-headed monster with Da’esh. And as you cut one off, another one inevitably arises. So while we welcome this news and we particularly congratulated President Trump and the US on their initiative here and their leading of this operation and its success, we are mindful that the threat continues and we must remain ever-vigilant and we will continue to be so ever-vigilant, working with our partners around the world. We also can never be complacent about the threats present at home and that’s why we have invested heavily in Australia’s counter-terrorism abilities and to ensure that we do everything we can to keep Australians safe and a big part of that is working closely with the New South Wales government, with whom we have outstanding cooperation between law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies and we thank New South Wales government and the New South Wales police in particular for the great support they give to our counter-terrorism efforts.
JOURNALIST: Were you given a heads up on the operation?
PRIME MINISTER: You wouldn’t expect me to comment on those sorts of things, I’m sure.
JOURNALIST: Can I rephrase, were any Australians involved in any capacity?
PRIME MINISTER: This was a US operation.
JOURNALIST: There has been a bit of criticism from Senator Dodson about the fact that you didn’t attend the closing ceremony, I suppose, at Uluru. Is that warranted criticism?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, neither Anthony Albanese or I were present at that event. My schedule didn’t, frankly, permit me to be there. I can’t be in two places at once. I was in Western Australia on the weekend and I was travelling back with my family from the West Australian, I was there for the West Australian Telethon. Can I congratulate all those in the West for some $42 million raised to support sick kids in WA. This is a significant event in Western Australia held on Saturday evening and, of course, on Sunday morning I was there supporting our Diamonds with their great win over the Silver Ferns with my family. So you know, as a Prime Minister, you like to be in as many places you can be but you can’t always be in those places, as I’m sure Mr Albanese understands as well. This is a significant change up in Uluru. I think it’s a timely one. The tourism industry will, of course, adjust and move on and I think will go from strength to strength. As you know, I have some background in that area and it has been a conversation that has been around for a long time. It is timely that we have moved on with that issue. There have been similar changes made to arrangements for walkers and others around Katajuta and other places in central Australia. The industry has moved on and continued to flourish and be successful. So I have no doubt that will occur and at the same time, I think the wishes of the indigenous people have been respected and that is also a very good step forward.
JOURNALIST: Just one on the drought, PM, will drought-affected communities know more this week about the next instalment of assistance?
PRIME MINISTER: We are considering further measures and have been now for some time. We have also been announcing new measures. It was only two weeks ago that I was with the Premier and we were announcing water infrastructure proposals in Dungowan and New South Wales. The week before that I was up in Dalby announcing new measures for the Farm Household Allowance which would see the rules relaxed to enable more farmers to gain access to that allowance and more money going into drought-affected communities through the Drought Communities Program, more money going into the sinking of bores which is something the New South Wales government has done a tremendous job on here in New South Wales. New South Wales is getting the water to those communities which will be in a very difficult position in the months ahead. I commend them for the work they are doing there. The drought continues and our response continues. There is no set and forget when it comes to both the Commonwealth and I’m sure the New South Wales government’s response to drought. We are considering additional measures, working with the National Farmers Federation on those. I have held meetings with them recently and the Cabinet will, once we have finalised those assessments, we will make further announcements.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what do you make of Dean Smith’s suggestions to broaden and increase the GST?
PRIME MINISTER: We’re not doing it.
JOURNALIST: Just one for Minister Taylor, if I may? Minister, you have obviously put a statement out about the Clover Moore issue but have you had a chance to personally apologise to her?
THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: I have made the statement and I have said in that statement that I will be sending her a letter. I don’t have anything more to add to that today.
JOURNALIST: Have you done that yet?
THE HON. ANGUS TAYLOR MP, MINISTER FOR ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: We’ll be sending the letter this week.
PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, everyone. Thank you to Ace Gutters, the power is on. Cheers.