Interview with Fairsy and Bridget Archer MP, Member for Bass - Fairsy's Big Breakfast, LAFM


1 November 2019


FAIRSY: Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor is in town today, and he’s been kind enough to join me in the studio along with Federal Member for Bass Bridget Archer. Welcome, thank you for popping in. How are you both?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Great, thanks for having us.

FAIRSY: Appreciate it. Bridget, let’s start with you. Being Tasmanian, I mean you’re on the street, you hear everything, you know what’s going on. The Battery of the Nation is such a massive, massive project for Tasmania and really is going to be, will put us on the map even more than what we are now.

BRIDGET ARCHER: I think we’ve been on the map for a long time in terms of renewable energy and really leading the nation in renewable energy for a long time, so the transformative potential of this project for Tasmania but also for the whole of the eastern seaboard of Australia really is immense, so it’s very exciting.

FAIRSY: And it’s wonderful to see the cooperative approach between the State and Federal Governments, because obviously you’re going to need that, Minister, aren’t you to be able to pull off a project like this? Because we are talking massive amounts of money to get all this going, infrastructure-wise and all that sort of thing. But the benefits down the track are going to be huge for us, aren’t they?

ANGUS TAYLOR: That’s right, not just for Tasmania but as Bridget said, for the east coast. But look, the relationship with the Tasmanian Government is crucial. I’ve worked closely with the Tasmanian Government over a long period of time, including the City Deal here in Launceston, and look that’s how you get things done. You work across multiple levels of government. We’ve got a very good government here in Tasmania that’s keen to work with us. What Tasmania has that is so important is these incredible natural resources which are not just good for Tasmania, they show such potential for the rest of the east coast of Australia. That’s what the Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link are all about.

FAIRSY: Yeah, now, what about feedback-wise? I mean, it all sounds so great, so huge, benefits-wise and all that sort of thing, but have you copped much flak, much negativity over this project? Or do you think that it’s for the most part been welcomed with open arms?

BRIDGET ARCHER: Look, I think it’s been very positively received both in terms of the clean, green, renewable energy future but also in terms of keeping power prices down. Both of those things are very important to people and this provides a way forward to achieve both of those goals I think.

ANGUS TAYLOR: I think that’s absolutely right. I mean, again Tasmania is so well positioned in so many areas, not just in energy but energy is clearly one of them, and that’s why we want to realise the full potential of it. There has been some debate about making sure that the users of the electricity – and that will be in Victoria primarily – pay for it. That’s a very reasonable point of view from the Tasmanians and we agree wholeheartedly. This is an export opportunity for Tasmania as well as an opportunity for continually improving your grid, keeping prices down here and keeping the lights on here. But, you know, the potential going up into Victoria, and they’ve got some real challenges in their grid up there, which is why we’re so interested in Battery of the Nation.

FAIRSY: That’s right. And being a project this huge, I mean, it’s not going to happen overnight, is it? I mean, it’s stage-by-stage and part of this project is obviously the second Basslink interconnector cable. How are we going on that one, I mean?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Right, so we invested $56 million alongside the Tasmanian Government’s investment on work on that which is proceeding. We’ll get to the next stage of that very soon. As the outcomes of that come in, we’ll look to where we go to next. Look, on top of that, we just announced in the last couple of days a Grid Reliability Fund for Australia, Australia-wide, for which the Battery of the Nation project is on the short-list. So that’s another piece of progress we’re making in bringing all this together. We’ll keep working very closely with the Tasmanian Government and Bridget and others on making sure these projects come to fruition in a timely way. Nothing happens quickly, overnight at least, in this sector. These are long-dated projects. They take time. But we’re doing the work and we want to make this a real winner.

FAIRSY: So economically, it’s a huge win for Tasmania obviously down the track. When this comes to fruition, householders, I mean, I know you mentioned that Victorians and that will benefit probably mostly from that, but, so realistically because the talk I get is people saying well, yeah, but how much is Tasmanians going to benefit from it, I mean, power-price wise and things like that? I mean, I don’t know whether you can look-

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, no, I can help to answer that question.

FAIRSY: Oh, please, yeah.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Importantly if you’re producing more power like this - it’s baseload power, it’s power dispatchable when you want it, when you flick the switch it’s available - Tasmania will benefit because it means you’ve got more supply here. But this is an export. It’s like helping your farmers to improve their operations so they can sell more to other parts of Australia and to other parts of the world. Well, it’s exactly the same. You’re starting to see now, Tasmania is not just an exporter of agriculture or exporter of tourism but as an exporter of energy. That’s the real opportunity here. The benefit from that will be, you know, Tasmania will be a wealthier state. More jobs, more prosperity, tax of course for the State Government. But it’s very important to make sure that electricity prices go down here and the extra supply has the potential to do that at the same time.

FAIRSY: Well, fingers crossed. So time-frame wise, I mean, when are you guys hopeful as a Federal and State Government hopeful of this actually being finalised and finished?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, we’ll keep moving as quickly as we can. The next stage as I said, we’ve invested the $56 million which we talked about earlier, announced earlier in the year. That work’s coming to fruition soon. We’re sitting down and working with the Tasmanian Government now on the next stage and stages after that. These projects don’t happen overnight but we want to keep it moving as quickly as possible, and we have to because of what’s happening to our north in Victoria. They desperately need access to more dispatchable power, and Tasmania has it.

FAIRSY: Yeah, it’s a wonderful thing. Bridget, you must be so proud that Tasmania is here and we’re renown for our natural resources obviously in energy now, but of course tourism and, I mean, that’s why we’re just rocketing ahead of that, our economy’s going well and kicking goals?

BRIDGET ARCHER: Absolutely, and I think this is all part of that story and part of the future in that respect is that, you know, it’s one of the points of difference I think for Tasmania and for the Tasmanian economy, and hopefully will act as an attractant to other development and industry as well who are increasingly seeking renewable, clean energy for their businesses as well.

FAIRSY: I think it’s fantastic. And again, well done to everyone involved in it, because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to do it, but anything that’s going to see Tasmania come out in front and, you know, help their fellow Aussies but also help Tasmanians – which is obviously very important too.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, as an outsider, and I come here pretty regularly. But I do look at Tasmania now and compare it with other parts of Australia and other parts of the world, it is incredibly well positioned, and it’s wonderful to see how robust it is. You know, Tasmania went through some tough times but I got to tell you, it’s really exciting down here at the moment seeing what’s happening in agriculture, in tourism, and of course now energy. I think it’s a great time to be a Tasmanian.

FAIRSY: Yeah, certainly is, yeah.

BRIDGET ARCHER: And I think we’ve said it before but, and you said it earlier, but it really is a testament to those different levels of government working together and working with private sector as well. We’ve got a level of collaboration here in Tasmania that we haven’t seen before that I think’s really taking our state forward.

FAIRSY: No, I think it’s an excellent project. Look, thank you so much Federal Member for Bass Bridget Archer and Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor for popping in. Really appreciate your time and keeping us updated on this, and enjoy your quick visit into Tassie once again, mate.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you very much.


Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction