STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: A bloke that understands all these smoke and mirrors, of course, is Joel Fitzgibbon, the Labor Member for Hunter. G'day, Joel.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good morning, Stephen. Indeed, I do.
CENATIEMPO: It's, I mean, it's extraordinary that the ACT pushes that line that we run on 100 per cent renewable energy. But there's no way to guarantee that.
FITZGIBBON: It makes someone feel good, Stephen.
CENATIEMPO: I'm sure it does.
FITZGIBBON: Because the ACT is importing its energy. And you're right, 65 per cent of the NEM is fossil fuels, and mainly coal. So, it's just impossible to determine that. It's just an accounting trick, really.
CENATIEMPO: And I guess the flip side of this is, though, that they keep telling us that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy. However, because of our 100 per cent renewable energy production, Canberrans are going to pay more for their power bills from next month.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, of course. I mean, technically, it's the cheapest form of production because there are no marginal costs. In other words, there's no fuel. So each kilowatt that comes out, doesn't require more fuel in. But there are enormous other costs within the grid, which are made to accommodate renewable energy. And of course, then there are the subsidies and the feed in tariffs by the various state and territory governments. So there are other costs that aren't so apparent up front.
CENATIEMPO: Now, speaking of this, AGL is planning a solar farm for the site of the Liddell Power Station in your electorate. Look, I think it would make more sense to actually build another coal-fired power plant there, or a nuclear plant. But I guess if you're going to – it's not land that could really be used for much else, it's probably not a bad site for a solar farm.
FITZGIBBON: It is an excellent decision and something I've been working towards ever since Liddell, many years ago now, indicated to the government that it would close Liddell in 2023. She'll be 50 years old and out of puff, so we can't avoid the closure of Liddell. Scott Morrison played politics with that for months, saying he was going to force AGL to extend Liddell much further, but that was never going to be the case. And in the meantime, I was working with AGL and others to ensure that we replaced Liddell with local capacity. And we've done very well. In the pipeline we have pumped hydro on Bells Mountain in the Upper Hunter, we have this huge solar project now on the Liddell site, we have another solar project down on the site of Kurri, the old Kurri Kurri aluminium smelter, we have a huge battery project on a piece of dirt they call the Hunter Economic Zone, you'd be familiar with it. That's going to be a big battery project. We are now a hydrogen hub. So, we are leading the country in the Hunter Valley on renewable energy, but we'll keep our power coal-fired generators going as long as they are physically up to it. And in the meantime, we're building this new gas generator, a peeker, so that as Liddell's power comes out, we're getting more synchronous firming power into the system with that gas-fired generator. And of course, that gas generator will be built to accommodate hydrogen when hydrogen is available at large scale and at the right costs.
CENATIEMPO: Yeah, we're certainly moving in the right direction. And I'm the first to say that, you know, eventually we are going to have to accept that we're moving to a renewable energy future, as we should. And it's the same with electric cars, because the motor vehicle manufacturing industry is going that way, we're going to have to accept that. But I just think we need to be a bit more realistic in the meantime. And sadly, you're one of the lone voices on that. So I guess we'll see what happens. Now...
FITZGIBBON: ... Can I just say on this, don't shut down your coal-fired generators before you have to. I mean, it would just be economic madness to do so. But it will also undermine the stability of the grid and it will put power prices up. And reliability is important to us, to keep the lights on, but it's even more important to plants like Tomago Aluminium, which would face a crisis if it was to have its power shut off for more than a few hours.
CENATIEMPO: And god forbid, the extension cord into the ACT got cut.
CENATIEMPO: The National Capital Authority has given the green light for the early works on the Australian War Memorial expansion. I talked about this earlier this morning. The thing that upsets me most about this expansion is the misinformation that's out there. And the suggestion in an article this morning from former Defence Force Chief, Chris Barrie, that it's going to be turned into an amusement park. I just find this a bit offensive.
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, that's overreach. Look, Brendan Nelson is a smart and very sensible person. And is a former Defence Minister, a person with deep conviction and a high regard and respect for our former serving men and women. And the big thing that he identified is the lack of representation within that war memorial of those who fought in more recent wars, from Vietnam right through to Afghanistan. It's basically a World War One and World War Two memorial and that's not good enough, and it doesn't pay due respect and regard to all those who served in latter wars, and of course, those who gave their lives. Now, it's a building which is difficult to expand because of its architectural design and its heritage value. And it does take a lot of money to do it properly. But that money is been spent over 10 years. But to suggest it's not being done in a respectful way, I think is in itself disrespectful.
CENATIEMPO: I want to play a grab for you that we played in our news yesterday from Dr David Stevens about the way that we generally view war in Australia. And I want to get your opinion on this. This is what he had to say.
*AUDIO OF DR DAVID STEVENS*: We're very good at telling how we fight wars and how well we fight them. But we very rarely get into too much detail about why we fight them and whether it was worth it, and how it affected other people, which is exactly the issue that's been raised in the Federal Court in Sydney at the moment. We very rarely look at those things. And the War Memorial has been reluctant to do that since 1941.
CENATIEMPO: I think that's a pretty unfair assessment of the War Memorial, isn't it?
FITZGIBBON: Yeah, that's a terrible assessment. Look, we have to separate the two. Do government's make mistakes sending people to war and in the way they conduct the war? Yes, absolutely. Do our troops simply do everything that is asked of them laying their lives on the line? The answer, of course, is yes. So let us not let the mistakes of politicians, and even senior military leaders, reflect on the efforts, the courage, the valour and sacrifice of those who put their boots on the ground.
CENATIEMPO: Well said. Now, I noticed on Facebook that you have found the perfect way to ward off the very cold temperature in Canberra today.
FITZGIBBON: Yes, Mark Hughes Foundation. I've purchased my latest beanie from that institution and I'm encouraging others to do so. Mark Hughes, your listeners won't know him so well, but you will. He played for Kurri Kurri Bulldogs in the competition I participated in when I was a young bloke, but then of course, went on to play for the Newcastle Knights. He was a great centre, a great player. Came down with brain cancer, fought it courageously, even more courage than he displayed on the football field. And now he spends hours of his life raising money for others who suffer, or might suffer, or have suffered brain cancer. So I'm encouraging people to go on online to the Mark Hughes Foundation and buy a beanie.
CENATIEMPO: Beanies for brain cancer. And they're very stylish this year too, by looks of your picture, Joel.
FITZGIBBON: I just love my pompom.
CENATIEMPO: Good on you, mate. We'll catch up next week...
FITZGIBBON: ... It really suits me.
CENATIEMPO: Thanks, mate. We'll talk to you next week.
FITZGIBBON: Good on you, Stephen. Thank you.