Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Lateline (Early) -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) This program is live captioned by Ericsson Access Services.

Good evening. Tonight - taking flat pack furniture to the next level. A big idea for the tiny houses of the future.Someone can just use a drill with - there's quite a few different bits that go on it and simple hammer and just a wrench and can put it all together.It's like IKEA on steroids really, isn't it?It is IKEA on steroids. IKEA on structural steroids.That's coming up. But first it's been a long, dark commute home for thousands of South Australians this evening after the entire State lost power in an unprecedented blackout this afternoon. Electricity isn't expected to be fully restored until the morning at the earliest. State and federal governments as well as SA's electricity provider are already facing a barrage of questions about just how it came to this. Severe storms have lashed the State with reports of tornados in some areas. With traffic lights out there's been peak hour gridlock, trains and trams have been shut down and flights have been delayed. There are also reports of some people stuck in elevators. South Australians are being warned to prepare for a loss of mobile coverage with towers and exchanges likely to have already run out of back-up power. Many took the blackout in their stride taking to social media to share their photos of candlelit dinners. 40% of SA's power-generation now comes from renewable sources. Premier Jay Weatherill insists there's no issue with a lack of base load power. Joining me now to discuss this is Tony Wood. He's the director of the energy program at the Grattan Institute and he released a report on SA's power-generation just this month. Tony Wood, welcome to Lateline.Hello.What do you understand about how this came about?I think the best information available that I've seen is there was this major storm and in major storms various things can happen. So what happened in this case is one of the major transmission lines appears to have been affected by lightning strike. Now what happens in those circumstances is that the system then needs to protect the rest of the system against power surges, big problems. I suspect many of us in our homes would be aware of surge protection devices in our appliances, it's like a big version of that. The whole system goes into protection mode. I've never heard of this happening to quite this extent before but it's not impossible, obviously, it has happened. So what's now happened is the rest of the system has shut down to make sure there's no physical damage to everything else. Clearly the consequences are really serious, back-up generators are supposed to come on in emergency services, hospitals and so forth. Most of them, I'm sure, worked well. But that's the nature of it. There was no problem with the interconnection with Victoria, that was not involved, nor, as far as I'm aware, were any of the power stations themselves physically involved in the system. They were just all automatically shut down basically as a system protection.No other State generates as much of its power from renewable sources as SA does. Tonight the Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, said that heavy reliance on mostly wind power raises questions for the stability of the system. What do you say to that? Look, it's not so much the wind power itself. The fact that wind can sometimes be unavailable, that is it's called intermittent power and we saw this happen in July. When the wind wasn't available other things were needed to back up the unavailability of wind, in that case it was gas-fired power and the price was very high. Now that's what happened then and there are concerns to ensure that we have the various systems in place in the circumstances where we are dependent upon intermittment supplies to ensure we have continuity and reliability of electricity. My understanding is that none of those issues were involved in the incident that occurred this evening. This was fundamentally associated with serious damage to transmission lines. Whether or not there had been wind farms or whether they'd been gas or coal-fired power stations under those circumstances may not have made any difference. But until we know the full details it would be erroneous and very misleading to suggest anybody or anything is to blame until we know the full extent. Minister Frydenberg says he's now keen to convene a meeting of the COAG energy Council, that is State and Federal energy ministers, what should be the priority?If you separate from these thoughts the incident of this evening, because until we know what occurred then you don't know what the causes might be and therefore what should be done to stop it happening again in SA or anywhere else. However, there are bigger issues and Minister Frydenberg on Sunday night said on the television that his concern was that this was a warning signal. What happened in July was a warning signal that high dependence on intermittent power may be a problem. Now what we've said is the first thing you've got to do is work out what's causing all this fundamentally. Fundamentally it's about introducing wind power to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. We still have to do that. What we have to do is make sure we do it in a way that ensures that our system remains reliable and secure. And I think that's what Minister Frydenberg's talking about, bringing the COAG ministers together to make sure that we've planned for this. Because what's happened in SA, unfortunately, a different issue tonight but equally putting much more weight on the concerns is that we need to seriously think about the way this whole system is connected, we've never thought about all of our States being connected in the same way we've now seen and making sure that we have planned all this so we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions but also ensure that we maintain a reliable system. I don't think tonight's event was associated with that but it is important that Minister Frydenberg does bring the ministers together to put in place the sort of actions that are necessary.Just briefly, what are the questions in your mind that now need to be answered as a result of what's happened?Again, separating the two issues. The first thing is why did the system basically cascade from what appears to have been a single transmission line failure due to lightning, to the entire State of SA being shut down. That is highly unusual, I'm sure there will be lots of technical people, much more skilled than I, who will analyse that and report back very quickly to the Government and what should be done about that. The second issue, however, and I think this is a much more important long-term issue is to ensure that we've seriously understood what sort of climate change policies we need because what the other incidents, particularly in July, highlighted, we've got a bit of a mishmash. And I think it's very important that the Federal Government and the State and Territory governments put together a comprehensive and credible plan for climate change. Then we can work out what we're going to do to ensure that if we are going to have a lot of wind or solar power, we can accommodate that. We've got it the wrong way around and we've got to fix that.Tony Wood, thank you for your time.Thank you.

