Source: Prime Minister of Australia
QUESTION: Prime Minister, my name is Kylie Morris, I’m a correspondent for Britain’s Channel 4 News. I’m just wondering, given the efforts that other nations are making to reduce their carbon emissions, and given that places like the Great Barrier Reef are – we know – under threat from climate change, your own government has issued an outlook report saying that climate change poses the greatest threat to the Reef. How can Australia justify opening new coal mines at this time in the Galilee Basin?
PRIME MINISTER: Because we have the best mining industry in the world.
That understands how to do this job properly and to do it sensitively and to care for the environment, because they are in a country which has a serious plan to address climate change and a resources sector that understands how to manage the impacts of climate change. I would refer you to the comments that I made recently at the UN General Assembly. I’m very proud of what Australia has been able to achieve. You may not know this – that since we came to government, we will meet and beat our Kyoto emissions reduction targets by 367 million tonnes. Now, when we came to government, we were likely to miss that mark by some 700 million tonnes. That’s a billion-tonne turnaround that the country has produced from when we first made those commitments to meet the Kyoto 2020 targets. And we’re going to meet our Paris targets as well, which we remain committed to. Australia is doing its bit. But Australia is not going to write a blank cheque with its own economy on this issue, which requires action from right around the globe. We are doing our bit. We will continue to do our bit. The resources industry will continue to do its bit. I would encourage you, while you’re here – I don’t know whether you are resident here or not or just visiting – but there is plenty of other information I am sure we can share with you which might be able to inform you on these matters.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is John O’Brien, I’m the proponent of the CopperString Project. I want to thank you, PM, for your address but also for your initial support for the project. And I really want to congratulate you on your stated vision. It is so important that we have a vision of what we want and to have that sustainable resources sector which is an internationally attractive investment location. It is so critical. One of the key parts of that, though, from the resources sector is electricity supply and the cost of that and how it is provided. And electricity is actually a state responsibility. And I’m really keen to understand, it’s a bit of a philosophical question, how do you address that problem of alignment of policy across each of the states in the federal area to deliver that energy, that fundamental alignment for delivering energy that supports your vision for the resources sector?
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you for the question. A couple of things. First of all, I think one of the biggest changes that have been made in policy in this area and [inaudible] will know all about this because she had a key part in its development several years ago, and that is the reliability guarantee that was passed over a year ago now – I think it was just over a year ago – by the state and territory governments which ensures that within the national energy electricity market, there is a requirement to meet reliability supply throughout that market. And what that means is that it’s giving greater certainty and stability for investment in reliable power generation. It’s agnostic to the form of reliable power generation. And just this week, you would have heard Angus Taylor the Energy Minister announce a number of new measures which included an expansion of the Clean Energy Fund, which is providing additional concessional finance to be supporting a range of new both infrastructure projects from generation to transmission, to ensure we can firm up the reliability and the frequency of the grid. And that’s important investment. We also announced a series of projects for underwriting, which basically means underwriting take-off agreements across a series of products from gas products, hydro projects, there was one coal project in Vales Point in New South Wales. We are taking our interventions there to provide that support. There is also a project which we announced during the election campaign which is one that had some recent attention and that is the report that we are having done independently on how we meet the reliable power generation needs of North Queensland to support heavy industry. That project I anticipate being completed by the end of this year. Angus Taylor is overseeing that through his officials and we have committed to get that done by the end of this year. And that will identify the key projects that can go forward from that. And obviously there’s the Collinsville Project, which strikes me as being a particularly useful project, but it’s got to go through the same processes as all the other projects and to identify what’s the best way that we can support ensuring that North Queensland’s heavy industry requirements are met.
