Home » Hunt » Transcripts » Interview with 2GB Morning Show

Interview with 2GB Morning Show

6 January 2017

Interviewer: 
Steve Price

Subject: Gas supplies and energy security, Defence contracts, Minister Ley

E&OE

STEVE PRICE:

Greg Hunt is the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. He’s on the line. Minister, happy New Year to you.

GREG HUNT:

And good morning to you, Steve. I’m calling from Melbourne where it’s beautiful blue skies. I’m not sure what you guys are doing with our Sydney test. I’m very disappointed that we might lose the session.

STEVE PRICE:

No cricket. Yeah, I wouldn’t be putting on at 10:30 this morning and thinking you’re going to watch any cricket I’m afraid.

GREG HUNT:

Ah well, there we go. Anyway.

STEVE PRICE:

Look, the Financial Review today is predicting a doubling of the (gas) price. Can business in Australia really survive a price hike like that? Or is the Financial Review being a little dramatic?

GREG HUNT:

I think there is a gas supply crisis that’s affecting manufacturing and will affect households and small businesses. The reason why is because, in my home state of Victoria, there is a blanket ban on exploration. Let alone onshore drawing of natural gas resources.

So this is natural gas that we use in our kitchens, for our hot water, people who use it for heating and cooling. So there’s this bizarre situation where they’re trying to knock out traditional coal energy and knock out gas in Victoria.

Other states also have partial bans, in the case of New South Wales. I’m very friendly with the New South Wales Government, but my message to everybody is, natural gas is incredibly clean fuel.

The idea that the very thing we use in our own homes should be restricted, should be prevented from being developed, I think is a very big mistake. And the Victorian situation is a disaster for manufacturing.

So myself, the Prime Minister, the Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg, the Resources Minister Matt Canavan; this year one of our absolute goals is to drive the states to allow natural gas to be developed where of course it’s safe and appropriate. But there are huge Australian resources.

STEVE PRICE:

Written on the Cabinet wall in Canberra, should not there be a slogan which says: cheap, reliable energy?

GREG HUNT:

Well this is actually right at the top of our national priority…

STEVE PRICE:

Thank God for that.

GREG HUNT:

…I know from discussing with the Prime Minister and with Josh and others, that my number one goal for this year is to help drive the states to remove what are a simply illogical and irrational ban on natural gas.

STEVE PRICE:

Who’s driven that hysteria? Is it the Greens that have driven that hysteria? I mean, you’ve got a socialist left Labor Government in Victoria - but as you say, the Baird Government here has also put restrictions on coal seam gas mining and fracking. Who’s driven this agenda?

GREG HUNT:

Well look, certainly in my state you’ve got the Greens and the hard left of the Victorian ALP. And what this does is it means in the end that families end up paying enormously higher prices than they have to. And businesses pay huge amounts if they can get the gas.

I know that I’ve been talking to businesses that are struggling to get natural gas supplies. And if people want to reduce emissions, then surely they must be supporting natural gas.         

But we have the extraordinary situation where the Alcoa Portland Aluminium Plant has a possible proposal for a natural gas power plant to replace the brown coal, potentially within three or four years.

Now it may or may not come to pass, but the Greens said, that’s outrageous. How dare you have a natural gas plant. They basically said we want 2000 jobs to go. And that’s then aided and abetted by a ban on, not just natural gas extraction, but natural gas exploration in Victoria.

And so in New South Wales and Victoria, there simply has to be access to the very fuel that Australians use in their own homes every single day.

STEVE PRICE:

The Chairman of Manufacturing Australia, Mark Chellew, who I’m sure you’re well aware of has said in the Financial Review today, he has several members struggling to source long-term supplies of gas.

He says – and do you agree with this – there’s a reasonable chance that there could be curtailments for industry during cold weather this year. Where they basically mean he’s saying that gas will be diverted to retail customers to keep heaters on and industry might not be able to source power to run their businesses. I mean that’s just ridiculous.

GREG HUNT:

So unfortunately, much of what Mark says is absolutely correct. Now on the supplies for industry versus homes, I won’t try to pre-empt what the suppliers might do.

But on the general access, I’ve met with Mark and Manufacturing Australia. They basically represent the people who make things – physical things. You know the sort of jobs that Australians are really proud of and the products that Australians are proud of.           

