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Transcript of joint press conference with Premier Bligh: Brisbane: 18 June 2011: Solar Dawn; renewable energy; carbon price; Andrew Chan; Nielsen poll; Minerals Resource Rent Tax; asylum seekers; Scott Morrison's visit to Malaysia; Australian Labor Party



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PRIME MINISTER TRANSCRIPT OF JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH PREMIER BLIGH BRISBANE 18 JUNE 2011

E & O E - PROOF ONLY

Subjects: Solar Dawn; Renewable energy; Carbon price; Andrew Chan; Nielsen poll; Minerals Resource Rent Tax; Asylum seekers; Scott Morrison’s visit to Malaysia; Australian Labor Party

PM: It’s great to be here with Premier Anna Bligh, and I’m also here with Anil from Areva, and we’re here to make a very important announcement for Queensland and for Australia.

Of course, we’re in the Sunshine State, and the announcement I’m about to make is all to do with sunshine - using sunshine to create the clean energy future we want for Queensland and we want for this nation.

This is about what we are calling a solar dawn, a solar dawn here in Queensland.

It is the construction of a solar thermal power plant, a project to be called Solar Dawn.

If it was already built, it would be the largest solar power plant in the world on one site. This is tremendously good news. This Solar Dawn power plant is going to be built near Chinchilla. It is going to have a generation capacity of 250 megawatts, and the project involves Areva, represented by Anil today, and its partners, Wind Prospect CWP, CS Energy, and the University of Queensland.

This project is estimated to cost $1.2 billion, and I’m very pleased and proud that through the Federal Government’s Solar Flagships program we are able to support this project with $464 million of funds.

Construction will start and the project will be commissioned by 2013. It will provide around 300 jobs, and of course it will be nearby the Kogan Creek project, a project I’ve been very pleased to visit, and that project, too, is using solar technology.

Now, having that located nearby is good news because it means people who have got their skills working at Kogan Creek will also be able to take their skills and work on the Solar Dawn project.

This is good news here for Queensland. It’ll be very good news for the people in the local region near Chinchilla, who will be able to access these jobs.

It’s also good news for our nation as it demonstrates how we can move to a clean energy future.

In addition today, there is good news for New South Wales. Through the same program, the Solar Flagships program, I am able to announce today that there will be a power plant, a renewable power plant, in Moree - 150 megawatts of generation from there, and my colleague, Martin Ferguson, will be there today to deal with all of the details of the Moree project.

Now, when we look at these clean energy projects using our abundant natural resources, our wonderful and bountiful sunshine, we can see our clean energy future.

Pricing carbon is about accelerating our move to that clean energy future. It’s about making renewables even more viable. I want to make sure that projects like Solar Dawn aren’t the exception, that they increasingly become the norm about how we generate energy in this country from our abundant renewable

energy resources.

I know Australians are very enthusiastic about solar technology. They walk out in our sunshine and they think to themselves ‘why can’t we use this energy?’

Well, today, with this Solar Dawn project, we’re able to say the abundant energy of the sun will be used in Queensland at this huge new facility.

I’ll turn now to the Premier for some comments on Solar Dawn.

PREMIER BLIGH: Thank you, Prime Minister, and I welcome the Prime Minister here to Queensland this morning and I’m also pleased to be joined by Anil Srivastava from Areva renewable projects.

I welcome this announcement for Queensland. Our Government set out to make Queensland the solar State of Australia. With this new solar plant that will be achieved.

This will be the largest solar thermal power plant in Australia. It’ll be here in our back yard, and it’ll be generating power from our abundant sunshine.

Queensland doesn’t just have sunshine - we have some of the world’s best quality sunshine for generating solar power. We want Queensland to be the solar state of Australia, and with this plant the solar future for Queensland is secured.

Four years ago, when we set out to make Queensland a bigger solar player we had 1,000 Queensland households with solar panels on their roofs. Today, we have 85,000 Queensland households with solar panels generating clean, green energy off their roof.

This plant, however, is large-scale solar energy unlike anything we’ve seen in Australia before, and I’m very pleased that Queensland is going to be home to this very exciting plant.

The Queensland Government has contributed $75 million in partnership with the Federal Government to make this plant a reality. It is a very big venture. It will generate jobs in a new, clean, green energy field. This $75 million is an investment in a cleaner, greener energy form for Queensland, and we look forward to working with this company to make it a reality.