The Government's decision this week to water down the proposed backpacker tax was just the latest in a raft of policy changes since the election. The compromise on $6 billion of savings measures was forced by Labor but the back packer tax backdown and the changes to superannuation policy were largely driven by Malcolm Turnbull's own backbench, who have been given in - inord nant power. One of those who has been most vocal is Queensland LNP member George Christensen who threatened to blow up the party unless the Government bowed to his demands. He's one of the most ardent opponents in government on same-sex marriage. He joined me earlier. George Christensen, thank you for your time.Thanks, Emma.Do you think some seats could have been saved at the election had the Treasurer and the PM made these changes to the backpacker tax sooner?Well, look, perhaps, you know, that really is a hypothetical. I'm not sure, I think that most of the farming community was still going to be voting how they would normally vote, perhaps there were some hiccups in the tourism community that would normally vote for us but I don't know that you could say that that was a one specific thing that would have cost us seats anywhere around the nation. I will leave that to the pollsters to work out.You told your Queensland constituents that you would actually quit the LNP if the backpacker tax went ahead. The Treasurer hasn't dumped it, are you still cross with him about that? Well look, there is no such thing, actually, as the backpacker tax. It's a nickname that's been given to the 32.5 cent in the dollar rate that's being applied to foreigners which is the normal tax rate that applies to foreigners. We have substantially changed that to 19 cents in the dollar, that's what the National Farmers' Federation called for, that's what Agforce have called for. So I'm happy with that.So you threatened to quit over the backpacker tax. You said you'd cross the floor if the superannuation proposals weren't wound back. You've won those arguments now. What's likely to be the next battle frond? - front?I don't go out of my way to pick fights with if the Government over policy. I'm a member of the Government, I support the general thrust of Government policy. There were those two key issues where I didn't and I think that, you know, it's one of the unfortunate things, I suppose, about party discipline, you know, the media and everyone else sort of have this expectation that we're all going to be, you know, robots and just conform, fall in line and do whatever the party machine tells us to do, but, you know, there are some issues which are sacrosanct to our base and to our electorate that we need to take stands on and, you know, it's one of those unfortunate things in the Australian system when you do that unfortunately it looks like it reflects bad on you on your government whereas in many other jurisdictions around the world this is the norm. Backbenchers do stand up for their electorate, for their values, for their constituencies, values and I think there should be more of it in Australia with a tight Parliament like this. I appreciate there would probably be the leadership of the Coalition not wanting more of it.L'Wren it comes to the education budget, the Minister Simon Birmingham has said that some private schools are overfunded and that there might be some room to move there. Do you agree with him?Yeah, look, there's probably some of the bigger private schools that, you know, that are overfunded. There's probably some in country areas, private schools that are underfunded actually, so I think we could look at the whole system. It would be interesting to look at it. And actually have a look at what, you know, dare I say it, Gonski, what Gonski really said because I think the translation from what Gonski actually really said to what the Gillard Government put out and said was Gonski was 2 completely different things and if we can have a relook at education funding to make it fairer for everyone, particularly for regional schools and schools with high proportionality of Indigenous kids. I mean they're the schools that do it tough because of the ratios of, I suppose, teachers to students. So I'd like to see some balance there. I think that in nearly all schools there probably should be some form of taxpayer funding to reflect the fact that we're all students, you know, and they're all studying. If you withdrew funding from private schools, and I know that's not what we're talking about here, but if you withdrew it, the burden on the public school sector would be immense and it would probably collapse. So I think that there is an argument that funding should follow students but it's just a quantum of funding that does follow them, particularly to those bigger schools who have enough of their own capital anyway that what the Federal Government supplies is really the cream on the cake rather than the bread and butter which a lot of country schools, whether they be public or private schools, actually struggle with.On the question of same-sex marriage, given the Government has been prepared to back down on its superannuation proposals and on the backpacker tax, why won't it consider abandoning or at least changing the parameters around the plebiscite?Well, the plebiscite is a way forward to an outcome and the outcome is a vote one way or another on the same-sex marriage question and I think that's, you know, is there anyone arguing that we shouldn't have a vote?I think what they're arguing is who should vote and the reality is it's not any more an election promise the electorate wants you to hold onto, according to today's poll in the Australian newspaper, 48% prefer a vote in the Parliament against 39% who want a plebiscite. The plebiscite