Doorstop, Parliament House
21 May 2020
Subject: Technology Investment Roadmap, clean energy, emissions reduction, jobs and investment.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Today we've released our Technology Roadmap discussion paper. This is the first stage in an important process of establishing technology priorities for reducing emissions in the short term, medium term and the long term. At its heart, it's about technology not taxes, reducing the cost of living not raising it, and improving businesses, helping businesses to employ, to invest not destroying jobs. This is really crucial because this is how we're going to reduce emissions and at the same time, strengthen the economy as we come out of the COVID crisis.
There are others who think the answer is to tax more, to curb economic activity to destroy jobs to reduce emissions. That is not the approach of this Government. We know Australians are enterprising and ingenious when it comes to using, developing and deploying technologies, and of course, this roadmap is all about making the most of Australian ingenuity, not only to reduce Australian emissions while strengthening our economy, but to support developing countries like India and China, that are absolutely crucial if we're going to reach global outcomes that really make a difference. They need to be able to reduce emissions using the very best technologies at the same time as strengthening their economies.
Now, the key to all of this is balance, a balance of technologies, a portfolio of technologies. We need to have many horses in this race. Any horse that can win, should be there, should be in the race. We shouldn't be ideological about it. It should be pragmatic and focused on technologies that can reduce emissions and strengthen the economy at the same time.
So whether it's soil carbon and the extraordinary role our farmers play in holding carbon on their land, or whether it's carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, the role of gas, particularly a complementary role of gas with solar and wind, is extremely important as we reduce emissions and strengthen our economy coming out of the COVID crisis.
JOURNALIST: Is the new coal-fired power station one of the horses that could win?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We've been very clear on this. I mean higher efficiency, lower emissions gas and coal is a crucial technology which is being used now. It's not a new technology. We know how to do this and we're doing it in our existing coal and gas generators. Of course, we're doing the feasibility study right now on a new generator up at Collinsville. So of course, that's in the roadmap. The point here though is balance, and the point I always make is if we're going to continue to drive down the cost of energy, we're seeing it coming down now, even before the COVID crisis - gas prices coming down, electricity prices down – if we're going to reduce the cost of living, strengthen our businesses - we need balance in our energy portfolio, in our energy system, and balance in the approach we take to emissions.
JOURNALIST: So you’re not walking away from the possibility of a new high efficiency, coal fired plant?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we're doing a feasibility study and that work is being done now.
JOURNALIST: Will you support nuclear energy?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Small modular reactors are emerging technology. There's still a lot to learn about them. There's a few that have been built in the new developing world and we're seeing them in starting to advance now in developed countries. So we're watching very, very closely. Now, we have a moratorium. There's no plan to change the moratorium. But like all technologies, we need to be watching closely and technologies that have the potential to reduce emissions, strengthen our economy are technologies we need to be keeping a very close eye on.
JOURNALIST: What does the roadmap say about hydrogen and the potential growth of that? What are some of the targets that you might be able to achieve?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, hydrogen is a technology with enormous potential for Australia. It's complementary to gas, it reduces emissions, it can be used not just in electricity generation but in important industrial processes like the production of fertiliser for farmers. Hydrogen is produced now. We are already a big hydrogen producer. We produce it from gas and over time, we can be producing it from other fuel sources like solar. So it is a huge opportunity for Australia, not just to reduce our emissions, but to export products that the world wants and which will see fast growing markets - the Japanese, the Koreans, the Chinese, all have a very strong focus on hydrogen and it's one of those technologies where we see great promise.
JOURNALIST: Is it a bit hypocritical for the Government to be – trying to bring more electric vehicles on the road after attacking Labor’s targets at the last election saying they would ‘end the weekend’?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I tell you what we attack and we'll continue to attack is Labor's policies which tell people what sort of car to drive. I mean the whole point about this Technology Roadmap is that people should choose technologies, lower emitting technologies because they're good for that consumer, good for that household, good for that business. This is about choice. This is about government not knowing exactly what businesses should do or households should do, that's up to them, but what we do need to do is make sure those lower emitting alternatives are there and at a low cost as possible. And this is all about reducing the cost of lower emitting technologies, not increasing the cost of existing technologies. That's the key and that means the choice of cars should be left to the Australian public, not to the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: Are you urging states to reopen their borders? The national medical advice is that they shouldn’t be closed.
ANGUS TAYLOR: The national medical advice is clear but ultimately this is a decision for the states. We want to see economies opening up again, jobs being created, investment occurring as quickly as possible, consistent with keeping people healthy and safe. We will continue to take the scientific health advice on this and make our own decisions on that basis. This is a decision for the state governments, but as I say, the tourism sector in this country has suffered badly and we want to see it get back on its feet again.
JOURNALIST: Will Australia commit to net zero emissions as a target?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're not going to commit to a target without a plan. We're not going to commit to a blank cheque for a big carbon tax which is what Labor does every election. It has done it three elections in a row. We're simply not going to do that. What we are going to do is say we'll drive these lower emission technologies as quickly as possible, and we need to do that not just for Australia but for the world. Australian enterprise and ingenuity is absolutely key to reducing not just Australian emissions but emissions around the world. That's what we'll focus on. That's what will deliver the outcomes. Not a top down target driven by a party which we've seen with Labor, that really just wants to tax Australians and raise the cost of living and raise the cost of energy.
