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Interview with ABC TV News Breakfast

21 May 2020

Interviewer: 
Lisa Millar

Subject: Technology Investment Roadmap, coal, gas, electric vehicles, emissions reduction, emissions targets, COVID-19 travel.

E&OE

LISA MILLAR: We are joined by Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, from Canberra. Good morning, Minister, welcome to Breakfast.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thank you for having me, Lisa.

LISA MILLAR: It would seem that coal is out and gas is in from this roadmap?

ANGUS TAYLOR:  Well, no, it's about balance ultimately, and this is about using technology not taxes to bring down emissions, but at the same time keeping a strong economy. And there's no time when that's more important than now, when Australians want reduced cost-of-living, not increased - more jobs, more investment - that's the focus here. We know technology is the key because it allows consumers, households, small businesses, and industry to make choices of technology which are good for those businesses or those households, able to reduce costs, and improve their effectiveness, and at the same time, bring down emissions. That's the magic of technology, and a balance of technology is the key. We want many horses in this race, any horses that can win the race should be in it. And that ultimately needs a balance, a portfolio of technologies.

LISA MILLAR: Well, one of the horses that doesn't even make an appearance is the calls from some of the National MPs to subsidise high-efficiency, low emission power plants. I mean, the fact that it's not even mentioned, does that mean that's off the table for you?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it is mentioned - it's on page 32 - but it's one of the technologies. And look, the whole point here is that we are going to continue to use coal and gas in this country for many years, and gas in particular plays a very important role of backing up wind and solar. Wind and solar needs to be able to work 24 hours a day and the way to do that is to have a matching complementary hydro and gas, and that makes it a very important part of the mix. And coal generators will continue to be part of the mix for many years to come. The key here is a balance of a range of technologies, and importantly technology that is chosen by businesses and consumers because it's good for them, because it actually makes them more effective, more competitive, employ more, and invest more.

LISA MILLAR: I've noticed electric cars were being floated as something we should all look at. Forgive us for being a little cynical, but a year ago, the Coalition was bagging Labor for suggesting that and saying that Bill Shorten was going to steal the four-wheel drive weekend trips away.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, let's be clear about vehicles, and electric vehicles in particular - our point has always been it should be chosen by consumers. If people want to use electric cars, it should be because they've chosen to do it, not because the government has told them to - and this is the whole point of the technology road map. We've got to get technologies which are lower emitting to the point where people choose them because they're good choices, because they want to choose them - not because others, their alternative has been tax. We get to the right outcome here because we reduce the cost of lower emitting technologies, not because we increase and tax the cost on existing technologies. That's the key that applies with cars as much as it does to any other part of the roadmap.

LISA MILLAR: Well, if this is the roadmap, one could ask, what is the destination? Are you going to try and aim for reducing emissions and having steeper cuts? Because that's the pressure on the Coalition Government, isn't it? Trying to reach that Paris Agreement and actually committing to those steeper cuts?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we're already doing it. I mean, by 2020, the Kyoto targets, we'll beat them easily - at least 80 per cent as of December last year of a year's worth of emissions. Twenty-thirty we are already on track; we have a plan using existing known technologies to reach that outcome. And of course technologies that emerge in that next decade can help to even do better, so we expect to even beat those targets -

LISA MILLAR: You won't commit to 2050 and net zero?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We are committed as a party to the Paris agreement to reach net zero globally by the second half of the century. And the critical point here is that getting to net zero globally means that countries like India, China, and other big developing countries that are increasingly big emitters need to have technologies available to them which they choose because it strengthens their economies and not weakens it. And that's a critical role that Australia can play in technologies like hydrogen, where we are absolutely a world leader. Carbon capture and storage, which is recognised by the IPCC and the International Energy Agency as a crucial technology -

LISA MILLAR: Oh it has lots of critics, hasn't it? I mean gosh, it's been criticised for sucking a lot of money without actually showing much for it here in Australia.

ANGUS TAYLOR: But we're seeing outcomes now, we're seeing them on the north-west shelf, we're seeing significant outcomes. We're seeing in the United States enormous investment in carbon capture and storage, for instance. So it is an important technology. But it's one of many, and this is the whole point. We need lots of horses in the race, we need to make sure we back any horse that can win, we need it across a large range of sectors, not just electricity. Agriculture is important to this - soil carbon, the role that farmers can play in making their farms more productive and at the same time, absorbing carbon. These are crucial technologies, they're evolving fast, we can use them in Australia, and as we lead the world on a number of these technologies, other countries in the world can pick them up, and that helps to reduce global emissions.

LISA MILLAR: Minister, on another subject, we've been talking a lot about the state borders today. What's your thought about the criticism of states like Queensland, WA, Tasmania for keeping their borders closed?

ANGUS TAYLOR: As you know, I mean, these are decisions for the states. The Chief Medical Office had been very clear about health implications of those decisions. We do want the states to progressively move to reduce the lockdown, to free up their economies, to get people back into work, to get people moving, to open up the tourist industry which is crucially important at this time - they've been really hit hard, particularly in my part of the world - we do want to see these things opened up as quickly as possible, and it's very important we listen to the health advice as we do that.

LISA MILLAR: Well, the states are listening to their own health advice, but the New South Wales Premier says this is going to be a real problem for the economy if Queensland does not open up its border.

ANGUS TAYLOR: I think that ultimately it's a decision for Queensland but the advice coming in is very clear from the Chief Medical Officer, and it's clear, the New South Wales Premier has put her view as well. What I want to see is this opening up, strengthening, opening up the economy, getting things going again, jobs, investment. And of course, we've got to make sure all our policies are aligned with that at the federal level, and we'd like to see states do the same, and that includes of course our emissions policy which is all about strengthening the economy.

LISA MILLAR: Angus Taylor, thanks for joining us.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.

ENDS