Doorstop on the High Energy Using Business Grants, Bell Bay, Tasmania

Doorstop interview
High Energy Using Business Grants, electric vehicles, emissions targets, COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Doorstop with Bridget Archer MP, Member for Bass, and CEO of Bell Bay Aluminium Shona Markham

BRIDGET ARCHER: It's really great to be here in Bell Bay with Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor, and Shona Markham, who is CEO of Bell Bay Aluminium here. We've had a great morning already here in Bell Bay over at Liberty, talking to them about what their plans are for the future, both in terms of reducing their emissions and continuing to provide employment here in Bell Bay. And now we're here with some exciting news at Bell Bay Aluminium. And Angus might like to tell us what we're here for today.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, great to be here with Bridget, Shona, back at Bell Bay again. I've been coming here for many, many years, including before politics. It's great to see the business continuing on in the way it has for so many years in this area, employing and creating opportunities for Tasmanians, particularly up here in this area around Bell Bay and Launceston. And of course, what we're announcing today is a grant of $11,000 for energy efficiency as part of a broader program of Energy Efficient Communities, which we've been pursuing to drive energy efficiency across businesses, exactly like this one, right across Australia. In this particular case, Bell Bay has been driving energy efficiencies since it was built. As an aluminium smelter, it's one of the biggest users of electricity in Australia. Energy efficiency is the way to get the cost of energy down and bring down emissions at the same time, and that's what this particular grant and this broader program is about. Indeed, yesterday, I was in Burnie announcing another program for community organisations focused on energy efficiency, bringing down the cost of energy for community organisations, whether it’s sporting clubs or Surf Live Saving Clubs across Australia. This is how we're going to continue to drive down emissions and drive down the cost of energy. Indeed, we met and beat, comfortably, our Kyoto targets, our 2020 targets, and energy efficiency was central to that. We're on track to meet and beat our 2030 targets. Again, energy efficiency will be important to that. And the Government's role in continuing to provide that support for the very simple practical gains, like the one we see here, reducing air leaks, which allows for a reduction in use of energy in the smelter. These are the very practical gains that will drive down emissions, drive down the cost of energy, and make sure our businesses across Australia are efficient and effective. Let me ask Shona to make a few comments about this program and what's happening here in Bell Bay.

SHONA MARKHAM: Thank you, first of all, for the grant. I think what's really important to us is, and we've demonstrated over a large period of time now, how we can continue to make the smelter more and more efficient, and reduce the amount of energy it takes to make aluminium. This is yet another example for us, and it's a small project where we can go about finding air leaks. That will reduce the amount of energy it takes to make air on site. So we're very grateful for the grant and it is part of a larger program of how we reduce our energy intensity on site.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Let me make another comment. We've got Millie over here who is working as an engineer, she's an engineering student who has worked on this program. Millie is exactly the sort of person we need, innovating, finding those energy efficiency opportunities that are really making a difference. So, congratulations Millie, on the work you've done that has led to this particular initiative. It's exactly what we need to see more of and we'll continue to see more of right across Australia as we bring down emissions and bring down the cost of energy.

JOURNALIST: How many grants out there and how many have been allocated or will be allocated to Tasmania?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's $14 million worth of grants, this program. It is part of the broader Climate Solutions Package which is $3.5 billion, which we're using to drive down emissions and drive down the cost of energy at the same time. We're working across a range of different sectors to do that, whether it's the household sector and community organisations, which we were talking about yesterday, or indeed it's the heavy industrial sectors like we're talking about today, that's where we're going to continue to find the gains. The $3.5 billion across the Climate Solutions Package is all about driving down those emissions, taking the very pragmatic approach that has worked so effectively for Australia with emissions down 19 per cent down on that 2005 baseline and continuing towards our Paris targets in 2030, which we're absolutely committed to meet and beat.

JOURNALIST: Why was this application chosen for a grant?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there are a number of applications chosen for grants right across Australia, but aluminium smelters are very big users of electricity, and helping aluminium smelters to bring down their usage of electricity does two things. One, is it makes them more competitive. And the second, it brings down our emissions. What we're trying to do here, achieving, is both at the same time. A more competitive industry in Australia, like our aluminium smelters and many other industrial sites across Australia, but at the same time, bringing down costs and emissions. That's how we nail this problem. It's how we've been doing it in the past, and how we'll continue to do it in the future.

