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Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Barcaldine Solar Farm, Barcaldine, Queensland: 5 March 2017: visit to Maranoa; regional Queensland; energy security; lowering cost of living pressures; One Nation; MH17; ASIO; No jab no pay; Fair Work Commission; penalty rates; Senate negotiations



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THE HON. MALCOLM TURNBULL MP PRIME MINISTER

TRANSCRIPT

5 March 2017

Doorstop with Mr David Littleproud MP at Barcaldine Solar Farm

Barcaldine, Queensland

SUBJECTS: Visit to Maranoa; Regional Queensland; Energy Security; Lowering cost of living pressures; One Nation; MH17; ASIO; No jab no pay; Fair Work Commission; Penalty rates; Senate negotiations.

E&OE…

DAVID LITTLEPROUD MP:

It is great to have the PM here for the second day in Maranoa. Yesterday we were at the Bell Show to see some of our prime agricultural land around the Darling Downs and now we are flying back into some more agricultural land. But also more importantly we are looking at energy.

Maranoa is starting to become an Australian hub for energy. We have it all. We actually have coal fired power stations that are employing hundreds of people right across Maranoa. We have got solar right here today and we’ve just had announcement of a huge wind energy project just out of Kingaroy and obviously we’ve also got gas. So we actually are putting in a third pillar to the Maranoa economy around agriculture, tourism and now energy.

This is an exciting time for the people of Maranoa in diversifying our economic base and ensuring that we actually also get a sensible energy policy that will put downward pressure on electricity costs for people right across this country while also meeting our intentional standards.

Prime Minister, great to have you here in Maranoa. It is great that you’ve come all this way and to come to Barcaldine. So welcome.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks very much David and seeing is believing. This is a massive solar farm and it will be increased by double, tripled in size. It will go from 25 megawatts to 75 and that construction that we’ve been advised is going to take place very shortly.

What David has described is our practical, business-like approach to energy - driven by engineering and by economics, not by ideology.

What we need to do is ensure that Australians at home or at work, households and businesses have affordable and reliable electricity and that we take advantage of all of our natural advantages. Our great coal resource, gas resource - we have a gas peaking station just next to us here - a great solar resource, wind and of course hydro.

A key part of this is ensuring that we get the technology mix right and that we plan our network correctly.

What Labor has done, and you see it in South Australia so vividly, is that they’ve proceeded to introduce a large amount of renewables into their grid with no planning. No planning for baseload, no planning for storage. And so you’ve seen in South Australia the most expensive and the least reliable electricity.

So renewables have a very big part to play and we’re seeing it here in Maranoa and we’ll see more of it but you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the storage and you have the transmission to ensure that it all works together to deliver the right outcome.

Here they are going to install - again, supported by my Government’s policy to support storage - they’re going to be installing 10 megawatts of storage here. That would be battery storage. Elsewhere we’re supporting pump hydro storage, another technique. What that gives you is the backup to the variable renewable source here, in this case of solar. So this is a great example of our all of the above approach to energy. No ideology, just engineering, economics - delivering affordable and reliable electricity for all Australians.

JOURNALIST:

Pauline Hanson has shown her support for Vladimir Putin ignoring concerns that Russia had a bit to do with flight MH17. What’s your response to that?

PRIME MINISTER:

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is subject to international sanctions to which Australia is a party because of his conduct in shooting down the MH17 airliner in which 38 Australians were killed. Let’s not forget that. That was a shocking international crime.

He’s also invaded his neighbour, Ukraine - seized its territory, breaching international law.

So Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not and should not be an object of admiration in any respect.

Vladimir Putin and Russia should obey by international law.

It should withdraw from the territory it’s occupied in the Ukraine and it should provide the information that we know they have on the identity of the people who shot down the MH17 airliner and in doing so, murdered 38 Australians.

JOURNALIST:

So seeing as you are out west and a state election is coming up, I mean, why have you come out here? What’s it been like?

PRIME MINISTER:

It’s a big country and I am the Prime Minister and I enjoy being all around Australia.

It’s not so long ago I was in Longreach, in Winton and Birdsville. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Maranoa. It’s a big electorate. It’s the heart of a big state. So it’s very important to be here. We had a great time at the Bell Show yesterday as well.

JOURNALIST:

Can I ask you a local power question?

PRIME MINISTER:

Yes, please.

JOURNALIST:

Maranoa Bruce Scott, as distinct from our ex-Federal Member, has actually been looking at the costing of actually living in country towns with the electricity prices going as they’re doing. He reckons within twenty years, isolated towns in hot areas that rely on air conditioning - it will be too expensive to live in those towns.

