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Transcript of doorstop interview: 11 November 2007: Australian Technical College for Mayo; stormwater reuse at Adelaide airport; climate change; Julia Gillard; Nauru.



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MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS HON ALEXANDER DOWNER, MP

TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE

DATE: 11 November, 2007

TITLE: Doorstop - Australian Technical College for Mayo, stormwater reuse at Adelaide Airport, climate change, Julia Gillard, Nauru.

MR DOWNER: I just want to make a couple of announcements on behalf of the Coalition campaign which are relevant to South Australia. First of all, I’m delighted to say that after discussions with the Prime Minister and with Andrew Robb, who’s the Minister for Vocational and Further Education, that a re-elected Coalition Government will build a new technical college with two campuses - one in the Adelaide Hills and the other in the southern Fleurieu region - with one administration. This will be an investment in the region of around $25 million and will provide a very big boost to trades training opportunities for young people living in the Adelaide Hills and the Fleurieu Peninsula. I think we really need to put more emphasis intro trades and technical education and particularly in regional and rural South Australia, as well as other parts of the nation. This will be a major boost to the Adelaide Hills and to the Fleurieu Peninsula. It’s a very big investment - $25million - and I make this point: this will only happen if the Coalition is re-elected. Labor is committed to abolishing plans for Australian Technical Colleges, they don’t want to proceed with them and that will be a setback for the region.

Secondly and very importantly, I just want to say that the Federal Government is prepared to support a project which has been promoted by Adelaide Airport, of all people, but a project which I think is a very visionary project to address the issue of water in South Australia. I think water is a major issue for this election campaign and it should be and we have a significant commitment as a Coalition to addressing the issue of water in the state of South Australia. The proposal to take water from Brownhill Creek and Sturt Creek and to have that water put into an aquifer at Adelaide Airport provides an opportunity for massive water storage, somewhere in the vicinity of 55 gigalitres a year, bearing in mind Adelaide uses somewhere between 150-180 gigalitres a year, this will represent an enormous increase in the level of water security in South Australia. So we are prepared to make a commitment to put

together with Adelaide Airport and with other interested parties, a feasibility study. We believe it is feasible, we think it can be done at a total cost of between $30-40 million. It will be a tremendous boost towards water security in South Australia and I think its incumbent on a Federal Government - and that’s what we’re doing - but also other levels of government to make sure that they work on imaginative, innovative ideas to improve the water security of this state. South Australia is vastly dependent on the River Murray and we have to start thinking about other sources of water. Much has been said about a desalination plant and we’ve said that we are prepared to support a desalination plant - we have to look at the details

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once the State Government has finished working them out and I know it is doing that at the moment - but in addition, this Adelaide Airport proposal for water storage, a massive amount of water storage, is going to be a very important step forward for water security in South Australia.

JOURNALIST: Has the Federal Government (inaudible)?

MR DOWNER: Well we would be prepared to put money into that project. There’s no doubt about that. Obviously first and foremost the final feasibility work will have to be done with Adelaide Airport Limited, other interest parties, which will include of course the State Government but we’re talking here of a cost of somewhere in the vicinity of $30-40 million and we would certainly be prepared to make a contribution to make sure that project

(inaudible).

JOURNALIST: How quickly (inaudible)?

MR DOWNER: Well the feasibility study will have to be done so obviously there’s some pre-feasibility work that’s been done already that’s why we’re focusing on it. But I think this is a project that can go ahead pretty quickly. We’d hope that within a couple of years this project could be well underway.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MR DOWNER: Well that would have to be assessed (inaudible). In the first instance, it would obviously be water that could be used readily for watering parks and gardens, recreational facilities. It might be in time that it could be used to supplement drinking water or it might mean that you need to use much less of the water that is currently used to carry and

(inaudible) for recreational purposes because you can use this water for those purposes. But all of that will have to be worked through.

JOURNALIST: How important is that (inaudible)?

MR DOWNER: I think it is enormously important. I think South Australia faces a major water security problem. I have to say personally that I’ve been arguing this case for 25 years that this state, particularly Adelaide, is far too dependent on the River Murray. We’ve got to make better use of water run-off into the sea from the metropolitan area. About 100 gigalitres a year of water flows just off rooftops and down creeks through Adelaide and out in the sea and if we can capture more of that water and this plan captures 55 gigalitres of water, that is going to make a very big difference to South Australia’s water security. You have to strengthen South Australia’s water security. You can have a debate about whether the drought was caused by climate change. Maybe it is caused by climate change and certainly climate change is a reality and the CSIRO says that the south and south-east and south-west of Australia will be drier in the future as a result of climate change. We need to take that seriously and we need to take steps to deal with it and improving South Australia’s water security and being less dependent on the River Murray is a very important step forward.

JOURNALIST: Based on the (inaudible) feasibility studies that have been done, how

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confident are you that this could actually go ahead?