isn't necessary and nor is it binding on the Parliament.Look, I appreciate that but that is the policy we took to the election and people I speak to are very happy to have a people's vote on this. I mean Labor have done a pretty good job over the last month or so in rubbishing, you know, the plebiscite and I think that's probably reflected in what we're seeing in the polls. But, you know, I still think it's the way forward. If Labor want the outcome of marriage equality, let the people have the say and if they pass it then we pass it in the Parliament. Labor says the real reason there can't be a vote in the Parliament is because you and others in the right wing of the party are holding a figurative gun to Malcolm Turnbull's head telling him that he's essentially dead meat if he dumps the plebiscite?I'd like to think that I have that much power. You know, there's a lot of people inside the Government, we all shared a view in the last term of Parliament about what should happen and where we landed was the plebiscite option. And for me, someone who is opposed to same-sex marriage, I've got to say, I thought that that was a big move putting something that I hold dear, the institution of marriage, in the hands of the Australian people to say you make a choice and if you make a choice as the polls suggest, and as the media continually tell us, that the majority of people want a change to the definition of marriage, well obviously I'm, you know, potentially jettisoning what I hold dear, the institution of marriage as it's currently defined. That's been a big move by many conservatives. So don't rule that out. We have made a major concession in actually saying let's take it to the people. If we have a referendum, a full-blown debate about all of the issues surrounding same-sex marriage, people can make an informed choice in the ballot box and the privacy of the ballot box and the cards will lay where they are. I think the real reason that the Labor Party is scared is that they perhaps think there might be a chance the public will vote no and that will leave them in a quandary because their proposal is, in future parliaments, where anyway have control, they will just ram same-sex marriage through the Parliament. They will probably look pretty stupid doing that and continuing with that policy if the public actually vote no on same-sex marriage.In the event that same-sex marriage is made legal in Australia, what sorts of religious exemptions would you be hoping to get through the Parliament, apart from the obvious one and that is churches being able to discriminate against who they don't want to marry?Well, obviously priests and ministers of churches need to be fully exempt, churches need to be exempt from actually being forced to have same-sex marriages performed inside churches and church property regardless of whether or not their local priest or minister or pastor is involved in it. As I said, pastors should have that out as well. But, you know, it goes further than that. What about the person of faith who is a wedding photographer or a wedding cake maker or owns a particular venue that just doesn't agree with same-sex marriage and that venue's called upon for a reception? Really you are then pitting people's right to freedom of belief, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion against another right, a right that's only just popped up in recent times and that is the so-called right to same-sex marriage and to identify your complete persona based on your sexual inclination and, you know, it's not a right that's actually stood the test of time. These other rights are ones that have stood the test of time and I hope that we are going to enshrine, if in the event same-sex marriage does become legal in Australia, we'll enshrine some form of religious liberty that's got to exist after it comes into effect. Because we've seen religious liberty actually railroaded in other countries where it's come into effect.So you're saying photographers who are, say, very religious, very Catholic, or cake makers could, under the law, legitimately refuse or deny service to same-sex couples?Well, not same-sex couples, can I just say, but if it was to participate in a same-sex marriage which their religious beliefs actually prohibit them from supporting -They're not participating in that occasion, they're just supplying to the party, shall we say.Well, they're participating in it in that form, if they're taking photos, providing the cake and decorations, there needs to be exemptions of people of faith to say "No, I don't want to participate in that event" otherwise, you know - Can you see how that would be terribly harmful and upsetting to same-sex couples?Can you see how it would be potentially harmful to people of faith that are actually forced against their conscience to go and do something like that? You know, it works both ways. I see that if you're going to not make an exemption for people of faith it's only going to be a short road to actually saying well, these churches have State-sanctioned marriage licences, these religious institutions have tax benefits so why are they exempt, we should require them to do it. It's just a bridge too far for me.George Christensen, thank you very much. Thank you.

If you've ever put together a piece of IKEA furniture then this next story will make you think the future has finally arrived, or make you run for the hills in terror. A Sydney architect has designed an entire home that comes as a flat pack and just like its Swedish inspiration, only needs a few tools and a bit of patience. The pay off is a 13 square metre off-the-grid home that comes with a price tag that's positively tiny. Alex Symes sees his not-for-profit organisation as a fresh way to live more sustainably.