SRIVASTAVA: Prime Minister, the Honourable Julia Gillard, Premier of Queensland, Anna Bligh, it’s a pleasure to be here. I share the passion, the vision of the Prime Minister and the Premier which you just heard.

I would like to just comment on a couple of things. First and foremost, I want to begin by commending your vision and your foresight into low carbon economy.

It takes courage, it takes leadership, and I see plenty of that here in Australia. I get an opportunity to go around the world and see how renewable businesses and projects are coming up. I have to say that as you rightly said, it is the largest of its kind being built anywhere in the world - not because of

just the size. Also, it will be environmentally most responsible power generation anywhere in the world, so we are pleased with that.

Just by way of technology, I am pleased to say that this technology, called compact linear panel reflector, was conceived here several years back and is pioneered here in Australia. We are very proud of that.

What it essentially does, it combines zero-carbon solid energy with low-emission gas to build a hybrid power plant which will deliver energy when needed, as needed, even when the sun is not shining.

So, this is a unique proposition where in which we make a competitive, 7 x 24 power plant which is essentially a solar power plant.

Second comment I would like to make is the broader impact beyond the green energy generation. It will absolutely generate green energy, but it will have a significant local economy impact.

As in job creation, the Prime Minister mentioned 300 direct jobs. I can safely tell you that a multiplier of 4-5 on the supply chain will take it up to 1,500-2,000 jobs in total, so that’s the impact on jobs.

It’s about knowledge transfer. It’s about research and innovation partnership with our partners University Queensland, who are here. It’s about creating an industry.

I’m excited on behalf of the Areva group to be part of this great journey. As I was kidding with the Prime Minister before coming in here, this is actually a dawn of a new era. She didn’t take my line, so I’m using it. Thanks a lot.

So, we are excited to be part of it. We are absolutely committed to make it happen. On behalf of Areva group and on behalf of the whole consortium, thank you very much for your support, Madam Prime Minister and Madam Premier.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: I think we have, we’ll take your questions in one second, but I think there’s a video just to look at to give you the details of the project, and then we’ll take your questions from there.

[VIDEO PLAYS]

PM: If we can take questions on the announcement today first, and on Solar Dawn, and then we’re happy to move to questions more broadly, so you had a question about Solar Dawn, and we’ll get Anil to join us as our biggest expert.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) and business will be powered by (inaudible)

SRIVASTAVA: How many homes? A minimum of 300,000 homes could be powered with this power plant here. That’s very significant.

The other point to note is it will save more than 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every single year for 25 years of the life of the plant.

PM: Any questions on Solar Dawn?

JOURNALIST: I’ve just wondered if you’ve considered things like feed in tariffs for this kind of thing. (inaudible) Are you looking at those kind of measures?

PM: In terms of facilitating solar technology? The approach we’ve taken through the Solar Flagships program is one of assisting with ventures like Solar Dawn. We’ve had an expert independent panel work with us to assess the applications to the program, so our investment has been a direct investment.

My point about carbon pricing is as we change the equation for clean energy in the future and make it far more viable for renewable projects to come on stream, then we will move from this phase, where these projects tend to be an exception to how we generate electricity, to increasingly these projects being the norm, and it’s fantastic to see this kind of technological innovation, which means we can use the power of the sun, we can reduce carbon pollution, and we can get the energy security we need with 24/7 power generation, where of course the traditional concern about solar energy has been ‘well, that’s all very well and that’s a good thing and maybe it can boost here and there but it’s not able to meet our 24/7 energy needs.’ A fantastic feature of this project is that it is going to be meeting 24/7 energy needs.

JOURNALIST: Premier, how’s the State Government’s previous forays into this (inaudible)

PREMIER BLIGH: We’ve seen a very strong take up of the State Government’s incentive program for solar panels on the roofs.

We looked at, our previous kind of technology in Cloncurry that proved ultimately not to be suitable for that area, but we have now got a photovoltaic panel program that’s currently out to tender for Cloncurry, and there’s been very strong international interest.

This is new and emerging technology, and governments invest in it to get it up and running so that we can prove it up and then grow it up and see it spread right across the energy mix.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) Cloncurry?

