Doorstop - Cape Cleveland, Queensland

Transcript
22 Jan 2018
Prime Minister
Great Barrier Reef announcement; National Energy Guarantee
E&OE

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister you mentioned in your speech that there are doomsayers out there about the health of the Reef. I mean, do you consider he reports that 50 per cent of the Reef being killed by bleaching, do you consider that doom-saying?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think it’s very important, I just echo what Russell has said and what Paul has just said – that this is the world’s largest living structure, yes it faces challenge. As you said Paul, it’s a big, beautiful living structure, the world’s largest and it is resilient. But of course it’s very important to do everything we can to enhance that resilience. That is the point.

If you become too pessimistic, you give up. We are optimists and we’re backing our optimism with great science and great scientists, who are all now back to work thanks to their very, highly disciplined overlord.

[Laughter]

JOURNALIST:

But those same scientists point out that the main threat to the Reef in the long term is climate change?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, well that’s a penetrating glimpse of the obvious, thank you.

JOURNALIST:

I guess, how can you say that you’re trying to save the Reef when Australia’s net carbon emissions keep rising?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well that’s not true, they actually went down in the most recent report. We’ve seen really considerable progress in our emissions profile, we are well ahead of our 2020 target. We’re going to meet and beat our 2020 target very comfortably. We’re on track to meet and beat our 2030 target. We also, I talked about technology and science earlier and I just echo if I may, what I said at the Paris Conference in 2015; the key to reducing emissions is going to be technology and science.

We’ve seen enormous progress in the reducing cost of generation from renewables, particularly from photovoltaics. [Inaudible] but the cost of PB has come down dramatically. Much more than was forecast, even by the greatest optimists back ten years ago when I was environment Minister, for example.

The big challenge is storage. You may remember I gave a speech nearly a year ago about the importance of storage. Look what we’ve done in the interim in Australia. Some very big projects, some great projects here in Queensland. The Kingston pumped hydro storage, but of course the big Snowy Hydro 2.0, that will be the largest pumped hydro storage project in the southern hemisphere, one of the largest in the world. It’ll be Australia’s biggest battery, so we’re putting together the infrastructure investments to support that lower emissions profile and at the same time, pulling that together in one national energy policy. The National Energy Guarantee, which brings together the trifecta that Alan has often referred to, of affordability, reliability and meeting your emissions reduction obligations. So we’re making strong progress here in Australia. Our emissions profile is improving. It's reducing both absolutely and of course, per head of population which is the most appropriate measure. Its coming down dramatically. So it’s on track.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible] band aid solution, if countries like the United States don’t do their bit to reduce emissions. Do you accept that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the United States, I’ll leave the real President to talk about what’s happening in the United States, I just speak for Australia.

But I’ll just make one observation; America’s emissions profile has been reducing, their emissions have been reducing, partly due to the factors I mentioned but above all, because of the fuel switch from coal to gas which has been a very big factor in the US. Again, driven by technology, horizontal drilling and fracking is a technological innovation I think, Alan, would it be ten years old?

CHIEF SCIENTIST ALAN FINKEL:

It’s actually much older but it accelerated massively about ten years ago.

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah, so this is something that took off ten years ago and it’s changed the whole energy profile and emissions profile in the US.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister are you concerned the doomsayers as you call them are having a negative effect on the tourism industry around the Reef?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yeah well everyone in the tourism industry certainly is. What would you say?

JOURNALIST:

There’s no doubt Prime Minister that that’s the case. We have seen a slowing of the growth in tourism because of the negative messages and it’s obviously of some concern to us.

PRIME MINISTER:

So it’s important to be clear-eyed and objective and realistic about the challenges that we face. Then, in a very thorough, scientific way, make sure we have the measures to meet them. But ‘doomsaying’ – which is another way of describing people who are excessively pessimistic – that poses real dangers, because it undermines the support, the popular support for the [inaudible] that have been undertaken here and of course, undermines the whole Reef economy.

You know, you’ve got to be realistic about this. Again, you don’t have to take my word for it, take Paul’s word for. What he talked about, you know, “bruised and battered” to be sure, in parts. But the Reef is big, resilient, the world’s largest living structure and the investments we’re making today will make it more resilient still.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, green groups write that you could better protect the Reef by not funding projects like Adani. What would you respond to with that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the Government is not funding Adani.

JOURNALIST:

Through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Government is not funding Adani through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund. That possibility of that occurring - Adani could have made an application, I believe they did at least foreshadow an application - but the Queensland Government has ruled that out so there won’t be any funding going from the Norther Australia Infrastructure Fund to the Adani project. So your question is based on a false premise.

