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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6252

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (BatmanMinister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (12:57): I thank the member for Groom for the question. I acknowledge that he has appropriately indicated to Mr Forrest that he totally disagrees with his intervention yesterday in terms of foreign investment. I challenge him to actually make a request to the Leader of the Opposition to make the same position very publicly clear, because I think it is very important to the future of Australia from an investment point of view. On both sides of politics we need to very clearly say that foreign investment is welcome in Australia, unlike the view of Mr Forrest.

The issue of clean energy carbon capture and storage is an important component of it. Up until budget difficulties on the other side of the House in the lead-up to last election I might say that the member for Groom was a very strong supporter of carbon capture and storage technology opportunities. Last Saturday in Perth, in partnership with the West Australian Minister for Minerals and Petroleum, I announced the first commitment in terms of the Collie hub. We put $53 million on the table to take that project forward. It is aimed at trying to assess appropriate storage capacity for the purpose of storing industrial CO2. That was very much welcomed by industry and very much welcomed by the Western Australian government. To be fair, when you look back over the history of adopting this program one would not have thought that the Collie hub would have come through as the first investment from a Commonwealth perspective. Beyond the Collie hub and if that actually succeeds we will potentially make a contribution to the tune of about $330 million. We are in ongoing discussions with the Queensland and Victorian governments. I also note, and this is reflected in the budget papers, that we have made an amount of money available nationally to work in partnership with state and territory governments and the private sector to assess storage capacity around Australia, because the key to carbon capture and storage is proper assessment of storage capacity. That is pretty important. My own assessment is that there is good potential storage capacity in Queensland, and Victoria is obviously well placed because of its proximity to Bass Strait. Victoria is also well placed, from a commercial point of view, because it does not have long pipeline distances, which add to cost. We will continue to work through our processes to try to shore up projects in Queensland and New South Wales. I hope that we succeed, because we are a nation that very much depends on fossil fuels. Clearly, there are difficulties with legacy power stations in Victoria. Both sides of politics appreciate the difficulties involved with power stations such as Hazelwood, which is a very high emitter. Whilst there are different approaches to making that transition, one way or another we have to front up to it.

We have to try to make a breakthrough on clean energy, be it carbon capture and storage, solar thermal, geothermal or whatever. But it is about reliable baseload power. I hope the breakthrough comes sooner rather than later, because, while Australia has been historically energy secure because of its energy resources, the complication now is that we have to put technology in place which reduces CO2 emissions. We should not forget that we will have the biggest commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage on the Gorgon LNG project, which hopefully will produce gas for export purposes in 2014-15 or a little bit later. Carbon capture and storage is not an unproven technology. The real issue is how you reduce the cost of commercial deployment. I remain committed to trying to test this technology in the same way that I remain committed to pursuing a breakthrough on solar thermal, geothermal or whatever, as I am expected to be. We as a nation have to invest in R&D, because we have a responsibility in terms of our domestic emissions and our future export opportunities. We are getting wealth out of our energy sector; hence we have to invest in R&D and pursue the clean energy strategy.

The debate about climate change, from our point of view, is about a market driven system. We have a difference between the major players with respect to how you determine a price on carbon. We both support a renewable energy target of 20 per cent. Under it all, both sides support the need to invest in clean energy technology. There is somewhat of a difference at the moment on carbon capture and storage, but we should not give up on it as a nation, nor should the global community. As the International Energy Agency says, fossil fuels are going to continue to be a very important part of our international energy mix. Hence our responsibility as a major exporter to invest in R&D and innovation. If the shadow minister, Mr Macfarlane, is looking for any further briefings on this or any other program, his staff have only to contact my office and they will be facilitated, as they have been previously.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Proceedings suspended from 13 : 03 to 16 : 00

Attorney-General’s Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $3,799,557,000