So the process is pretty simple.In a corner of a mechanics garage in Sydney, architect Alex Symes is constructing an entire house with just 3 tools.Yeah, the idea is that someone can just use a drill with there's quite a few different bits that go on it, and simple hammer and just a wrench and can put it all togetherIt's like IKEA on steroids really, isn't it?It is IKEA on steroids. IKEA on structural steroids.Just like the Swedish giant, the effort is in the engineering. There's one type of screw, one type of bolt, and hey presto, 15 minutes later it's a wall panel. How many parts would that be? That's one of the 37 panels.The genius is when it all comes together.Well this impeccably constructed house is as clever and practical as it is beautiful.A breathtaking view, and architecture to match.Alex Symes has already attracted attention for his design skills. This award-winning beach house is one of his more up-market forays into sustainability. But this, this is sustainability on a small scale. So small it fits on a trailer.Everything comes on the trailer with its flat deck and it has all its services underneath, so all the water tanks.What have you got under there?We've got two portable water tanks, one greywater tank so all the wastewater effectively comes to the greywater tank. You add an additive to it and effectively that's safe to go onto your garden.And you've got gas cylinders there.So we've got the gas cylinders. They're for the cooking and also for hot water heating.And batteries.Batteries, so we've got the batteries at the back. They're linked to the solar PVs up the top there and that's effectively what runs all your lights and all your GPOs for your computers and things like this. Shall we go and have a look in side? The home isn't small in a physical sense, it's got a small eco footprint thanks to a rainwater tank, solar panels and battery back up. It means with a little effort, no more utility bills.So it's still under construction.Halfway through. We've got a few more days to effectively get it all done. But as you can see from when we were assembling the panel, everything is -This is one of those panels you built.You see all the structure there, you see all the bolts that fix it off and I suppose my idea behind exposing the electrical distribution board where you can see how much sort of power is left in the batteries is that people can understand how they use energy, how they use water, how they should actually operate with those systems and I believe by engaging with systems we can respect resources so much more and create environmental change.Joanne Jakovich is now working with Alex to create not just individual homes, but whole communities out of them. And is running a crowd funding campaign to get the ball rolling. So how much are people going to have to pay for this product?It's $65,000 at the moment for us to build with no margins the fwirs prototype product. Obviously when we scale that we will be able to reduce the price but that price includes everything you need for your - to get your house running. So it's all of your off-the-grid technologies, your trailer that the home sits on, all the structural systems, all of your white goods and just everything is included in that price. So you get a fully functional home.The next piece in the jigsaw is changing the way we look at our vacant land.In order for it to solve housing affordability question, we actually need to be able to cue reat land. Big blocks of land, say brownfield sites or other pieces of open land in which we can host these big world communities, which are these pop up communities where people who want to say spend a couple of years saving for their deposit or actually have a more flexible approach to their housing lifestyle, can live on-site on these curated communities. Architects like Tim Horton say this is part of a worldwide movement. China is 3D printing homes, Wikihouse lets you download DIY house plans. A disruption of the housing market is under way.This is happening around the world. Wikihouse chapters occur in every State of Australia, big in the US and UK. Big world homes in some way is Australia's answer to this. A home-grown version.And it's pretty clear what's driving it - rampant housing and construction costs and Australia's record as having the biggest homes in the world. 89 square metres a pop.We know that 1 square metre will cost between 4 and $6,000 to build. So if you're wealthy and you can afford lots of those, good luck to you. If you're like me and you can't, it's a question of how do we make the most of what we can afford at the time we can afford it. It also means that what we're doing is increasing diversity so it means it's easy to get into the market, as it were, and to start to fill in those rungs that have been missing. We're used to the idea of affordable housing, we may be familiar with established market housing, we often don't have too many connections from one to the other. What these guys are starting to do begins to connect the dots. Maybe also as we become the empty-nester the house shrinks to what we really need.Sell off the bittuous don't need.Sell off the bits you don't need. It's a more, dare I say it, more agile model for the housing market.Back at the garage, Alex Symes and his team are putting the finishing touches on the first Big World home. You're almost at the finish line, how does it feel?It feels more like we're just at the starting blocks, like we're just finished this particular stage which is doing the prototype and making sure that the proof of concept works. But tomorrow we introduce it to the world and hopefully people get onboard and go yeah, this is a really amazing thing that we think can provide sustainable housing that's affordable for people.There is a long road ahead. First stop is the Sydney architecture festival which kicks off tomorrow. But further ahead, well, the future seems almost certain to have this in it. After all, we've already got pop-up shops and pop-up restaurants. Why not pop-up communities?The idea of having this off-grid home that can be driven in, have a pop-up community, drive it somewhere else, have another pop-up community and also solves affordability problem is our dream and we want to share it with everyone.

It tows nice and quiet.Awesome.You wouldn't want to be ending up with all those extra screws and things when you were putting together something like that. That's all we've got time for tonight. You can find all of Lateline stories and interviews at our website. Goodnight.

This program is not captioned.