Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of doorstop interview: Melbourne: 16 October 2015: $30 million agreement for City of Melbourne to reduce emissions and power prices; Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Infrastructure project; 2030 emissions target

Download PDFDownload PDF

The Hon. Greg Hunt MP Minister for the Environment


16 October 2015



Topics: $30 million agreement for City of Melbourne to reduce emissions and power prices, Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Infrastructure project, 2030 emissions target

GREG HUNT: Look I'm delighted to be here with the Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, with Councillor Arron Wood, and to announce that the Commonwealth of Australia and the City of Melbourne will be entering into a $30 million agreement to reduce the city's emissions, to upgrade its lighting, and to make this magnificent city even more sustainable.

Essentially the agreement will focus on three parts.

Firstly, an upgrade for $15 million of the LED lights across Melbourne. We're expecting 16,000 overhead lights to be replaced over the coming years.

We are proving $10 million for Melbourne's world leading Environmental Upgrade Agreements with city firms.

And there's a further $5 million for solar panels to be placed in iconic spaces and other environmental initiatives to be pursued by the city.

So it's a five year agreement. It allows the city to do things that would otherwise not have been achievable.

It's reducing emissions, it's taking pressure off electricity prices - therefore they can help keep rates down.

And at the same time it's helping Australia to achieve its minus 26-28 per cent - quite significant reductions - in the period between now and 2030.

So - the right thing by the planet and the right thing by the residents of Melbourne. Over to you Rob.

ROBERT DOYLE: Thank you Minister. I want to thank Minister Greg Hunt and his Department for their work with us, Councillor Arron Wood who has driven this through the portfolio, and our CEO who has also done a wonderful job in liaising with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation for us.

This is just great news for the City of Melbourne. This is work that we would've liked to have done but wouldn't be able to do for many years in the future.

So in the next five years you will see 16,000 sometimes very old fashioned mercury vapour street lights being replaced by LED.

Now these old street lights in fact have to be disposed of extremely carefully, that's the nature of that sort of lighting.

And we're going to the most efficient and the most clean street lighting throughout the municipality.

So it's a wonderful announcement.

And in fact, as we often find in sustainability, this will save us money.

When we have installed over the next few years 16,000 LED lights, that will save us over a million dollars every year in our electricity costs.

And when you consider that these new lights have twice the lifespan of existing lights then you start to see why accelerating this sustainability initiative is so important to us.

The Minister also mentioned the Sustainable Melbourne Fund - it's been a remarkable success.

In a fairly small [inaudible] with $6 million, it's now turned that over four times. In other words it's loaned it out for retrofitting of buildings and then got it back, loaned it out, four times over.

But we know they have something like $44 million worth of projects in the pipeline. So an extra $10 million for the Sustainable Melbourne Fund will help them to drive those projects in building retrofits.

And finally, we will release next year our emissions plan, and there is an amount of money in there.

And we begin with solar arrays for instance on the Carlton Baths, but there'll be other initiatives that we'll be able to bring forward as a result of this remarkable partnership between the Federal Government and ourselves.

So it's good for the city, not just for our sustainability, but also for our prosperity.

And when you add those two things together - prosperity and sustainability - that's where you get liveability.

We want to stay the world's most liveable city. This helps us keep that mantle.

JOURNALIST: Councillor Doyle, LED lights have a very specific look and some people don't like that they're very white. And do you expect any backlash, or will you be putting any filters over them, or is there any talk about that?

ROBERT DOYLE: No, we will make sure that the luminaire that goes around them does take off some of that harshness.

And look they are bright but the reality is in the future there is the possibility of smart technologies that goes with LEDs, and that's some way away yet - but we have built that capacity into the units so that in the future they won't be that sort of light.

JOURNALIST: Do you mean things like flashing multi-colours at Christmas and Grand Final week?

ROBERT DOYLE: As long as it was Geelong and we could make it blue and white throughout the city I think that's an excellent idea. Otherwise probably not.

But no, things like dimmers so it softens the light, or even in spaces where there are no people and there's no movement - turn them off when they're not needed to save even more.

