TED O’BRIEN – SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY
INTERVIEW WITH JAMES CARLTON
29 January, 2023
Topics: Safeguard Mechanism, Labor-greens deal, Emissions cap, energy prices, cost of living
Brian Carlton: Anthony Albanese’s climate deal, the PM did a climate deal with the Greens, which was sort of nutted out and finalized yesterday to cut 205 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s biggest emitting facilities. The claim is from one side that it could put at risk Labor’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. Now, let me decode that for you. That sort of means this is not strong enough. It’s not not enough to do that job. But it will, unfortunately on the other side of the equation force companies to spend billions on offsets and the adoption of low emissions technologies. Now the gas industry on Monday, warned that the PM’s signature climate policy forcing those 215 big emitters to slash their emissions by nearly 5% each year, that’s a year on year 5% drop to 2030 could drive up costs for households and businesses. If new gas supply is restricted, this is a very complicated area of policy, trust me. The, in my view, this whole policy is kind of a what you might get an energy landmine that will go off under you at some point in the not too distant future. Now there’s lots of detail here. But the clearly clearly the Coalition federally is not happy Jan. Joining me is Ted O’Brien, who’s the federal Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy. And I appreciate him calling in this morning minister, Shadow Minister. Good morning, how are you?
Ted O’Brien: Very well, Brian, yourself?
Brian Carlton: I’m terrific. Thank you this, I just can’t see how this plan will not force power prices up and gas prices up.
Ted O’Brien: It has to and that’s our concern. Well, that’s our number one concern. If you’re going to introduce a new tax, and the companies will be passing the cost on to their customers, it means the everyday Australian pays. And in this case, it’s a tax on fuel. So anyone driving a car, it’s a tax on gas, which impacts things such as fertilizer, so people who buy their groceries, it’s a tax on steel, cement, aluminium. So basic building products from, you know, a slab you might lay at home or you know, your little brick fence around your garden or, you know, the little aluminium windows or whatever it is, prices will go up. Because it’s a new tax. And at a time of a cost of living crisis, we are deeply concerned about what the impact is going to be on everyday Australians as a result.
Brian Carlton: You’ve described it as not a plan to decarbonize the Australian economy, but rather a plan to deindustrialize it. It has, apart from those operations already going those big 215 emitters, there’s potentially new gas projects coming online, anybody setting up some kind of manufacturing here would have to comply with these, if they’re a big emitter, it is a disincentive to invest in Australia, I would have thought.
Ted O’Brien: Indeed it is Brian. And so if we go away from the issue of prices for everyday Australians and think of companies now, most of the companies who are operating our biggest manufacturing businesses, our biggest energy companies, they’re multinationals. And they’ve got the ability to move money around the world. What they are now seeing in Australia, and this latest piece of legislation, could be the worst of it yet we’re yet to see is a government which is determining how they use their money, where it’s put who they have to sell to at what price. And so companies are saying, well, you know what, that that’s just too high risk. Why would I now invest in Australia, when the government is saying it’s got to be approved by the Minister every time the Greens are now basically running Australia’s energy security. And already we’re seeing companies come out saying woah, woah hang on government. If you’re going to do that we’re just not going to spend our money in Australia. And that ends up being less jobs, less industry, less manufacturing a real hit for regional communities in particular.
Brian Carlton: One of the the interesting elements of this were the early demands of the Greens Adam Bandt that there’d be no new gas and coal projects at all. Now Albanese has walked away from that, but immediately after they held their separate media conferences to announce this new policy or at least the the new legislation. It they went straight the Greens went straight out and said all look we will be challenging everywhere we can to prevent new, new gas projects. specifically coming on. So they’ve agreed with Albo and then yet in the media conference immediately after it have gone out and said they’re going to try and do what they attempted to do in the first place.
