Interview with Tom Connell, Sky News

Tom Connell
The Greens' demand to stop all new coal and gas projects, climate triggers, gas wholesale prices

TOM CONNELL: Now for more on this is Resources Minister Madeleine King, thanks so much for your time. This call from the Greens is actually in line with the warnings we've had from the IPCC, no new coal or gas projects should be opened. Why is Labor not open to it?

MADELEINE KING: Well, I think well - Hi, Thomas, good to see you again, I know it's been a while since I've been on your show, so it's good to be back. 
I think what we see is this approach, a take-it-or-leave-it style approach from The Greens in regard to the safeguards mechanism, legislation is entirely unhelpful. We have not ruled anything in or out and the Minister responsible for these negotiations, Minister Bowen, has said as much and I think it's really important we work constructively together to make sure we are able to take action on climate change through the market. It is an initiative of the former government. We are seeking to make it work properly and it is modelled that in its existing form it would take 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. And if the Greens choose to not support that, well, I guess that will be on their head.

TOM CONNELL: But when you say you're not ruling anything in or out, what, you're open, as Minister, to no new coal or gas projects?

MADELEINE KING: Well, the truth of the matter is we will need gas for this country to continue for its energy security.

TOM CONNELL: I mean that's off the table?

MADELEINE KING: No, I think all discussion has to be on the table, right? We do have to talk about options. But the truth of the matter, and I've said in Parliament before and publicly before, we won't get to net zero emissions in this country or indeed the world, without the resources sector and without gas, and even without coal. You cannot build a wind turbine without coal.

TOM CONNELL: In the short term, we need more gas. So, no new gas?

MADELEINE KING: In the short term, medium term and long term we will need gas. You need gas to process critical minerals and rare earths which are essential for clean energy technology.

TOM CONNELL: What about speculation of a climate trigger for new coal or gas projects? Would you be open to that as Minister?

MADELEINE KING: A climate trigger does not come into my portfolio, that's for the Minister of the Environment -

TOM CONNELL: Well, that effects your doing -

MADELEINE KING: Well, most decisions of government affect all of our portfolios, I might say, and this is becoming increasingly evident as we have a longer time in government. Everything is relevant, but the climate trigger is - I've no doubt, the Minister for Environment speaks with all interest groups that are raising this topic. But what we have said and been very consistently about is any decision on any expansion, extension or new fossil fuel project will be done on the basis of environmental laws and making sure they stack up socially and financially.

TOM CONNELL: And that's what's in place right now. What are your views to a new climate trigger on top of that?

MADELEINE KING: Well, it's not really up for me to expand on personal views in that, the Government will look at all things that come before it and make decisions.

TOM CONNELL: But you're the Resources Minister, you must have a view on that?

MADELEINE KING: I do have a lot of views on a lot of things but I'm also the Resources Minister in a Cabinet Government that we discuss these things among ourselves and have positions -

TOM CONNELL: So, you'd push back against a broad climate trigger? It would mean new approaches -

MADELEINE KING: I think an indiscriminate climate trigger could cause a lot of difficulty for our economy, an economy that is based on exports of resources. And that's something we need to always take into account because what we won't adopt is economy wrecking policies for the sake of populism.

TOM CONNELL: Okay. The Government of course has capped wholesale gas prices. Since then, we've had Senex Energy, Beach Energy, Cooper Energy, ExxonMobil as well have either stalled or put under review proposed investments in new gas. The Government was adamant it wouldn't affect investment. Are you still sure about that?

MADELEINE KING: I am sure about that and the reason I am sure about that is the global demand for gas is increasing. We see because of the Europeans moving off their dependence on Russian gas, increasingly gas suppliers in other parts of the world are becoming more attractive to investors and -

TOM CONNELL: Sorry to jump in, we're a bit short for time. 

MADELEINE KING: Got it. Understood.

TOM CONNELL: This is about domestic supply and that's what these companies are warning that these projects set aside for domestic supply now have a question mark over them.

MADELEINE KING: Well, we speak to these gas companies all the time, as a Resources Minister you would expect that.

TOM CONNELL: What are they telling you?

MADELEINE KING: They have validly taken their time to make decisions because there's been a change in the law, and I respect that, and I understand it and I don't object to it. I can understand how it causes some consternation. But ultimately the supply and the cap on supply on the price of gas is still very high compared to what they were getting paid for gas in 2020, which is much lower by $10. So, they can still make, and they will still make profit in investment into domestic gas.

TOM CONNELL: They have these projects paused, so they seem to be unsure of that. What are you saying? Once the details revealed then they'll be unpaused. You're confident that they'll see the detail? It won't be as scary.

MADELEINE KING: I'm optimistic that these companies know what their role is in the community and part of their role is to supply gas. And by supplying gas that creates jobs, it creates a feedstock for manufacturing, it provides gas to consumers. Part of their social licence of operators is getting in and doing that job. So, I do expect them to come back to the table, absolutely. But I equally understand they need to see how the code of conduct will operate and I think that is okay that they are taking time. I hope they do consider it-

TOM CONNELL: Have you been able to give them assurances for questions they're asking? To say this will be okay, this won't happen, this won't happen.

MADELEINE KING: We keep talking to anyone in the industry that wants to talk to us about that. And we make sure their views are known to the people doing this, which is the ACCC, and we make our views known to the ACCC, and we talk about it a lot. It's a lot of work to be done and we are doing it.

TOM CONNELL: And the social licence is that you're sort of saying, "Well, look, you might make a bit less out of the domestic gas, but you're making a lot exporting, so you better keep up our gas supply or the export market".

MADELEINE KING: It's also a temporary cap, right? This does not last forever, and we hope that the prices normalise as well once the cap comes off. And that is something we've built into this energy plan, is reviews on how it's operating. So, we know this is an interference in the market and it's not one we raced toward. It was necessary. And I might add, it's just like measures being taken right across Europe and in other countries who are also dealing with spiralling gas costs that are an impediment to manufacturing and consumers.

TOM CONNELL: On overall supply, the budget actually cut CCS funding, could that kill off Beetaloo Basin to bring on more supply?

MADELEINE KING: Well, Beataloo Basin, it's still a lot of work to be done there and the Northern Territory Government is working through it. They've progressed really rapidly on meeting the recommendations of their Reputex Review. That is not something that's immediately before the Government at this point, but CCS projects are ongoing across the country. We have released basins for those CCS projects to go on. The funding has changed to a focus on emerging technologies like direct air capture and that's an important recognition that no direct air capture, getting CO2 out of the air and putting it into CCS repositories like that. That is the idea.

TOM CONNELL: Okay, yeah. Running out of time, just finally, quickly, PEP-11. The New South Wales Government is talking about legislation to stop the project. Would the Federal Government object to that?

MADELEINE KING: I have heard barely these reports, they've just sort of been emerging. It's up for the New South Wales Government, what they do. I know there's an election coming on, so there's maybe some political points being scored here. If I hear from the Minister, obviously we take all correspondence seriously.

TOM CONNELL: Minister, thanks for your time today.