And their members are struggling to get gas. So on the one hand you have some of the people on the left who say we’ve got to reduce emissions, but then you can’t have access to the very fuel which supports those emissions.

So you have some people who are against dams, against gas, against coal, but then say gee we need energy security. Well you do and it’s fundamental.

After national security, the first job of a first world country is to keep the lights on, to keep the electricity going, so as people can have access to the very basics of day-to-day operation in their lives at an affordable and at a secure price.

So this is my number one goal for the year. Whether it’s through cooperation or through a much stronger approach to say to the states, this sort of passing madness of a ban on the very fuel which is one of our cleanest fuels and which has been fundamental to our development as a nation, has to end.

STEVE PRICE:

In your former role you signed up to the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Gas is pivotal to get us to those emission cuts, isn’t it?

GREG HUNT:

Sure, it’s a very important part of it. I mean we just announced before Christmas that we’re not beating by a little bit, but by over 200 million tonnes our 2020 targets. So we’re doing really well.

But to keep going, gas is a clean fuel, it’s not just an energy, it’s also fundamental for the plastics, the chemical, the fertiliser industries as an input in itself. It’s like iron or steel.

Gas is a critical chemical. The molecules in gas are critical for much of our manufacturing. So it is absolutely vital and we have an abundance of gas which could and should be made available. And there’s no excuse.

Now in every situation, of course you have to test to make sure that it’s safe. But we want to build a coalition with unions, with manufacturers, with workers and with families to say natural gas is a clean and critical fuel for Australia’s development and affordable and secure energy.

STEVE PRICE:

I know this falls into Josh Frydenberg’s area, but it crosses over into industry as well. On price, two things: our prices are tied – as I understand it – to international prices. Shouldn’t we have a local reserve price? And should we not, or have you though, of mandating or legislating for a local gas reserve?

GREG HUNT:

Look I understand the question. I met with four of Australia’s major gas companies before Christmas. And their view was if they had access to more gas they would be able to provide much more supply at a much lower cost.

They’re very clear – if they have access to the supply, that’s all they need to actually deliver the outcomes at a lower price. Particularly if, for example, you’re in Victoria and providing gas in Victoria, your transmission costs are lower, you’re not going to be exporting from Victoria, so it would make a huge difference.

The same in New South Wales. So they don’t believe that that is necessary. They just need to get the natural gas out of the ground and to the homes and to the businesses. And that will take care – not absolutely, but significantly – of the price and the supply pressures.

STEVE PRICE:

Just a couple of quick things before you go. We are on air in New South Wales and Queensland, but as a Victorian Federal Member, there’s a report today suggesting that you and your fellow Victorian Federal MPs are trying to heavy Christopher Pyne to allow Geelong to build a major Defence contract rather than South Australia. South Australia’s got the subs. You’re trying to convince Christopher Pyne, the Defence Services Minister, to allow Victoria to build the next generation of armed combat vehicles, is that right?

GREG HUNT:

So these are called Land 400 and they’re armoured combat vehicles. We would love to see them in Victoria, but the first thing of course with any Defence contract is it’s about the quality and the price.

Now there’s a couple of bids. What we hope is that whoever wins does the majority of their work in Victoria, because there’s a tremendous history. We do need the Victorian Government to match what South Australia has put on the table.

But I am very hopeful that no matter who wins, they will put a significant amount of their work in Victoria, simply because we have skills and history and capability. But the first thing is always the quality of the defence operation. There’s no compromise that can be made on that.

STEVE PRICE:

Your colleague, Sussan Ley, Health Minister, is it a good look that she is up in Queensland purchasing an $800,000 apartment while travelling up there with her partner on a taxpayer funded trip?

GREG HUNT:

I don’t know any of the details of that. I do know that Sussan in general is one of the most extraordinarily scrupulous ministers with her personal behaviour, and also in terms of going and making announcements around the country, delivering outcomes in terms of health. And what I do understand is that she was making a major health announcement in Queensland.

STEVE PRICE:

Not a good look though, is it?

GREG HUNT:

Look I’ll let her deal with the details, but as a person to deal with, unbelievably scrupulous and careful and very focused on always doing the right thing.

STEVE PRICE:

Appreciate your time, thank you very much.

GREG HUNT:

Thanks Steve.

(ENDS)