So there is smart technology that will take us a while to work our way through, but that will be an added bonus to these lights in the future.

That's - what we're doing is we are future proofing the city, thinking ahead even for technologies which aren't available right now.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hunt, has this technology being implemented nationwide before, or is it going to be? Is there scope for that?


Well the upgrade of lights to LED through our cities is one of the things we want to encourage.

And firstly there is the Emissions Reduction Fund which is an opportunity.

Secondly there are loan agreements such as this one.

The third thing, which is very interesting, is the Lighting Council held discussions with me just this week about the possibility of a progressive phase out of mercury vapour and halogen lights and a progressive move towards LED.

They were themselves discussing and proposing a possible regulatory measure. So I have invited them to come back and to talk about that.

There are tens of millions of tonnes of emissions reduction which could be produced throughout the period from 2020 to 2030 if we migrate not just our public space lights but also our domestic lights to LED.

Lower bills and lower emissions - it's a very good combination.

JOURNALIST: Minister, given that you're proudly announcing this worthy cause through the CEFC, what is your position now on that body?

Are you still minding to abolish it, or are you warming to the idea that it is actually quite a useful thing for Australia?


Look there are really two things, and it's an entirely fair question. The first is, our long-term position hasn't changed, but I'm utterly realistic about our position in the Senate.

So I suspect it will be with us for a long while - therefore we unashamedly want to make the most and best use of it.

We've created an Office of Climate Change and Renewables Innovation under Malcolm Turnbull and myself - that's deliberately aimed at bringing the CEFC, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and the Clean Energy Regulator into an area where they work together to produce programs and projects such as this.

At the end of the day we can get better bang for our buck out of the Renewable Energy Target and out of the Emissions Reduction Fund by working with these agencies.

JOURNALIST: Do you feel this announcement is a little jarring, given yesterday you approved a mine, the Adani Carmichael Mine, which will emit 128 million tonnes of CO2 at capacity - whereas this is 0.08 per cent of that over 10 years.

I mean we're going to need a lot more light bulbs and trees, aren't we, to offset that, aren't we?


No, not at all. They're questions you might respectfully take up with the Queensland State Labor Government.

The project is a Queensland Bligh Government project. It's endorsed and championed by the Palaszczuk Government.

I think it's important to understand that the Federal Government has policy responsibility in many areas. The Federal Environment Act though operates like a judge's court list.

You don't get to choose what comes before you. You don't have a discretion about whether you like or dislike something.

It's a legal and scientific assessment against the matters of national environmental significance under the Federal Environment Act.

The advice was clear, categorical and absolute from the Department of the Environment that on the matters of national environmental significance, this project - which is 300 kilometres inland, remote, outback, dry, dusty - clearly absolutely met the federal matters of national environmental significance.

JOURNALIST: So you don't think climate change, caused by the emissions this coal will create, as being much of a national environmental significant for Australia?


Well it's what the law says.

And the law describes and absolutely sets out the terms on which I am entitled and allowed to assess.

And any other decision would certainly, in my view, have been invalidated by a court.

JOURNALIST: Just finally on this, in terms of fossil fuels, we saw BP's senior economist this week coming out saying he expects most of the world's oil had to be left in the ground for environmental reasons.

Why doesn't the Australian Government position itself even with big petroleum companies like BP saying that it cannot burn everything that we have in terms of fossil fuel?


All that the planet knows is the total volume of emissions - it doesn't know the source of it, the type of it.

And so what we're doing, as a country, is we're reducing our emissions by minus 26-28 per cent.

We are reducing our emissions by 52 per cent in per capita terms.

That is the highest reduction of any G20 country. The highest.

And so no other country is doing more on a per capita basis.

At a global level we then go to Paris, pushing for a global rainforest recovery agreement, for a good global outcome.

And it's the total volume of emissions which matters.

We'll achieve the 2 per cent target - is my view. That will come out of the Paris process.

It may not be the immediate sum total of all of the pledges, but Paris won't stop at just the pledges.

It will then go forward to reviews, most probably on a 5-yearly basis, which will deliver the two degree outcome and that's what matters to the planet.