PREMIER BLIGH: This is different technology. This program, the Solar Dawn project, is to be located at Chinchilla. The company’s done a lot of work proving up the area, proving up the technology, and we’re very confident it’s going to make a big difference.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) sensitivity in that area about coal seam gas. (inaudible) What do you say to farmers (inaudible)

PREMIER BLIGH: This is energy that comes straight from the sun. It is a cleaner and greener form of energy. It will be backed up with a gas program so that even when the sun isn’t shining we’ll see home and businesses being powered by it.

The south-west of our State is shaping up as a major energy corridor, and that is co-existing as it has already for a number of years with agriculture. This plant will be a very, very low impact plant because it won’t be taking coal, it won’t be generating emissions. This is new, 21st Century solar energy, and Queensland is the home of it. Queensland is going to lead Australia as a result of this plant in our back yard generating more solar energy than anywhere else in the country.

PM: Are there more questions on Solar Dawn, on the announcement today?

JOURNALIST: Just to double check, at Cloncurry, (inaudible)

PREMIER BLIGH: It’s currently out to tender. Sorry, tenders have closed and they’re being assessed at the moment. We’ve had quite strong international interest. We expect to have those tenders finalised I think somewhere in the next 6-8 weeks, and construction would commence after the tender has been awarded.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the polls today in Nielsen, is that a signal that perhaps the sun’s setting on your time-

PM: -Before we move there, can I just check if there are any more questions on Solar Dawn? If not, I’m happy to take broader questions for the day, but before we do so I did want to make a statement about a national issue today.

Australians would have seen the news that Andrew Chan, who is in jail in Bali, has had his final legal appeal for clemency from the death penalty denied.

Clemency now lies in seeking clemency from the President of Indonesia.

Andrew Chan’s family heard this news yesterday. We’ve been working with them through consular officials to support them during a very difficult time for their family.

The Australian Government is opposed to the death penalty, and we will be supporting Andrew Chan in his appeal for clemency.

JOURNALIST: Have you made a personal representation to Indonesia (inaudible)

PM: I’ll be happy to do whatever is necessary to put as much force as we can into the appeal for clemency for Andrew Chan, including personally involving myself.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: Well, we’ll work through and make the appropriate arrangements, but of course we will work with Andrew Chan, his family and his legal representatives to make sure that we have the strongest possible claim for clemency for him.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) fair that Abu Bakar Bashir got 15 years and Andrew Chan (inaudible)

PM: Well, we’re going to be making a claim for clemency, so please, let’s just remind ourselves we need to be pulling together to be supporting his clemency claim.

I don’t want to get into commentary about the judicial systems of other countries. That’s not appropriate, but we’ve been very, very clear about our view of Bashir and the acts that he has inspired, the violence that he has inspired, directed towards Australians, and that that needs to be met with an appropriate sentence.

OK, so I’m happy now to take broader questions.

JOURNALIST: The Nielsen poll today, is it a sun setting on your time?

PM: Well, thank you for your question.

I don’t judge by the opinion polls. I judge by how I’m pursuing my plan for the nation.

What drives me is that plan, fuelled by my values, by Labor values. It’s a plan of opportunity for all in our nation, with a strong economy and also being a confident country that is out there meeting the challenges of the future. That’s what we’re doing right here today, meeting the challenges of the future - tackling climate change and ensuring we’ve got access to clean energy.

JOURNALIST: The poll shows that brand Labor is really on the nose, doesn’t it? (inaudible) You must be worried.

PM: I don’t comment on polls, and what I’m determined to do-

JOURNALIST: -The brand, is the brand-

PM: -Well, if I can finish my sentence, I don’t comment on polls. What I’m determined to do is to see through my plan for the nation’s future.

What I would certainly say about the question of carbon pricing, which I believe is on the minds of many Australians, what I would say about that is I can understand that at this point Australians are anxious about carbon pricing, they are concerned about what it means for them and their families. They do want to understand the full facts. They want to be able to sit down with the calculator and work out what it means for them, but I understand this is a period of anxiety for Australian families.

What we will do, and what I personally will do to re-assure Australian families is we will be ensuring that they get the full details of the carbon pricing package. We’ll be explaining that package. We’ll be enabling people to do their sums at home and to look at the generous assistance that they will get, and we will be explaining to them, too, what carbon pricing means for our clean energy future.

And let’s just look at this Solar Dawn project. You’ve heard how this is going to use the power of the sun to provide the energy we need. You’ve heard how it’s going to create 300 direct jobs.

I want project like this one to be the norm as we generate energy, that we are embracing renewables technology right around the country to generate the clean energy we need for the future, with all of the spin offs in creating jobs that projects like this one have.