But our approach to all of these issues I’ve got to say, is just practical. There are practical problems, they can appear in supply, they can be in transmission, they can be for householders in the retail sector. In the gas industry, there are other challenges and are just seeking to work with the sector, work with the state and territory governments to remove obstacles where we see them, fix problems where they are identified and put in place practical solutions. The project you’ve talked about, as you know, we’ve been providing some support to that around some feasibility work. Ultimately, decisions are going to be made about the viability of these projects. But we don’t want to see these projects at least not get to a phase where they can be seriously commercially entertained. And we want commercially viable and sustainable energy production generation assets right across the country. Here in Queensland, you do have the youngest coal fleet here in Queensland. And that is why we did the interconnecter upgrade into New South Wales, because they need to access that. That’s going to provide opportunities here in Queensland. We want to see more investment, we want to see energy prices down, we want to see access to gas, not just in Queensland but in other states as well, particularly New South Wales and Victoria. Because the gas supply to our commercial industrial users is critically important. Without it, our industries will not succeed and some may not survive. So I’m very keen to see the gas opened up like it is here in Queensland, in New South Wales and in Victoria. In Western Australia they have another system and they have good access over there. So there is a suite of policies but the focus is practical problem solving to ensure that the commercial industry can deliver on the needs both now and long-term both affordably and sustainably.
QUESTION: Prime Minister, John [inaudible]. Firstly, let me add my voice to many that have preceeded me and congratulate you on a magnificent, and for Australia, very fortuitous, election victory. I’ve actually got two questions and the first one is of greater national importance. How do you think the Sharks will go next year?
PRIME MINISTER: Oh Ok. Well, we’re going without a home ground next year but you never know, that could just provide the false sense of confidence of others when they come down south to play us. But I’m looking forward to the season like I always do. I’m particularly looking forward to the Magic Round up here in Brisbane next year. I thought that was a wonderful innovation into the game this year, I know all the players had a great time and really were pleased to be part of the great festival atmosphere and the people of Queensland came out in support of the Magic Round I thought famously well. So look, that’s got to be on the calendar, I think forever, so long as the Sharks win. I can write that into the contract or something.
PRESENTER: I think you can, you can do what you want.
QUESTION: Would you like the easy question now?
PRIME MINISTER: Please.
QUESTION: How can your government ensure that the multinational companies who have been invited here by various governments develop our gas reserves in a timely manner, particularly with respect to the time frame when we have a gas shortage in this country?
PRIME MINISTER: That’s a good question. Look, there are a range of approvals and consents as they all know that require particular actions on their part. What we don’t want to do is interfere in the normal commercial processes that go on between those companies. I mean, we’re not running some sort of state-run gas sector here in Australia. That’s not what we’re seeking to do. We want the industry to [inaudible] the sovereign risk of those types of interventions. But at the end of the day, the things that we can do, I think, is really to make sure that the regulatory process is streamlined so if there are delays, it’s not down to decisions that are being made by our officials and our government processes. I’d like to see the same thing happen at a state level. This is an unrelated issue but I’ve got to say, particularly with the drought at the moment, I welcome the great support we’ve had from the New South Wales Government particularly in getting some major dam projects going. And it’s not just because they’re putting money in, it’s because they’re clearing blockages away from getting the projects done. I know Deb made a very big announcement last night about her commitment and the LNP’s commitment to water infrastructure in Queensland. I welcome that very strongly and I hope that we have the opportunity to build those dams together because it’s great to see a Queensland leader who wants to build dams.
PRESENTER: I think we’re done. We’ve covered many issues, including the Sharks. Please thank our Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER: Just one more thing. It was alluded to before by Ian. When we were dealing with the immediate aftermath of the terrible floods that devastated North Queensland, not just in Townsville but particularly west of the range, I personally saw the heartbreak of those farming families as there were carcasses just littered from one end of their property to the other. And as we, in those early days, were working together with the state government and the local governments, the challenge of actually getting through that carcass disposal period, that was met in huge part by the mining and resources sector. They turned up in these communities [inaudible] and it was not just incredibly practical and generous but gave everybody an enormous shot in the arm. Glencore and so many others who just turned up for their communities, I want to say thank you very, very much and we continue to see that as we deal with this dreadful drought. We see the resources sector being a partner in actually helping our rural communities get through this drought. I was asked in the Parliament – Pete and the other guys will remember this – the other day, I was asked should we stop… you know, was the mining industry responsible for the drought? And it was an offensive question from the Greens. The mining industry is helping our farmers at a time of drought like I’ve never seen before and I want to say thank you to the resources industry as a whole for the tremendous work you’re doing to help our farmers. Thank you.
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The Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Sydney