16 July 2019
JOHN MCVEIGH: Well a real thrill to have Angus Taylor, the Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister, here in Toowoomba today. We are talking about the potential for the Toowoomba and Darling Downs region in the energy space. We’ve certainly talked about renewables, we’ve talked about our reliance on coal, we’ve talked most importantly about gas, pumped hydro. We’ll let the Minister talk about that going forward. I think we are a leading energy region in the country quite frankly. To have the opportunity to have Angus here to hear that message, so he takes it back to Canberra and understands what we can show the rest of the country has been particularly important.
JOURNALIST: I guess to start with, we have had a very interesting mix of energy here. We’ve had the coal coming out of our mines in Acland and also really pushing in renewables. Do we kind of show that those two can coexist in the area?
ANGUS TAYLOR: 100 per cent - the exciting thing about this area is the balance of different energy sources across gas, pumped hydro - we are looking at a pumped hydro here - renewables and coal. The answer to the problems we face in energy right now is a balance. It is a balance of all those different fuel sources because that allows us to reduce emissions, but also keep the lights on and keep prices down. There is lots to be done in order to make sure that happens. Seeing projects like pumped hydro projects and gas projects in this region is extremely important. We need to make sure that we don’t do things that are unnecessary to raise the price of energy. Adding royalties to the gas price is extremely unhelpful in terms of energy prices, electricity prices right across Australia. It is exactly what we don’t need, and we certainly don’t need a state government that’s been hiking their tariffs and has been monopolising that market. This region offers exactly the kind of case study that we need for all of Australia. I want to see more energy production in this region, not less - because it is a fantastic region to do it.
JOURNALIST: I guess our patch too has been quite innovative in really jumping on board with solar and wind, and in particular we are leaning towards more projects of that nature. Is that something that the government is supporting? To put more of an emphasis on that?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We are seeing the highest level of renewable investment per person in the world in Australia right now. Now that has to be balanced. If the sun goes down and the wind stops blowing, you have to have an alternative, and that is why the sort of gas that’s being produced in this region, and pumped hydro projects like there is potential to build in this region, are so crucial because they provide the storage and back-up that is needed to make renewables work. You simply can’t make renewables work on a large scale without that storage and back-up. So you have the balance here and that is what we want to see –we want to see the balance.
JOURNALIST: I guess it has just been ongoing, that the price of living is going up and particularly power prices are really pinching hard for businesses and households in our area in particular. Is that something – is there a plan to attack that at the moment?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look there is a very easy way to attack that, and that is to stop the Queensland Government taking $1.6 billion out of the hard working households and small businesses of Queensland. That is what happened last year and that is what they are planning to do again this year. The Queensland Government can reduce electricity tariffs when they want to. They monopolise this market. There is anti-competitive behaviour that has occurred in this market and it needs to stop. The Queensland government needs to stop it. We are prepared to back new projects in this region to make sure we get that balance of different fuel sources that are affordable for all the people of this region. We are happy to step in and do that, but we need a Queensland Government that is focused on ensuring that energy is both affordable and reliable, as well as cleaner as we transition towards more renewables.
ANGUS TAYLOR: All gas is useful in making sure that we’ve got balance. The reason why Japan, Korea and China want more gas is that they know it is lower emissions and they know it can firm up the solar and wind that they want in their system. Gas is a crucial fuel in this process and we need to make sure that we have enough gas in our domestic market as well as for export markets.
JOURNALIST: I guess with this, with coal – the government has been I guess dragging their feet whether or not if they are going to approve it because they do see that maybe-
ANGUS TAYLOR: Sorry, you’re talking about the gas mine?
JOURNALIST: Sorry sir, I am talking about the New Acland coal mine out at Oakey.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Coal?
JOURNALIST: Yes, coal mine - stage 3 of the project is currently up in the air and the government said because they don’t know if coal is the future any more. Does the federal government-
ANGUS TAYLOR: Coal still has a role to play and will have a role to play for many years to come because it provides affordable baseload power. We need affordable baseload power for industry right across Queensland, regional Queensland. It is absolutely crucial. Now it is true that the mix will change over time - there is no doubt about that - but coal will still have a role to play for many, many years because we need that affordable baseload power. If we shut down our coal generators, you will see industry and jobs exiting. Now, we can’t afford to have that happen. They will go to places like China, and the emissions there will be higher. So, there is a sensible approach to the policy here and it means a balance of different fuel sources.
JOURNALIST: That is the risk we are facing with Acland. Obviously it is a state government decision but are you guys able to have a conversation with them?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We want the state government to approve sensible projects. I mean, we’ve been talking about this for a long while in Queensland. We want to see the state government make sensible decisions on developments that give us that mix of fuel sources, that give us the basis for those important jobs in industry, that gives us the export economy that is so crucial to this region and to Queensland more generally, so we want to see the state government focused on that and making the right decisions.
JOHN MCVEIGH: With Acland, from a federal government perspective, it was just three years ago we had here in the Darling Downs our colleague Josh Frydenberg, then Energy Minister, provide the final federal approvals for stage 3. Three years ago. We are still waiting for the state government to proceed. They’ve had some sort of epiphany of late with Adani. It is now time for them to recognise the need for Acland Coal stage 3. Oakey township depends on it, jobs across the Darling Downs depends on it. They need to get moving.
JOURNALIST: Yeah John, I guess with you that deadline is coming up really fast and we are looking at something like 500 jobs out there.
JOHN MCVEIGH: Precisely. The loss of those sorts of jobs if that eventuates, will cripple Oakey and certainly impacts on Toowoomba and other townships across the Darling Downs. Locals want it. Oakey wants it. Toowoomba wants it. We know the business community across the Darling Downs wants this progressed. We need it. The state government needs to stop dragging its feet.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I think it was a very clear message in the federal election from the people of Queensland that we certainly heard - and it is time that the state Queensland Government hear it as well - is that Queenslanders want to see these jobs continue, there is a sensible balanced approached to energy and it does include coal for many years to come.