In Canberra this week I met with plumbers, I met with electricians, I met with coal miners who came to Canberra to actually say to me they want a price on carbon. They want a price on carbon because they can see the possibilities of this clean energy future, its possibilities for creating jobs and opportunity for

them and their families, and that’s what we will be explaining to people as we work through carbon pricing.

JOURNALIST: So is brand Labor in good shape, then?

PM: I’ve just said the thing that motivates me is making sure our country has got a great future - a future with opportunity for all, a strong economy, ensuring that Australians get the benefits of prosperity and that we’re confident enough and creative enough to meet the challenges of the future. I’m determined to see that plan through.

I understand that this is an anxious time for many Australians, and people are particularly anxious about pricing carbon, and we will be answering that anxiety with the full facts so everybody will be able to judge for themselves.

JOURNALIST: You’re determined to keep going with the pitch on the carbon tax, even if you keep sliding in the polls?

PM: Pricing carbon’s the right thing to do for our country’s future, so I’m going to get it done. When I look at this nation’s future, I see a country at the moment with a high-emissions economy, and in the future we are going to need a cleaner energy economy, and we can get there.

We’ve got a strong economy. We’ve got abundant sources of renewable energy. We’ve got great scientists leading the way, working through renewable technology. We can get there, to a cleaner energy future.

It’s the right thing to do, to cut carbon pollution and tackle climate change. It’s the right thing to do, to make sure we’re a prosperous country in the future, and I’m determined to get it done.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) secure in your position, Prime Minister, or are (inaudible)

PM: Very.

JOURNALIST: Very secure, or very under threat?

PM: Very secure, very secure. I mean, let’s, you know, be a little bit practical about this. I have a plan for this country’s future. My Caucus colleagues are working with me to deliver than plan.

We don’t underestimate the challenges and we don’t underestimate the amount of hard work that we’ve got to do. We don’t underestimate the degree of anxiety about carbon pricing.

We also believe very strongly in our vision for this nation’s future, a vision about opportunity. You saw that in the Budget - new measures in a strong economy to bring opportunity right around the country. A vision about the future of education which makes sure every child gets a great education. A vision about the future of health which means we work together to get people the healthcare services they need in the future. And a vision about making sure we’re a clean energy economy, a prosperous country with clean energy sources, and we’ve got the infrastructure of the future like the NBN.

I’m determined to deliver that vision. That’s my vision. It’s a vision shared by my Caucus colleagues, and we will keep working to deliver that vision. We don’t underestimate how much hard we’ve got to do, and we’ll get about doing it.

JOURNALIST: Are you a bit embarrassed that these poll results are worse that what Kevin Rudd faced?

PM: It’s not about polls. It’s about a plan for the nation.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) coming for you like they came for Kevin Rudd a year ago?

PM: I don’t accept the premise of that question, and it’s not about polls, it’s about a plan for the nation’s future.

JOURNALIST: What does it say about Australian politics when two of the most senior Labor politicians in the country are both on the nose in the polls, you and Anna Bligh.

PM: I think we can do all of these rather silly questions, or we can actually think-

JOURNALIST: -It’s a legitimate question-

PM: -And I’m going to answer it if you allow me-

JOURNALIST: -(inaudible) women in the Labor party are both languishing in the polls?

PM: -and if you allow me to finish my sentence then I will answer your question for you, but in order to do that you’ve got to enable me to have some time to speak.

Look, we can do all of these dramatic media questions or we can actually grapple with the issues here, and the issues here are about the nation’s future. That’s the important thing.

I’m standing here today with Premier Bligh announcing that this State, this great State, with all of its abundant sunshine, is going to be home to one of the biggest solar generation plants in the world. That’s fantastic news, and it

shows us what the future can look like, and we’ll get there through pricing carbon.

That will accelerate getting investments like this right around the nation. That’s a good thing - a good thing for the environment, a good thing to cut carbon pollution, a really good thing to create jobs.

Now, I’m sure I can speak for Anna in this regard: we went into politics to make a difference to people’s lives, to make a difference for people’s lives today and for the future, to make sure they had the benefits of prosperity and

opportunity and that we didn’t cower before the challenges of the future, that we got out and met those challenges.

That’s what I’m determined to do.