JOURNALIST: Are you expecting any further challenges to that project?


Look, every decision under the Federal Environment Act is subject to challenge from disappointed proponents or opponents and so the nature of this is that it's like being a judge.

You can only make decisions on the law and on the facts, it's not a discretion.

I see that the Federal Labor Party has endorsed and embraced the decision, the Queensland Labor Party has endorsed and embraced the decision, the Queensland Opposition has endorsed and embraced the decision.

For myself, I simply make it as a judge on the facts and on the law.

JOURNALIST: Will you be pushing ahead with legislation to ban green groups from challenging projects like that in court?


Well actually there is a very, very strong national standard which is in line with global standards - that is under the Administrative Decisions Judicial Review Act.

We will let the process run through the Senate as it currently is. I am realistic that it's unlikely to pass the Senate.

JOURNALIST: Lord Mayor, when will the new lights start going up and how long will the program take?

ROBERT DOYLE: Sixteen-thousand is a lot. So we will try it over the next three years. If it takes us a little longer than that, that's still better than we were hoping for and, you know...


These are the...

ROBERT DOYLE: ... it's not like changing a light bulb. It's a little more complex than that. But you can see, it's a remarkable piece of technology. But 16,000 of these throughout the municipality.


Lord Mayor looks like a modern Moses with this tablet for the future.

JOURNALIST: How much do these sort of lights cost?

ROBERT DOYLE: That's a very good question; you'll have to do a very quick short division of 16,000 into 14.8 million.

JOURNALIST: While we're doing that I've got another question for Greg Hunt, which is - the Department taking into consideration the skink and the snake, how is this approval different to the last one?


So what we have done of course is adopt all of the previous initiatives - and we've added to them, in particular in relation to what's called the Doongmabulla Springs, we've added an additional very significant safeguard of a 0.2 metre - or 20 centimetre - draw-down as a limit.

That is arguably one of the strictest, most onerous conditions in Australian history.

So there's more than 31,000 hectares of offsets set aside in relation to the black throated finch and almost 6000 hectares of offsets set aside in relation to both the yakka skink and ornamental snake together.

JOURNALIST: In regards to those strict conditions though - how are they strict? There has been some criticism that those restrictions are often not followed.


Well there is a capacity and power as Minister for the Environment to terminate or suspend the project, if they are not followed through.

There have to be two additional statements of compliance before the project can commence - one is a water management plan, one is an offset plan.

JOURNALIST: And now the mines are yet to secure finance, was that taken into account?


Well those issues of financing are not matters under the Federal Environment Act.

The Federal Environment Act is a strict law, it is a judge's court list for which we have to deal and the matters of national environmental significance are set out under the EPBC.

So there are environmental matters and then there are financing matters which are really a matter for the Queensland Government.

They are the proponent. They are the legal proponent of this project as it relates to the port.

And so I respectfully encourage you to speak with Premier Palaszczuk.

JOURNALIST: Are you allowed to give an indication of when that project might start?


I'll leave that for the Queensland Government as the proponent of the port component and for further questions.

QUESTION: Just on the Paris talks - are you expecting any awkward conversations with Pacific Island leaders who have called Australia selfish for the continued embrace of coal mining?

G7 leaders have committed to phase out fossil fuels over this century. Do you expect there to be robust conversations around Australia when it comes to mining or do you think that...


I've actually had many discussions with colleagues in this space.

I think they have been delighted and pleasantly surprised by the minus 26-28 per cent reduction.

The highest per capita reductions in the world.

Australians should be proud and some of those who want to denounce our own country might perhaps want to reflect that we're one of the few countries to have met and beaten our Kyoto one targets.

We will meet and beat our Kyoto two targets, despite many of the pundits on the left having said that we never happen.

But we now all know that it will happen.

And that now we take a third round of targets - the Paris targets of minus 26 to minus 28 per cent - which are the best in the G20, the best of any comparable developed country on a per capita basis.

That's something of which Australians should rightly be proud and of which the world has been pleasantly surprised and delighted.

Okay thank you very much.