MR DOWNER: I’m very confident. We wouldn’t be talking about it if we weren’t confident about the credibility of the project. There have been much smaller projects, as you’d be aware, that have been implemented already that is taking run-off water and pumping it back into the aquifers and then of course you can in time draw on that water. But this of course, in this particular case you are talking about a very significant quantity of water, ultimately around 55 gigalitres of water, and you to put that into some perspective, Adelaide uses between 150-180 gigalitres of water a year so this a serious amount of water and I think it is a very exciting project.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MR DOWNER: Well I think what we need to understand is that this is a global problem. Australia should make its contribution, it’s very important that we do but Australia is not going to change the global climate alone, obviously, and I think people obviously know that. The key to success in terms of climate change is diplomacy, is making sure that from the Bali meeting in December of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and over the next two years because it is estimated that this negotiation will take a couple of years, in two years time there will be a similar meeting in Copenhagen. Over that period, that we the international community are able to negotiate a serious convention which will stabilise and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. We have to do that. We should listen to the warnings, we should negotiate a proper and serious convention which will stabilise and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it is not going to work and it is not going to be meaningful if developing countries and the United States aren’t prepared to participate. Domestically, I think we should proceed with an emissions trading scheme. I think that’s a very important initiative. We need to set up our emissions trading scheme. We need to continue to work on the sort of projects we have been working on to reduce domestically greenhouse gas emissions. We are, I think, making some progress. We’re going to meet our Kyoto targets. We need in the future to keep working at this but we will not solve this problem of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions without an international convention which involves developing countries and the United States. Developing countries now generate more than 50 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between now and 2030, between two thirds and three quarters of all increases in greenhouse gas emissions will come from developing countries. Last year the United States emissions fell by one and a half per cent, last year China’s emissions increased by about 9 per cent. We need to get all of those countries involved in the new convention to stabilise and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MR DOWNER: Well I think Australia is doing a fantastic job. We’re the Chair of the Umbrella Group, of countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Umbrella Group countries are the countries that are developed countries but that are not members of the European Union. So we provide leadership in that respect. I think we are providing leadership by putting together an extremely well-considered emissions trading scheme. I think it is a workable scheme, I think it will make a quite clear difference both in the price of carbon and to overall levels of emissions here in Australia and in the years ahead.

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I think the diplomatic role we’ve played in recent times, that everywhere from the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on clean energy and climate, and I chaired the inaugural meeting in Sydney early in 2006, through to the role we’ve played most recently in New York at the United Nations Summit on Climate Change, as well as in Washington at the

Major Economies Meeting in September. I think Australia is there with ideas, with proposals and the last one I’d mention is the Global Initiative on Forests. The role that Australia is playing in promoting reforestation, we’re putting money into it, we’re developing projects, I signed a project with President Yudhoyno, the Indonesian President, on the 9th September. I don’t think any country is providing more creative leadership than Australia - lots of countries provide leadership in different ways - but I don’t think any country is providing more creative leadership than Australia in all of those areas. I’ve taken ages to answer your question but it’s really, really important that Australians understand that the Federal Government is giving this issue an enormous amount of time, energy and priority.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible). Do you think that is going to affect her ability to be Deputy Prime Minister?

MR DOWNER: I think policies are the issue. I know - and this won’t come as a shock to you - I know nothing about Julia Gillard’s personal relationships and I’m not indulging myself in scuttlebutt about them. But I’ll tell you that if people think that are electing Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard and all those former trade union officials to be the government of Australia is risk free, it’s not. It’s fraught with risk. There is an enormous risk in electing these people to be the Government of Australia at a time when our country is doing well but is facing challenging times, that is not a time to take a risk.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MR DOWNER: Well why don’t I take this opportunity to announce everything that is going to be announced and then I’ll talk to Mr Howard later and try to explain it to him? No, you wait until tomorrow.

JOURNALIST: Just on another issue, is the Federal Government (inaudible)?

MR DOWNER: No. Look, that’s entirely a matter for Nauru. There’s been some controversy there of course and political controversy, we wouldn’t buy into that. They had an election fairly recently, the Government was re-elected with a big increase in its majority actually but there has been some issues more recently, which I’m not going to get into, but we’ll continue to provide the support we’re providing to Nauru. Without Australia’s support, I think Nauru would collapse, really so we’ve got to do that.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

MR DOWNER: Well if you’ll excuse me, it’s November 2007 and the Rann Government in all the years it has been in office still hasn’t come up with any plans to increase water security in South Australia. I must say to you I am astonished. I would have thought this was a major priority for this state. You know what I think? Next week, the last week of the election campaign, you could put your house on it - Mr Rann will come out with

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a water package. He’ll suddenly announce, days before the Federal Election, ‘I’ve got a new plan for water’. This is what they’re about. They are about slogans, they’re about stunts but where is the record? They’ve been in office for what, over five years, and they’ve done zero to address the issue of water security, absolutely nothing in five years. Mr Rann tells us climate change is a terrible problem, an evil, a shocking thing. Fair enough. If it’s such a bad thing, and it is a bad thing, why haven’t you done something about it? It’s just rhetoric, just talk. I’d like to see the State Government make an announcement on programs to provide greater water security. I’m amazed they’ve done nothing so far and if they announce something next week - I bet they do, I don’t know that they will, I don’t know - but I’d put my house on it, I’d just about put my house on it. Just about - I might qualify that - otherwise they will do it and then they’ll take my house. But in any case, I’d put a heavy bet on them making a water announcement next week.

[Ends]