JOURNALIST:

Just in general though, I mean, green groups have been arguing that support for Adani is risking the health of the Great Barrier Reef, I mean, how do you respond to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the two are not directly connected. All reefs around the world are suffering from, or being affected by rising temperature levels in the ocean. That is linked to and caused by the rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which of course is connected to burning fossil fuels, to make, mostly, creating energy.

All of that is true, but if the Adani project were not to go ahead, the coal that it would send to India will be sourced somewhere else. The coal would still get burned in India.

So that’s the important thing, it’s important to remember that if Australian coal is not burned, Australian coal will release CO2 into the atmosphere, but it is cleaner than many other sources of coal around the world. So the reason why Indian generators have sort to buy coal from Australia, is because of it’s quality and because it produces less pollution.

So again, if the Adani project does not go ahead, the Indian demand for coal would remain and that coal, they will source that coal from somewhere else. From Indonesia, from Columbia, from South Africa, even locally, in India.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister will the Coalition contribute funding to Townsville’s water security issues?

PRIME MINISTER:

We’ve already contributed funding to the examination of the feasibility study on the Hells Gate Project, and that’s $2.2 million. The feasibility study which - David you’ll be pleased to know, your colleagues at Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation all your friends there, they’re undertaking it - that will be completed in April. We certainly look forward to seeing that.

I can assure you we have a substantial amount of money to invest in water projects in North Queensland. At this stage the barrier to that money being invested, has been the unwillingness of the Queensland Labor State Government to go ahead with it.

A very good example of that of course is Rockhampton at the Rookwood Weir, which is a project that should’ve been built decades ago. We have the money ready to go and we still can’t get the Palaszczuk Government to get on with it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister are you concerned about the support for the LNP in Queensland at the moment after the state election?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we’re always, always very concerned to ensure that the people of North Queensland and indeed every part of Australia, put their faith in us. We have to earn that trust, and that’s by delivering good policies and good government.

Of course, I’m standing next to the Minister for Jobs and Innovation. Last year was the year of strongest jobs growth in our history. We’ve got the longest run of consecutive monthly job increases since 1978, equaled in one year in ’94. We’re creating well over a thousand jobs a day.

So our policies, our economic leadership is delivering the jobs and growth we were promised at the 2016 election.

JOURNALIST:

Would you support Ewen Jones for the Seat of Herbert?

PRIME MINISTER:

Ewen Jones did an outstanding job as the Member of Herbert and I look forward to him being the candidate once again. But of course it is you know, ultimately, that would be a matter for the LNP’s pre-selection process. But he was an outstanding representative for Herbert and for Townsville and of course was very influential in ensuring that one of our first City Deals was actually done in Townsville.

That’s operating now, and underway now and you’re seeing the fruits of it already.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says that white settlement was good for everyone, including Aboriginal people, do you agree?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look I won’t engage in a debate about Australian history, the history of European settlement in Australia other than to say that obviously it had tragic consequences for thousands of Indigenous Australians and the wrongs that were done in the past, we are setting right.

It is very appropriate that Penny opened our formal proceedings today with an acknowledgment of country and did so in the spirit of reconciliation.

JOURNALIST:

Pauline Hanson is seeking to refer Fraser Anning to the High Court, is that something the Coalition supports?

PRIME MINISTER:

I haven’t seen the basis on which she is proposing that. But I think that – and I’m standing next to a Senator, with Senator MacDonald here. So the way it has worked in the past has been if a Senator believes a Senator should be referred to the High Court because of issues of eligibility, then they would have to make that case. The Senate will consider it and decide whether to vote for it. But indeed, we would have to see the basis on which she is making that proposal.

JOURNALIST:

Just quickly, has there been any development on the Singapore Defence Deal up this way?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well the acquisition of land is continuing, as you know there is now forced acquisitions, no compulsory acquisitions. But the work that’s continuing is obviously going to involve very substantial investments in this region. It is one that’s very important, so both from a regional economic point of view, and also of course, from a security point of view to continue that strong and closer cooperation with Singapore.

JOURNALIST:

[Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, thank you very much for that. Yes, I just want to say a big congratulations to the JCU Townsville Basketball team. You did so well and [inaudible]and they beat the Melbourne Boomers last night. I know it was a very exciting match. I had a good chat about it on radio here in Townsville this morning. It’s very exciting, I think probably the most exciting news last night here in Townville.

[ENDS]