Q&A - Tomago, NSW

15 Sep 2020
Prime Minister

Question: I appreciate the discussion about fuel security. That's certainly something that we've got a real interest in. And I also appreciate your open-minded approach to using technology to be able to reduce emissions from fossil fuels, especially with carbon capture and storage, which actually has huge potential down the track to be a significant part of our energy world. But the most important thing sounds like the production of some more dispatchable power. And for a company like Bloomfield, which uses power in its washing plants and all over the shop, this would be something that we are looking forward to. Because at the moment, it's pretty tough and we're looking to try and keep every cent of our production costs under control and power is one of our major production costs. So we really welcome that. And does this mean that Bloomfield won't be asked to do any more load shedding?

Prime Minister: I'll make one point and then I'll let Angus deal with that last one. Having a more efficient cost base for all Australian businesses is how you create jobs. You understand that better than I do. And there are a range of areas in which we're seeking to make that cost base much more competitive, and lower taxes is an important part of that, of course, and what we've done on lower taxes up until now, that has been a huge part of our economic plan and it will remain so. And as the Treasurer has flagged, he'll have more to say about those things in a few weeks’ time. But when you look at all the other costs that make up businesses in Australia and particularly in businesses like yours and energy intensive industries, this is one of the biggest factors. And whether it's the gas feedstock that goes into their businesses or whether it's the cost of the power itself, we have to have ways of getting that down to a sustainable and consistent level. It's not just about trying to get it down for a little while. It's about getting it down and keeping it down. And that's what we were talking about today. That's what we believe the changes that we will be making are designed to do. To get it down and keep it down, because you've got to be able to plan for the next 5, 10, 15 years with the scale that we want to see in these industries. And this is why we've come to this conclusion that where the government has to do things, well, we will. Our preference is always that the private sector will do these things, whether it's on generation or ultimately how transmission works. But we're not in a position particularly of being in a COVID recession or of waiting now. And we can be a significant capital player in these decisions. But we don't want to crowd capital out. We just want to make sure that we can meet the capacity which will keep those prices where they should be. And, look, with a more reliable grid, with more dispatchable power that isn't subject to the weather, then that, of course, creates greater stability and businesses need stability to operate.

But, Angus, did you want to…?

The Hon. Angus Taylor MP, Minister Energy and Emissions Reduction: Thanks, PM. Good to see you, John. And of course, no one likes enforced load shedding. It's a terrible thing when it has to happen. Sadly, more of it has been happening in recent years than we would like, particularly in South Australia, but also here. But the good news is in the rules, the reforms that the PM described in his speech, there is a very strong focus on shifting to enforced load shedding to making sure we have enough dispatchability to avoid that and that's critical. It's good you're sitting right next to Paul Broad, who's part of the answer there with Snowy 2.0. Fantastic to see you Paul. But also to the extent that somebody is going to load shed, it should be voluntary and wherever Matt Howe is, he’s here in the room, I saw him earlier, he knows all about that load shedding. I mean, there should be recognition of the role that smelters and others play in doing that and appropriate compensation for that very important role in the grid. But enforced compulsory? No. That's why we want more dispensability in the system.

Moderator: Anybody else? Ok.

Prime Minister: Can I just make a point about dispatchables. I don't care what source the dispatchables come from. None of these, as someone once said, have moral qualities. They're just things that produce energy. They obviously have different implications. But we will meet our emissions reduction standards. The plan that Angus has put together so sensibly and we are implementing, we will meet those standards. We will meet those commitments. And we're very serious about them. But we don't believe we've put Australia in a position where we have to choose between meeting standards and sensible targets and surrendering people's jobs. And we have to be practical, though. When we deliver this dispatchable energy to support the grid, it's got to be things that actually turn up. I'm not interested in having a ten year debate with people about getting an approval for a project that may never happen. I want to focus on something that will happen. And we know that we can get something up here in Newcastle with a gas-fired plant. And we know we can get support for that. We know we can make that happen. So we have to dwell in the realm of reality. The Commonwealth Government does not have control of all the levers about what projects get approved and what don't get approved. I'm not interested in having a fight about it. I'm interested in actually getting power generation, a thousand megawatts, in place by that deadline. Because if that doesn't happen, the prices are going to go up. So I'm interested in things that can deliver that outcome. We're a very practical government, incredibly practical, and I can assure you that the COVID-19 crisis and the recession that it has caused has made us even more practical. I'm interested in stuff that works. I'm interested in stuff that gets done. And I'm interested in working with people who want to do both of those things and I reckon there's a lot of people in this room just like that today.

Moderator: Thank you, Prime Minister. Thank you, Minister Taylor.