CHRIS KENNY, HOST: Across and up to the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and catch up with Labor backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon. Good to talk to you again, Joel. I wanted to catch up again because there's been a few developments when it comes to this coal debate. We had a coal energy analyst, Tim Buckley, on the program earlier in the week talking about how ANZ had pulled its funding from the Port of Newcastle. He was basically saying coal is dying, this is just a portent of what's happening to the industry. I see you shaking your head. We know that coal is going to be a massive export industry for this country for decades to come. All the estimates suggest that even if coal does die out in 50 years, the demand globally over the next three or four decades is forecast to be very, very high, isn't it?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: That's exactly right, Chris. We will be exporting both thermal and coking coal, metallurgical coal, for a number of decades. We are still exporting nearly 30 billion dollars’ worth of thermal coal every year and around 43 billion dollars of metallurgical coal. And look, this mythical green steel thing is still many decades away. And the emerging nations of Asia will want all of our iron ore and all of our coking coal that they need to build, rebuild their nations, all the steel they can get their hands on. Thermal coal, I mean seaborne thermal coal trade, in volume terms doubled between 2006 and 2019. Hundreds of coal-fired power generators are being built throughout Asia because those big growing nations, Chris, need all the coal, gas, nuclear, wind and solar energy they can get their hands on. So, all this talk about transition is rubbish. Sure, our power generation sector here in Australia is in transition, to the extent that when coal-fired power generators come to the end of their physical and economic lives, they close. Liddell in my electorate in a couple of years’ time, the youngest one in Queensland in 50 years’ time, but what we now know more than ever is that we can't afford government policies that close those power generators, those coal fired power generators, any earlier than the end of their physical lives, because if we do so, we will pay a very heavy price both in terms of the stability of our electricity grid, and in terms of prices, both for households and for industry.
KENNY: Which brings me to my next point, and that is how this is playing out in party politics in Australia. You've got the New South Wales Coalition Government that are committed to net-zero by 2050. But on the other side of the country in the lead up to an election in Western Australia, the young Opposition Leader there, Zak Kirkup, he said they can get to net-zero in Western Australia by 2030. Have a look at what he had to say about conflict with federal government policy.
*Audio of Zak Kirkup*
We're not fundamentally at odds at all. The reality is the Prime Minister has set an ambitious target for where Australia needs to be. What we're saying is that as a state government, we have a target now of 2030.
KENNY: Well, Western Australia is not in the national electricity grid, of course. It runs its own race, but how realistic is Zak Kirkup?
FITZGIBBON: Well, young Zak, Chris is going to close down the WA economy. Basically, if he wants zero net emissions by 2030, he wants to precipitously close the coal-fired generators. Now, we've had solar power enter the national market, not the national market, but across the country we've had 13,000 megawatts of solar come into the system in the last two years. That's 43 Collie power stations, Chris. Collie, of course, being the three or four hundred megawatt station he wants to close in WA. So, across the country, the equivalent of 43 Collie power stations in solar terms has come into the system, and yet this bloke is impatient, and he wants to close the coal-fired generators in Western Australia. Generators, which are so important to the stability of their own grid, so important to putting downward pressure on prices. But of course, if he wants zero-net emissions by 2030, he's not just talking about the electricity generation sector, he's going to do a lot more harm in other sectors than that.
KENNY: Yeah, yeah, spot on. Thanks for joining us, Joel. I appreciate it.
FITZGIBBON: A pleasure, Chris.