MARCUS PAUL, HOST: Federal opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, yesterday urged the Coalition to work with Labor on a bipartisan energy policy, arguing the two sides do not need to agree on emissions targets to make some progress. I don’t know, sounds to me like Anthony Albanese's offering a bit of an olive branch, and an end if you like to the Climate Wars, we've seen, because to be honest - in my opinion anyway - it hasn't done Labor any favors at the ballot box. I mean Bill Shorten lost what I would have called the Unlose-able Election, and I believe he lost it mainly because of the climate policy by his party. Joel Fitzgibbon probably disagrees. Good morning Joel, how are you?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND RESOURCES: Great to be with you Marcus
PAUL: All right, what did you make of Mr Albanese’s comments yesterday?
FITZGIBBON: Well obviously I welcome them. It's common sense. We've extended the olive branch, if that’s what you’d like to call it, to the Government. We've had now seven years of investment uncertainty, that's led to an investment drought. And we are holding business back, and we are holding back jobs in the manufacturing sector, in particular. What we need, Marcus, is lower prices, both for households and for business. We do want lower carbon emissions, I think everyone agrees with that. And we want to grow more jobs, and we haven't been able to do any of those things because investors just don't know what the rules are going to be next week, next year, and in 10 years’ time. So what we're saying is look we will work with you on a mechanism that looks reasonable, something like any of the three mechanisms the Government has previously offered but been unable to deliver because of their own internal political problems. We will support anything like that you put forward. And if we can do that together, then we can start putting downward pressure on electricity prices, we can reduce carbon - something we haven't done over the last seven years - and we can start reviving our manufacturing sector.
PAUL: All right, just back to your point, and I agree with you. Unfortunately, over energy policy, the LNP has torn itself apart over the years, I mean you just need to look at what happened with Malcolm Turnbull, and he backpedaled more times than I've been on a bicycle over the issue. But, do you think there is appetite? I know there is within the electorate, Joel. But within political circles, is there an appetite for both parties to agree on a model, even if you don't agree on emissions targets per se?
FITZGIBBON: Yes, well there should be because the three mechanisms we've had in recent years, the NEG, CET and the EIS - we love an acronym, Marcus - have all been models put forward by this Government, and we were absolutely prepared to support the last one – the NEG - but their own internal divisions caused Malcolm Turnbull to withdraw it. So they’ve acknowledged we need a mechanism. They've put forward what we think are reasonable proposals. We've been prepared to support them, but they haven't been able to deliver. The other point is that I don't think Scott Morrison wants to end the Climate Wars. They see their political advantage in the Wars, they think it's delivered them a couple of election wins. And they want to exploit that next time around. But while that might be all right for the Liberal National Parties, it's certainly not good for the Australian economy and the Australian people and certainly not a good recipe for jobs.
PAUL: All right. Now, my point, and I've been very, you know, I've been very clear on what I believe is - and I'm no expert, Joel – so I need to rely on, you know, what I read, from whether it's scientific reports, and I listen to both sides of politics as people who listen to my program know. I think, going forward, there is no doubt that we are going to need a transformation from the current use of coal-fired base power, to a greater use of renewable energy, as the technology allows it. Again, we're such a big country with big cities, and spaced so far apart. I don't think - and I think South Australia and the ACT have proven to be examples of this - that we cannot work or survive business-wise, and certainly as a country and our communities, with, you know, power required to put our lights on. We can't just rely solely on renewable sources of energy. There needs to be a mix, and that's the way to go forward. How difficult is it for you, coming from, you know, the Hunter region, who you represent, being a very big coal-based industry manufacturer?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I find it very easy to support working people in my electorate, both in the power generation industry and in the coalmining industry. But you are spot on. Think about this Marcus: 50 per cent of our coal-fired generators in this country, and they are 30 years old, or more. In New South Wales, 90 per cent of the output capacity is 30 years old, or more. Now, we need to build there for the alternatives. A big part of that will be renewables, but we can't have 100 per cent renewables, not in the foreseeable future for two reasons. You can't build them that quickly; investors don't know what the rules will be, so they're not investing. And of course, you've got to take care of the stability of the grid, and therefore you need synchronous baseload power. So we need rules to allow people to invest in gas peaking stations, for example, to provide that baseload support, and the rules will be important to get investors coming forward there. And we need to do things to keep those coal-fired generators going as long as they can be continued but they can't run forever.
PAUL: All right, Liddell, and others, mooted to close. What's your stance on them? Do you think we should be closing down coal-fired power stations, and all maybe rebuilding newer ones that are more environmentally friendly, if that's the way to put it?
FITZGIBBON: Well three points there: you can't just keep operating a power station like Liddell which is 50 years old. It's run the end of its physical and economic life, it only runs at about 50 per cent of capacity at the moment, because it's so old. Two, it's really up to investors to determine how much they want to put into relatively younger generators, to keep them going. And three, again it’s up to investors to decide whether they want to build a new coal-fired generator. There are no rules against that. The problem there, Marcus, is that renewables are growing quickly and they can dispatch very, very cheaply. And you need about a 40-year return at least on a coal-fired generator to get your money back with a profit. And given we don’t know what the energy system is going to look like in 10 years – let alone 20, 30, 40 years - people will be very reluctant to invest in coal-fired generators. But what Anthony Albanese importantly said yesterday - reaffirmed really because it's been a long term policy - we will support carbon capture and storage, which means that coal generators and gas projects can capture and bury the carbon in the ground, in the early years with the support of a government fund, which makes it more viable.
PAUL: Alright Joel, good to talk to you on this. We'll continue the conversation no doubt into the future, but it's great to have you on the program. Family well? Grace is kicking goals here at Nine, I see, you must be so proud.
FITZGIBBON: She has all her mother's skills and talents, thanks Marcus. We're very proud.
PAUL: What does she get from you.
FITZGIBBON: Well, umm…
PAUL: Maybe she’s a decent golfer?
PAUL: Confidence, okay. I’m sure she does, mate, I’m sure she does. It's wonderful to see - Grace and I, you know, just great friends from our time together in Canberra and I watch her reports and I just feel so proud, and if I feel proud, God, I can just imagine how you and your family feel. Good to talk to you.
FITZGIBBON: Thanks very much Marcus.