MIKE PRITCHARD, HOST: Sky News reported there's a leak in a leaked document. Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley could be kept open for another few years, spending $300 million, the federal government spending $300 million on extending the life of Liddell power station. The station is due to close in 2023. But there seems to be this report that suggests it may be open, which has made the local member Joel Fitzgibbon angry about the report and the decision that if they are going to make that recommendation from the task force of Liddell, that is going to put extra pressure on the rate payers as well. And there are other means of supplying secure power for the state and the country. Here's a little of what he had to say when I caught up with him a little earlier this morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: I'm angry, Mike. I'm angry because this again exposes the cruel hoax the Morrison government, and before that the Turnbull government, were perpetrating upon our community. Now, all of us have had some experience with a machine that's coming to the end of its life – a car, washing machine, a lawn mower, you name it, and Liddell is old and she is at the end of physical and economic life and to keep her going would take so much money. It's ridiculous. They say its $300 million in the report; that's only the machine. AGL will also have to, or someone would have to, spend at least $150 million upgrading the environmental measures around the plants. So, $450 million to keep a plant running for an extra few years but not delivering any reliability because the report warns that even with the money, she won't be particularly reliable. Liddell, at the moment, often only runs at about 50 per cent capacity because of her age. Now, why we're trying to work with a range of people to attract the investment to build and develop new technologies, battery storage, gas, pump hydro in the Upper Hunter so we can remain the powerhouse of New South Wales but this interference being run by the government is distracting from that effort. We're at risk of losing the jobs that will be long term for a political stunt which will maintain a few jobs for just a few years. And remember, a lot of people in Liddell have now made their plans. They can either take the redundancy – voluntary redundancies or move to Bayswater. This false hope just distracts from their lifelong planning as well and its crew and I'm angry about it.
PRITCHARD: What's your understanding of legitimacy of this report?
FITZGIBBON: These are the facts, Mike. This is a report written by experts at federal and state level. I've been told for months there was a fight going on between the feds and the states on the panel, and this I think tells us what that was all about. Now, we also know the Minister has the draft report, but he's sitting on it. He'd be like a rabbit in a spotlight. Now, he wants to perpetrate the idea that the government can magically keep Liddell – 50 years old – alive longer. But the report tells him $300 million, if not $400 million, would be ridiculous as it is. Imagine what we could do in our community, Mike, with $450 million. There is the Singleton Bypass or Muswellbrook Bypass, other job creating projects, other roads, other bridges, and other community facilities. It's just silly to spend $450 million of taxpayers’ money, potentially – that's not been made clear. I think government would like AGL to spend $450 million; well that is not going to happen. That would be a dumb decision frowned upon by shareholders. So, if the government's going spend $450 million in the Upper Hunter, let's be sensible about how we spend it. Let's get some long term jobs.
PRITCHARD: So, is this about affordable power, cheaper power? Is that what they aim by doing this? Or is this just a populist decision?
FITZGIBBON: It's just a populist thing designed to demonstrate how supportive the government is coal-fired generation, how determined the government is to keep coal-fired generation alive and, of course, they're trying to tell people it's about our energy prices in our homes. But it's nothing about energy prices at all. It's not going to make any difference and indeed, we know that even after the investment if it were to be made, Liddell would be remain an unreliable provider of energy.
PRITCHARD: Joel Fitzgibbon, the local member there, taking a closer look at that leaked report that we're hearing from Sky News.