Ted O’Brien: Yeah, look, I don’t think Albanese has held the ground at all on this. Really, you know, what he’s effectively doing is saying, Greens, we’re not going to allow you to decapitate gas immediately. But wink and a nod we’ll let you do it through 1000 cuts over time. And here we have a piece of legislation, a policy area that allows the Greens now to challenge every single project. And again, if you’re the company wanting to invest, suddenly your risk goes up, you say, Well, you know what this is probably going to end up in the courts for crying out loud, we really want to make this investment it’s going to take longer to get through, it’s going to cost us a lot of money. Our brand will be damaged through the media. And again, it’s the Greens and Labor working together to kill off gas at a time when all the experts not us in the Coalition. But the market operator, the ACCC are saying what we need for our energy security as a nation right now is more supply of gas. And the government’s working with the Greens to suffocate gas. It just doesn’t stack up.
Brian Carlton: Yeah, look, my personal view on this for what it’s worth. And I’m sure there are those in fact, I know there are those in your party room who agree with this where none of this would be necessary if we’d simply transitioned to nuclear from coal fire.
Ted O’Brien: Well, look, it’s funny you say that, Brian, because you’ve got 33 nations in the world right now on nuclear energy, and other 50 who are looking at adopting it for the first time. You have everyone including like the United Nations own climate change envoy, saying he has never seen a credible pathway to net zero in the world that excludes nuclear energy. And this is a zero emissions clean energy technology. But the government refuses to even contemplate it. The Coalition, we are examining the possibility of it forming part of our future energy mix.
Brian Carlton: Yeah, you guys had a bunch of time in power, though, where you could have done it.
Ted O’Brien: Well actually reverse it considerably. And I know a bit about it, just because I was part of driving that. So in the last term of government, I chaired a parliamentary inquiry, that the then Prime Minister Scott Morrison agreed for me to do so. And that was on a nuclear energy. And then towards the end of last term, we were able to put nuclear energy on the watching list for our technology investment roadmap. We did MOUs internationally memorandums of understanding with other countries to look at small modular reactor technology advancement. Unfortunately, we did lose the election. But now we’re in opposition. We’re taking it that next step. So this has been this has been evolving. Absolutely. And this next step now is to say, Okay, this is really exciting, especially the new technology in nuclear. Let’s have a look at whether or not it should form part of our future energy mix. And that’s what I’m doing right now.
Brian Carlton: It just, it disturbs me that we’re in the process of of D incentivizing the economy as a place the Australian economy as a place to invest, the way will inevitably drive up prices, I mean, that the cost of transition to zero emissions has been estimated by you know, various hundreds of billions of dollars up to trillions of dollars I’ve seen, somebody will have to bear that cost over time, and that somebody will be ultimately, Australian consumers in one way or another.
Ted O’Brien: Yeah. And it’s got to get the balance, right, Brian, like no one in this debate is saying Australia shouldn’t do its bit it shouldn’t try to decarbonize its economy. But you’ve got to balance that with also keeping the economy’s strong. Because if you if you start throwing that out of whack, I tell you what, it’ll be the Australian people who will put their hands up and say, Well, what are you doing to our jobs to our way of life to our future? He’s gonna get that balance. Right. And that’s what I think Libre is missing the point, then not worrying about the economy. And I think it’s going to end in tears.
Brian Carlton: Yeah, the flat out sort of nos from the from the government Energy Minister Chris Bowen and and also Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who were basically saying when the questions put to them, well, let’s see the cost of energy rise, and they just sort of go no, there’s no real explanation as to why that’s the case or what mechanism is involved in this, this new policy that will drive down energy prices, which was as we all know, the promise prior to the election. Okay, look, this is going to take some time to play out in full obviously, but the the roadmap that the government’s laid out is not a great one, it might be a great one for those who insist on being zero emissions country, but to maintain a population of ours at the standard of living that we enjoy is in my view under challenge here, under threat.
Ted O’Brien: It really is Brian. And you’re right, the Albanese government promised Australians a $275 cut in their household power bill. And their magical energy policy was going to deliver that. As we’ve all seen energy bills have been skyrocketing ever since. And, and we now know from the operators, that prices will go up again this winter. They promised one thing they deliver another. I don’t understand how anyone can have any faith in their energy policy. It’s not working. It’s not going to work as we go forward.
Brian Carlton: Ted O’Brien, federal Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy appreciate you calling in this morning.
Ted O’Brien: Thanks for your time.