JOURNALIST: Rio Tinto runs mostly on wind and hydro, that's correct? So given that, is this the best possible allocation of the resource, given we'd see a bigger reduction in carbon emissions by giving the grants to places that run mostly off coal and gas?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We want to free up energy in Tasmania where we can to go into other means of bringing down emissions. The more we can free up from use right now in a place like this, the more it can be used in other applications, including in Victoria. The Marinus Link project, we committed $94 million just before Christmas, that's an important project to get this low emissions energy, dispatchable energy from hydro here in Tasmania into Victoria. We need that firming, and if it can be low emissions, then it will help to bring down the emissions right across Australia. That's exactly what we want.

JOURNALIST: On to other issues, Labor is promising to exempt many models of electric vehicles from import tariffs and fringe benefits tax to encourage electric vehicle uptake. What do you make of that plan?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I note that in February, Anthony Albanese said subsidies weren't necessary for electric vehicles, and they'll get to cost parity by 2022. Now he's made an enormous backflip here. He clearly has a deal to shore up his leadership. But that's what we see from ‘each-way’ Albo. On the one hand, one moment he's saying one thing, and then a few moments later he's saying something completely different. Now we know the cost of electric vehicles are coming down. I think he was right the first time saying they will come to parity and as they do, uptake will happen. The critical thing for us in our $74 million Future Fuels Strategy is to focus on making sure we establish the infrastructure that's going to support these vehicles into the market as the cost continues to come down. You know Albo will always, and Labor will always focus on the big spending strategies to provide subsidies. It's exactly what he's doing here, having said he didn't need them only a couple of weeks ago.

JOURNALIST: So does Labor's plan have any merit?

ANGUS TAYLOR: You should judge it based on what they've said. Albo said there's no need for subsidies, and then a few weeks later, he's providing subsidies. I mean, judge their policies on their own comments, and I think it's pretty clear.

JOURNALIST: At the last election, the Coalition labelled Labor's EV policies ‘a war on the weekend’, would you extend that criticism to this policy?

ANGUS TAYLOR: My point has always been that we should be providing choice, and what Labor's policies at the last election, is they said: ‘We're going to choose for you, we're going to impose taxes on certain types of cars and we're going to tell you what kind of car to drive.’ Well, we believe in choice. We continue to believe in choice. But technologies are improving, as we see here today. We're seeing technology being used to drive down the cost of energy and reduce emissions. The same is happening with vehicles. Hybrids, we've seen a doubling of the sales of hybrids in Australia in the last 12 months, and that rapid uptake of hybrids, of course, is bringing down emissions and its being chosen, this is a choice that's being made. Our policies are focussed on choice. We're not going to tell Australians what kind of car to drive, but we are going to make sure that they are in a position to make those choices and the infrastructure is there to support those choices as they need it.

JOURNALIST: When do you think the majority of new cars sold in Australia will be electric?

ANGUS TAYLOR: When people choose to buy them. And this is the point - we're seeing rapid uptake of hybrids. That's bringing down emissions. It's a very practical outcome, particularly in fleets. We're seeing it happening right now. If you jump in an Uber these days in many cities and places around Australia, very often you'll be jumping into a hybrid. We'll see over time the uptake of electric vehicles and we're going to support that through that investment in infrastructure, but we'll stay consistent in our approach here which is a focus on consumer choice, a focus on supporting new technologies into the market and a focus on bringing down emissions because Australians are making the choices for those lower emissions technologies because it's good for them.

JOURNALIST: But are you talking five, 10, 20 years ahead?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, every Australian will make a choice at the time that is right for them. Whether you're a business, you're an industry, or indeed, you're a household. People will make the choices at the times that suit them. What we've got to do is make sure that the technology is available and supported to make those choices, and that's exactly what we're doing through our Future Fuel Strategy and we'll continue to provide that support. We know the electricity grid has got to adapt as there's more electric vehicles moving into particular parts of Australia. The work we're doing with AEMO right now and the electricity industry more generally on making sure we've got the infrastructure there to support those choices, will continue to be our focus. I'm confident that the uptake will continue to be rapid. We're seeing this with hybrids now and then electric vehicles over time as well. So this is going to be driven by choice. That's our approach.