So like a lot of the towns around here, they’re looking at electricity supplies that will take them off the grid. Like Winton’s is looking at artesian power generation. Longreach is looking at solar artesian, solar geo-thermal. Barcoo is looking at the same kind of things.

At the moment these are not supported. These are not big projects going into the grid. Are these the kind of projects that the Government would look at supporting?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well as you know through the Renewable Energy Target scheme solar is supported both at a large scale and at a small, you know, rooftop solar scale as well.

We’re looking at innovation in energy and our objective is ensuring that all Australians have access to affordable and reliable electricity.

And you are quite right there will be more local and distributed solutions. Much of the cost, in fact in an area like this you’ll find most of the cost of electricity is in the distribution and transmission network. So as you’re able to generate more electricity locally and it might be as local as being on the roof of your house of course, but locally in an area if you have the ability to provide the backup, the storage, whether that is batteries or through pump hydro, then you’re in the position to have much more independence and of course in the future, lower costs. I find -

JOURNALIST:

But isn’t that exactly the problem that’s happening nationally? Everybody is putting up their rooftops, you don’t have the cheap - you don’t have the domestic users subsidising industry so they’re now complaining about the cost. As more people go off the grid, that’s the same problem you’re accusing the Labor Party of not solving but in fact, you are promoting exactly the same thing.

PRIME MINISTER:

What the Labor Party has done is failed to manage the electricity networks, failed to manage the planning. See the best example is South Australia. They have a huge wind resource there which can provide on any given day anything from 100 per cent of the state’s electricity demand to 0 per cent.

JOURNALIST:

But it wasn’t solar that fell over, it was the network that fell over.

PRIME MINISTER:

Please let me finish. So you’ve got a variable supply of electricity and for the reasons you’ve described, you’ve also got variable demand because of air conditioning and particularly on very hot days. And so what you need is a plan and Labor failed to do that and so they made South Australia very vulnerable to any disruptions in transmission - the storm you talked about earlier - with a lack

of baseload, with a lack of storage in South Australia the state's network became much more vulnerable and that was what the AEMO, the regulator, found in their analysis of it.

JOURNALIST:

But the baseload came from the grid didn’t it? That was where the baseload was coming from. It fell over.

PRIME MINISTER:

Baseload power had been shut down in South Australia and their reliance was increasingly and on some occasions overwhelmingly on transmission from Victoria.

This is a complex issue but it has got to be approached in a business-like and pragmatic and practical way. Now we’ve seen the outcome when you treat it as an ideological issue. I am driven, with as far as electricity is concerned, by outcomes. Affordable and reliable power. And we are guided by economics and engineering. That has got to be our focus.

JOURNALIST:

There are reports today that the Government never approved ASIO spying on journalists. Do you think the ASIO Chief either needs to correct the records on spy agencies securing warrants for journalists’ metadata?

PRIME MINISTER:

The Director General of ASIO is always going to be very circumspect in what he says about national security matters and so will I but I am satisfied that he has been, and always has been, very careful and accurate in what he’s said. But you can imagine on national security matters it is better to be circumspect.

Can I deal with one other matter too that I saw came up in the news this morning relating to vaccination?

If parents choose not to vaccinate their children, they are putting their children’s health at risk and every other person’s children’s health at risk too.

The health of our children and the health of the nation depends on vaccination and that has to be as close to 100 per cent as possible. It is a vital health objective to ensure that everybody is vaccinated and that is why from the beginning of last year we introduced the ‘no jab no pay’ policy or as you know if kids aren’t vaccinated then their parents won’t get access to child care, various child care and other benefits. That has resulted in a nearly 200,000 additional kids getting vaccinated. This is critically important. Vaccination is important so it is important to vaccinate and ensure your children are vaccinated for their health but also to protect the health of everybody else’s children and everybody else as well.

JOURNALIST:

One Nation does have a bit of a pull here in areas like Maranoa. Does that have anything to do with your trip around regional Queensland?

PRIME MINISTER:

I am here with David and we have had, again engaging with his constituents here in Barcaldine, admiring this great initiative and we’ve been at the Bell Show. As you know we’ve had politics in the

pub in Dalby. We were at Winton not so long ago. You know, as I say, it is a big country and I am the Prime Minister and I get around it.

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, coal was brought into the Federal Parliament by one of your senior Ministers, I think a few weeks ago. Now we are looking at renewable energy in Western Queensland. Is this a deliberate message that you are agnostic about power supply?

