Transcript - Television Interview - Sky News - Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Transcript - Television Interview - Sky News - Tuesday, 15 September 2020 Main Image

By Joel Fitzgibbon

14 September 2020

PETER GLEESON, HOST: Well joining me now is the Shadow Resources Minister and Member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. Joel, thanks for joining us tonight. Well there you saw it, the Prime Minister very much putting his foot on the gas. What did you make of that announcement today?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER: Good to be with you, Gleeso. Well, better late than never is what I would say. I've been arguing the case for this approach to both our electricity sector and our gas sector for more than three years now. AGL gave us plenty of notice that they’d be taking Liddell out of the system data split by by 2022 – 23. Rather than embrace this earlier the Prime Minister has been playing politics in the last election promising to extend Liddell, knowing of course that was never going to happen, Gleeso. I'm very familiar with the plant, I know the guys that work there. I know they know that she can’t go beyond 50 years of age. So here we are, three years late, finally developing a plan to go put some gas-generated electricity into the system, to firm-up a system which is increasingly dominated by the renewable sector.
GLEESON: All right. We still got Joel?
FITZGIBBON: I’m still here, Gleeso.
GLEESON: Yeah, gotcha. All right. So Matt Canavan has come out today, Joel, and said that he doesn't see a necessity for that gas pipeline from Central Queensland to your electorate in the Hunter. And yet the, you know, the Prime Minister's also suggesting that there should be coal-fired power stations. Your thoughts?
FITZGIBBON: [inaudible] being made today is that Scott Morrison hasn’t kept faith with his pre-election commitment, and anyone who knows these issues intricately, as I do, knows that Scott Morrison was never going to keep that promise. Liddell was never going to be extended. And look Matt likes to ham it up, talking about coal-fired generation. There's no law against it, Gleeso. Someone can build a col-fired generator in the Hunter Valley, tomorrow. Matt Canavan can bring $3 billion or more to the table, if he likes, but the truth is investors aren’t interested in building new-coal fired generators in part because you need about, at least a forty-year return on coal-fired generation and we don't know what the system is going to look like in 10 years let-alone in 40 or 50 years on. So, that will continue to play - the politics are all focused on ensuring that the Hunter region remains the powerhouse of New South Wales. I want two gas-fired generators here, as Liddell comes out of the system. I want pumped hydro, and AGL continues to do its feasibility study on that in the Upper Hunter. We want big battery storage. With these initiatives, and getting some more gas into the system to fuel those generators, we can create jobs here in Hunter region, and deliver to industry, including our manufacturing sector, reliable and affordable energy.
GLEESON: Well the Labor Party have come out with their policy around renewables, and of course has set this 2050 target for no emissions, which I think is very clever, considering that that there’ll be no one in Parliament that's there now, in 2050, you'd have to think. But Joel, on coal – just on coal and that messaging, you guys you've got to acknowledge, you've got this mob called LEAN, who are obviously lefties who are very keen to sort of ease out of coal and you've only got to look at Twitter and see that no one supports coal from the left of the Labor Party. And yet, intrinsically, we saw sites like Flynn, and Capricornia go to the LNP. Now these are, you know, Gladstone and coal mining towns like Clermont are part of those particular electorates. You guys should be winning those seats and you'll have to win those seats if you want to get reelected. But at the moment that mixed-messaging around coal is definitely impacting on people's perceptions in those areas.
FITZGIBBON: I'll reminded you first of all that out commitment in 2050 is net zero emissions. That doesn't mean you're not producing any emissions, it means that in "net" terms, you're offsetting whatever emissions you might be putting into the atmosphere. But you're right, so we did send mixed messages last election campaign, mainly driven by the Adani issue. That was a mistake, and I hope we've learned from it. But the fact is that coal-fired generators do eventually come to the end of their economic and physical life - Liddell will do that a couple of years’ time. I think Queensland there are -  the youngest generator in Queensland, was only commissioned in 2007. It'll be around for a long, long time, as will others, and Labor has been supportive by backing carbon capture and storage, which I hope will extend the life of some of those younger coal generators. But Liddell is 1960s technology, which is 50 years old, and you can’t apply carbon capture to a plant like that – you can retrofit it or anything like that, some of the younger ones will be able to do. But the reality is they will all come to the end of their life at some point, and we've got to make sure the best way to get more renewables into the system is to replace that firming power as the coal generators depart, and the only way to do that at the moment with current technologies is with gas, pump hydro, and of course, you can firm up with battery technology as well. I spent the last three years working with my colleagues and with industry to ensure that the Hunter Valley is very much part of that new plan.
GLEESON: Now, I know this is a state issue, but I got to ask you this question because a couple of your federal colleagues, Anthony Chisholm and of course Shayne Neumann, have been very strong on this. They're supportive of the stage three of the Acland Coal Mine in regional Queensland. But of course the Palaszczuk Government has made it very clear that it won't be approving that particular stage three where there are 600 jobs at stake. What would you say to the Palaszczuk Government now, we're five weeks out seven weeks out from an election?
FITZGIBBON: And I've also been very clear that the Queensland Government should approve stage new Acland. New Hope's done a very important proposal there. It would be good for the community; good for jobs. She says two things: one, she made an election commitment not to approve it until all legal proceedings were dispensed with. So, she feels she's got a commitment to the electorate – I understand that. But, the fact is that, despite the High Court challenge brought on activists – a local environmental group – there's nothing stopping the Queensland Government from approving Acland tomorrow. It would be the company to decide whether they take the risk of starting a project only to lose a court case in the High Court down the track, and I know they're prepared to take that risk because I also know that they are very, very confident of defeating that High Court challenge.
GLEESON: Sure. Great to see it tonight Joel Fitzgibbon. Thanks for joining us.

FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure. Thanks.