JOURNALIST: But the Federal Government has no set goal in mind then, in relation to when?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, our set goal is to meet our Paris targets, just as we've met our Kyoto targets. We'll meet and beat those targets. That's the goal. That's the thing that makes a difference. Let's be clear about this. Those goals are clear, they're unambiguous. We've met and beat our Kyoto targets, many people said we wouldn't. Well, we did. And we didn't just by a little bit, we did by a long, long way, almost a year's worth of emissions. Very few countries in the world could come close to those sorts of outcomes. Look, choice has been driving down emissions in Australia. We've seen it with solar cells. One in four Australian households now with solar. They’re choices, they’re choices. Highest in the world, that's the highest rate in the world. It's choice that will drive this, we'll support those choices and provide the infrastructure to support them. And we'll meet and beat our Paris targets.

JOURNALIST: Grace Tame has slammed the appointment of Amanda Stoker as Assistant Minister for Women given her past comments on a fake rape crisis. Is Senator Stoker the right person for the role?

ANGUS TAYLOR: She is an absolutely outstanding colleague who has done an absolutely outstanding job in the Senate. And in her role that she's had and will have in the future, she will do an excellent job. Now, I note that Senator Stoker in her previous life supported women in situations of sexual crime. She was a prosecutor, and she supported women, justice for women in that role as a prosecutor and as a barrister. She is an outstanding colleague and she will do an outstanding job.

JOURNALIST: Why is the vaccine rollout in Australia so much slower than expected? And does the Federal Government hold sole responsibility for the pace of the rollout?

ANGUS TAYLOR: You know, right through this pandemic, there is no other country in the world where I would have wanted to be more than Australia. We have performed outstandingly well. There have been challenges along the way, there will continue to be challenges along the way. But Australia has been an outstanding place to be throughout. As I get around my electorate and around Australia, I hear this time and time again. Now, we have, just in the last couple of days, hit 60,000 vaccinations a day. That is a very good run rate. We'll continue to drive that. We need the states supporting that rollout. It is crucially important. We all have to play our part. But I'm very confident that Australia will be, continue to be, a great place to be throughout the pandemic.

JOURNALIST: But is the Federal Government responsible for that slow rollout?

ANGUS TAYLOR: As I say, we've hit 60,000 a day, and that is a very good run rate and we want that to continue.

JOURNALIST: Are federal ministers like yourself going to be coming down to Tasmania a bit more over the next month in the lead up to our state election?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, look, we'll continue to come to Tasmania as we always do. I'm down here regularly and make a point of getting down here regularly, have done for many years. Both before I went into politics and since I've been in politics, I enjoy getting down here. There's fantastic things happening here in Tasmania. The State Government has done an outstanding job throughout the pandemic. We're seeing an economy here in Tasmania which is the envy of many, as it is across Australia, the envy of many across the world. I think we'll continue to see a very strong performance, and I'm looking forward to seeing the Tasmanian Government here re-elected.

JOURNALIST: Are you expecting to see Scott Morrison come down over the next month?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well as I say, I'm confident Scott will be playing his role in making sure Tasmania continues to be successful and that the Gutwein Government is re-elected.

JOURNALIST: Playing his role by coming here or just playing a role?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm sure he'll be here over the next little while, as will others of us. We come down here regularly. I'm not going to give you a date, if that's what you're asking for. But look, there will be, continue to be strong support of this great State Government from the Federal Government. Exactly as we're doing with Marinus - $94 million. We're working with the Tasmanian Government and they've been very good partners to us, in not only creating opportunities for Tasmania itself, but actually helping the electricity grid right across the east coast. We'll continue to work closely with them as I will, and as will the Prime Minister and my fellow ministers.

JOURNALIST: It doesn't feel like there's a huge amount of, in the public, of wanting ScoMo to come down at the moment. Are we going to see federal ministers, like yourself, coming more instead of-

ANGUS TAYLOR: You know, ScoMo, like Peter Gutwein has done a fantastic job throughout the pandemic and I'm sure Tasmanians appreciate that. Look, I see that. I've been here for the last day or so and I'm hearing continual, strong and positive feedback about how governments at all levels have been dealing with the very challenging situations we've had over the last 12 months. I'm very confident that we'll continue to drive that strong performance and the re-election of the Gutwein Government is essential to that.