PRIME MINISTER:

It is absolutely my policy, the Government’s policy to be agnostic about technology. In other words, we want to use all of the above. And you know, David is right - he’s got it all here in Maranoa. You’ve got coal, you’ve got gas, you’ve got wind, you’ve got solar, you’ve got it all here. And every form of generating electricity and every technology has great value but of course it is important to get the mix right and you’ve got to be driven by economics and engineering. And a big focus clearly has to be storage. We are seeing terrific progress in battery technology. I think we are all familiar with that. That is why we’ve all got these phones and other devices with batteries that are long lasting despite being very small. That technology is taking off. That is going to be important here but also pumped hydro is important as well. We have done very little of that really for decades and decades. Most of the world’s electricity is stored by pumped hydro and that is just as you know pumping water from a lower reservoir which cheap electricity at night for example up to a higher one and running it down through a turbine when there is more demand. And that is done in the Snowy, there is a plant an Wivenhoe in fact, near Brisbane. And there is a plant on the Shoalhaven. But we are going to need to do more of that as our grid is changing, it is becoming more distributive as the lady here mentioned. It is becoming more distributed, we’ve got more sources and we’ve got to move with the times, but the focus has to be, the objective has to be affordable and reliable power and every source of power has a role to play.

JOURNALIST:

Some questions from Jane Norman at ABC, Parliament House. Pauline Hanson says the penalty rate cut will help small businesses which will increase employment. Do you agree with her?

PRIME MINISTER:

Small businesses in the retail and hospitality area have been arguing for many years that Sunday penalty rates should be the same as Saturday penalty rates. Back in 2012 the Labor government, in fact is was Bill Shorten as you would remember asked the Fair Work Commission to look at this. And they’ve been looking at it over some years. They have heard hundreds of witnesses and they have come to the conclusion that reducing Sunday penalty rates, not right down to the level of Saturday penalty rates, but closer to Saturday penalty rates will result in more jobs, more opportunities, more businesses being open, more owners being able to not work on a Sunday and employ other employed staff to do so. So the point about the decision of the Fair Work Commission, which was very carefully considered is that it will generate more jobs, more employment, and so the benefit, that will be a very significant benefit to the economy. That was their decision.

I might just say, just given that we are Barcaldine, where the Labor Party was founded in many respects 125 years ago. One of the fundamental principles of the Labor Party from its foundation has been an independent umpire to decide wages and conditions. That’s how the conciliation and arbitration system began. All of the industrial commissions and industrial courts. That was absolute Labor Party gospel. Well in the last few weeks, Bill Shorten has thrown that out the window. He has abandoned that, he has walked away from the independent umpire. He has walked away from an

independent umpire that he established, that he appointed the people on it - led by former official of the ACTU and of course he was pledging until very recently to respect it. So it is interesting to be here. The founders of the Labor Party would be, they would be appalled to think that the leader of the modern Labor Party has abandoned such a fundamental principle.

JOURNALIST:

And you are targeting that to the Labor Party but the people believe that this is a Government decision. Do you think this is damaging?

PRIME MINISTER:

This is a decision by the Fair Work Commission - you agree with that, don’t you? Well you do -

JOURNALIST:

You are attaching it to the Labor Party a moment ago.

PRIME MINISTER:

No it is a decision of the Fair Work Commission, I hope the ABC isn’t in the post truth politics area - that would be very disappointing. It is a decision of the Fair Work Commission, the independent umpire and they have made it on the basis that it will drive more jobs and more opportunities and on the basis of evidence and we support the decision, we accept the decision, we recognise it was a careful decision, and we respect it as a decision of the independent umpire. And there is masses of evidence to support it. So that is the decision they have taken but it was a decision of the Fair Work Commission, established by, manned by, if you like, the appointees, appointments were all made by Labor and it was a reference given to it by Labor and Labor said they would respect it. So it is not a decision of the Labor Party but it is a decision of a tribunal; that the Labor Party established and said they would respect and for 125 years, from right in Barcaldine, up until a few weeks ago, that was always an article of faith in the Labor Party.

JOURNALIST:

Just on the payroll taxes still - Pauline Hanson wants the Commonwealth to put pressure on the states to reduce the payroll taxes. Is that a fair call? Should the states be taking a look at their own taxes?

JOURNALIST:

And she won’t support necessarily your company tax cuts.

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, we’ll see, we’ll leave the negotiations with the Senate, we’ll see what develops. As you know we’ve had many predictions about what will come out of Senate negotiations and it is not so long ago I was being, we were told that we couldn’t get the ABCC legislation through the Senate and we did. We were told we couldn’t get Registered Organisations through the senate and we did. So we will negotiate with all of the members of the Senate. They are all duly elected and we respect them all and we will negotiate with them all in good faith.

Thank you so very much.

[ENDS]