In doing it, of course you involve yourself in tough debates, but I’d rather be in a tough debate about the right thing for the nation’s future than sitting idle, meaning this country, in the future, got left behind.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) in the Nielsen Poll by 60 per cent of people, and he also championed an ETS.

PM: Once again, it’s about having a plan. I have a plan and I’m pursuing it with the support of my Labor colleagues.

JOURNALIST: When you assumed the leadership a bit under a year ago you said, in particular, Labor had lost its direction on the mining tax, the carbon tax and asylum seekers. Given they’re still essentially unresolved, even add in the live exports, do you need another year?

PM: I don’t agree with the premise of your question at all. When I became Prime Minister there was a very debilitating national debate underway about the Resource Super Profits Tax. I entered an agreement with Australia’s biggest miners and resolved with them the shape of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax. And, having seen how that debilitating debate about the Resource Super Profits Tax developed, I determined at that point, that as we delivered the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, at every stage, every stage of its development, we would work with the maximum degree of consultation.

So, yes, it’s taken some time, but we’re at the stage now that the draft legislation is there for all to see, and we will deal with it in the parliament towards the end of this year.

And then, on asylum seekers, when I first became Prime Minister I spoke to the nation about needing a new way, a new regional approach which enabled us to work with the countries of our region to address this very evil trade.

In Bali earlier this year we agreed a regional framework. We are now working under it, under the regional framework, and we are engaged in advanced negotiations with Malaysia about a transfer agreement, the most innovative solution that has ever been before this country to take out of the hands of

people smugglers the very evil product that they try and sell. These are people who want to profit on the misery of others.

Then, on carbon pricing, we are there, soon to announce the full details of carbon pricing, having been through a consultative process which we’re still engaged in, working with Australian businesses, unions, environmental stakeholders and others to get this right.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what’s your response to refugee activist Ian Rintoul, who’s branded you a racist?

PM: Well, he’s wrong, and I’ll keep pursuing this solution.

It’s not humanitarian to see kids get on boats and lose their lives on the shoreline of Christmas Island or in the sea. We saw that just before Christmas this year. I remember that very vividly, what we all felt like when we saw the images of those people drowning, including children drowning, on the shore of Christmas Island.

So, the humanitarian approach is to do everything you can to stop people getting on boats, to stop people smugglers plying an incredibly evil trade and trying to profit on the misery of others, which is why I’m determined to keep working through with Malaysia on the transfer agreement.

It would send the most powerful possible message we could - if you get on a boat, you risk your life, you pay your money, where you’re going to end up is at the back of the queue in Malaysia.

That’s why it’s a better solution than anything that has been advocated by the Opposition, which would enable people smugglers to say ‘yes, there’ll be a delay and you’ll be in Nauru, but you’ll still end up in Australia.’

I want to send the most powerful message we can, and that’s what the transfer agreement’s about, and I think, looking at it from a humanitarian perspective, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible) travelling to Malaysia. Should the Government be doing the same thing (inaudible)

PM: I think that this is an incredibly destructive stunt by the Opposition. I am absolutely amazed. Not much about the negativity or irresponsibility of Tony Abbott amazes me, but I’d have to say this does.

It amazes me that anybody who would contend for national leadership in this country has authorised one of their spokespeople to go to one of our regional neighbours for the sole purpose of a media stunt and engaging in criticism of that regional neighbour.

The purpose of this visit is destruction: destruction of our discussions about a transfer agreement; ultimately, destruction of our ability to have a good bilateral relationship with the government and the people of Malaysia.

Just goes to show how you could not trust this Opposition with any form of public policy, and certainly not having constructive arrangements with our regional neighbours.

This is something that’s never been done before in Australian politics, to my knowledge, that people have travelled as Opposition spokespeople for the sole purpose of embarrassing a country in our region, and for the sole purpose of destruction.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you’re in Kevin country today. How is your relationship with the Foreign Minister, Mr Rudd?

PM: Well, we work very closely together on foreign affairs questions, and I’m very confident Kevin’s going to share my sense of disgust at this recent announcement by the Opposition, and I’m looking forward to addressing Queensland state conference today.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

PM: We’re working very constructively together on foreign affairs issues, and of course this is an important one before us today. We’ll keep working through on the Malaysia agreement. This is an incredibly destructive move from the Opposition.

JOURNALIST: Are you surprised Mr Rudd wasn’t asked to speak (inaudible) in his electorate?

PM: I don’t make arrangements for Queensland state conference.

[ENDS]