JOURNALIST: There’s a strong focus on gas in this plan, why not [inaudible]?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we're focusing on a full range of technologies. I mean the answer here is balance and Australians really understand this focus on balance across all sectors -electricity, industry, manufacturing, transport. A balance of technologies, they will evolve over time and gas has an enormously important role to play. Why? Because gas is lower emitting than alternatives, but importantly gas is complementary to intermittent renewables. So when you put your solar on your roof and the sun goes down, you need to have dispatchable backup so when you flick the switch the light comes on, and gas plays that very important role now and will continue to for many years to come. So it is an important part of the mix. But it's a mix, it's a balance, and it needs to be.
JOURNALIST: Are you nervous about having this policy debate given what's effectively blown up four prime ministers? For more than a decade, Australians have watched this, at times nauseating climate war that's played out. Are you confident that there will actually be meaningful action on reducing emissions this time around?
ANGUS TAYLOR: We're already seeing it. I mean in 2012, Labor forecast that our emissions this year would be 635 million tonnes. They are going to be at least 100 million tonnes lower than that and that's without their $35 carbon tax. So we're achieving, we're delivering. Now, if you look at the key to this, it's Australian enterprise and ingenuity around deployment and the use of technologies that make a difference. Whether you're a farmer, whether you're in industry and you're using efficiency technologies, whether you're putting solar on your roof, Australians are very good at using technology - always have been, always will be. That's what we're harnessing here. We're mobilising Australian energy, Australian ingenuity and Australian capacity to adopt new technologies, and that will make a difference, just as it has been in recent years.
JOURNALIST: But a lot of these technologies could have been doing a lot of this a decade ago, why has it taken so long?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it hasn't, it's happening now. I mean we've seen extraordinary energy efficiencies in the last 10 years. That's why we've achieved 100 million tonnes better for 2020, at least, then was forecast back in 2012 with a carbon tax, with a carbon tax. So, you know, this is happening. We're seeing it in agriculture. We're seeing extraordinary productivity advances occurring in agriculture driven by technology. Farmers have been doing this for hundreds of years in this country. We're seeing it in manufacturing. Australians deploying leading edge technologies in our aluminium smelters, in our steel mills and we'll continue to see that in the coming years. We need to do our bit to make sure it happens as quickly as possible. And that those technologies can be used offshore, as they have been in the past. Australian solar work has been crucial in the development of that industry around the world. That will continue to be a very strong focus. Technology is the key to reducing emissions whilst keeping a strong economy.
JOURNALIST: Are you confident that this plan won’t divide the Coalition party room?
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm very confident that the Coalition backs a policy of technology, not taxes. That has been our approach, that's what's worked. That's what will continue to be our approach. In contrast to the Labor Party, one way or another, they always want to whack a tax on you. They want to raise the price of the fuels they don't like. We want to reduce the cost of using lower emitting fuels so that people choose to use them because it's good for their business, because it's good for their household. That's how Australians like to do things. That's what works.
JOURNALIST: Isn't it right though, that companies that are big emitters do wear the cost of making this transition, given that the biggest source of emissions of electricity, the biggest source of electricity use is heavy industry, mining. It's not really consumers that are generating the majority of these emissions. So on an ideological level, isn't right that those companies foot the bill given they're the ones that are causing these emissions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, consumers play an enormously important role in this, as does business. I mean the answer is both and we need to make sure there are technologies available, where businesses and households want to choose them because they reduce their cost of living, their cost of doing business, improve their business performance, and that's how we'll see emissions come down whilst maintaining a strong economy. It's a pretty straightforward formula - the key to it is continual improvement of technology, Australian ingenuity and there's many technologies where we are leading the world. We can play a leadership role, whether it's carbon capture and storage, Soil carbon, hydrogen. All of these are technologies where Australia has a leadership role to play and we have been playing and we'll continue to in the future.
JOURNALIST: Australia was willing to be a world leader in terms of the COVID-19 inquiry. Why aren't we being ambitious when it comes to net zero emissions and leading the world and joining so many other countries who've publicly stated that ambition? Why is it wrong not to have that target? We've got our roadmap out of COVID-19, we've set a target to be reopened by the end of June. How we get there is to be determined by the states and territories. Couldn't we have a similar approach with net zero emissions when we set the target and then we chip away at it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Targets don't reduce emissions, plans do. And we've been reducing emissions, we've been delivering and that is the key. As we look to 2020, we're going to meet and beat our targets by, at last count, 411 million tonnes, which is almost a year's worth of emissions. As we look forward to 2030, we have a clear plan down to the last tonne. And we're on track - more than on track - to deliver. So this is how we will reduce emissions. Technology is absolutely crucial to it. That's what's worked in the past, that's what has worked in the future. Thank you very much.