Interview with Greg Jennett, ABC News

Greg Jennett
Australian gas supply, Resource management, Paul Keating’s AUKUS comments. 

GREG JENNETT: Joining us live from Perth is Resources Minister Madeleine King to talk through some of these issues. Welcome back to the program, Madeleine. It is clear from AEMO that the market alone won't direct enough supply, will it, for Eastern Australia's gas needs? Your last Heads of Agreement seems not to have been enough either. What's the next form of government intervention here?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Thanks so much, it's good to be with you again. Well, I would take a point with what you've made is that the Heads of Agreement, in fact, has worked. And working with the three LNG facilities in Gladstone, I did negotiate the Heads of Agreement, which did bring 157 petajoules of supply, which is more than enough and more than the shortfall predicted by the ACCC in their interim gas inquiry last year. And so, it has been entirely adequate. And what I really – I want to acknowledge the good work AEMO are doing in many facets of the energy market, but particularly in relation to the report released overnight, is they have put a forecast together and it's an important forecast and it allows government to react, but react in a sensible fashion, where I will again sit down with the three Gladstone operators and we'll talk more about supply into the future. And that's how we should work with government and commerce working together to make sure there is proper supply.

GREG JENNETT: All right, so there is still, if not currently, there is still a forecast shortfall nevertheless, I think you're conceding that much, Madeleine King. Do you have any fix yet on what the additional amount of gas that will be required from, well, essentially from 2026 onwards, isn't it?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Yeah, well, I mean, AEMO's report is a matter of fact, like they have issued it, so I certainly don't take any issue with the fact of its existence. There will be other reports coming along the way. The ACCC, pardon me, still works on the gas inquiry and when that comes out, which will be later this year, we will marry those two things up together, as well as talks with the industry around supply. But as soon as these forecasts predict these things, we do get to work, and we do work with the industry to make sure that there is sufficient gas supply. And that's exactly what did happen last year. There was no actual shortfall for this year. And the reason is, because industry worked with me, we reached a Heads of Agreement, they've supplied the gas, as they have promised, and to be honest, that side of things has worked quite well and I expect I'll be able to meet - I will meet with them again and we will continue to do this.

GREG JENNETT: So, this is just something we'll have to factor in, is it? Year on year adjustments. Why not use some of the tools at your disposal in the near term to kind of set things up for, let's say, the next two or three years. I'm talking about the mandatory code and if you had to go there, the so-called trigger as well.

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, the code is currently being worked on and that will be a good thing when it is introduced. But there is still work to do and I think it's really important to acknowledge the depth of consultations the government is having with industry in regard to that code. So that's not in place right now. 

I am at the moment reforming the Domestic Gas Security Mechanism, the trigger, as you say. But what is important is supply is an important factor in our economy. This government has legislated for net zero by 2050. But as the Prime Minister has said, as the Minister for Energy has said, gas remains a flexible fuel. It will be needed to back up our transition into renewable energy and so supply will be important. I know there is work being done by some of the states to increase that supply and by the companies themselves. And that's very important work as well.

GREG JENNETT: So, what you're saying there is this reinforces the dangers, does it, of flirting with The Greens in any negotiation on any government bill about that phrase we hear so often, "No new gas"? Does this highlight the folly in accommodating them?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, the Government has been very clear we won't countenance that kind of economy wrecking activity or commitment. That is a folly. We have to remember what this industry and the whole resources industry has created for Australia, and that's our biggest export industry between mining, resources and gas as energy. So, this is very important to many communities right across Queensland. There are many communities that depend on this industry and also in north-western Australia, so to say these things, these are policies put about by a party that has no responsibility to govern. So, I don't think they're worth much.

GREG JENNETT: And just back on storage and capacity, I suppose, if the supply could be unlocked in eastern Australia and you don't have to import LNG to places like Geelong, for instance, where is government and industry at on actually building the physical storage in the east?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, that's a matter the state governments are working with and also Minister Bowen is working on storage solutions. And it is important for the Commonwealth, certainly in terms of supply. Our best possibility for increasing supply to the East Coast is extension of existing gas fields in Bass Strait. And that's something we work with the Victorian government with as the joint authority on those things.

GREG JENNETT: Just quickly, is that emerging?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: Well, we work together with the Victorian government to work on these exploration permits and that's a matter for the future. It's not something we're doing right now. But you asked originally about storage and that's something that Minister Bowen, I know, and his department are working very hard on at the moment.

GREG JENNETT: All right, Madeleine King, I'll have to ask you, as we ask every Labor figure, particularly front benchers at the moment, is Paul Keating, in your view, forever estranged from the Labor Party he once led after burning bridges so spectacularly yesterday on AUKUS and foreign policy?

MINISTER MADELEINE KING: No, not at all. I think every person is entitled to their opinion, whether you're an ex-Prime Minister or my neighbour. And I disagree with my neighbours on some things as well, but we remain friends or members of your family. And Paul Keating is a member of the Labor family and always will be.

GREG JENNETT: All right, we'll take it up with others. Madeleine King, really appreciate your insights, particularly into the gas side of things in resources today. Thanks so much.