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Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

19 May 2021

Ben Fordham

Subject: Gas-fired power station, International Energy Agency, carbon emissions, mouse plague


BEN FORDHAM: Well, pressure is increasing on Australia to reach net zero emissions by 2050. The International Energy Agency says if we want to achieve that goal, we can't build any new coal or gas facilities. Well, today, the Energy Minister Angus Taylor is announcing the location of a new gas plant in the Hunter Valley. It'll be built at Kurri Kurri. The $600 million project will replace the Liddell power station when it closes in 2023. The Federal Government says it will keep electricity prices down but how do we keep prices down while also reaching net zero by 2050? Angus Taylor is the Federal Energy Minister and he's on the line. Angus, good morning to you.

ANGUS TAYLOR: G'day Ben. How are you?

BEN FORDHAM: I'm well. So, Kurri Kurri's going to be the location of this new plant and it's going to create plenty of jobs we understand?

ANGUS TAYLOR: That's exactly right. Look, we're stepping up. We're building this new gas plant at Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley. It will create jobs, drive down energy prices, keep the lights on and it will help to reduce emissions. So, on every front this gets a tick. It is about replacing the Liddell generator which will close in 2023. This, combined with the announcement made by Energy Australia to build a gas generator in the Illawarra, will meet that target of having enough capacity so that when Liddell closes, we'll have the supply we need to keep the lights on and drive prices down. It's enormously important to ensure that the small business, households and industry across New South Wales have access to that affordable, reliable power they need.

BEN FORDHAM: Angus, how do you respond to the lecture from the International Energy Agency today, saying you can't build new gas and coal plants and also reach net zero by 2050?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we're not going to shut down our coal industry or gas industry. I think they also said that oil has got to go too, straight away. Look, that's not what we're going to do. We've got to take a sensible approach to this. We are bringing emissions down, they're 19 per cent on our 2005 levels. We're one of the few countries in the world that has been absolutely smashing our targets. But we're going to do it in a sensible way and in a way that ensures that we've got that affordable reliable power that Australians need. You know, we've got big businesses like the Tomago Smelter that employ 1,000 people, many more indirect jobs in the Hunter Valley. If they don't get access to affordable, reliable power like we can get from this generator, they simply won't be able to keep going. So, it's enormously important we get these generators, these two generators into place - one built by the government, one built by the private sector - and that will be good for all energy consumers in New South Wales.

BEN FORDHAM: Are you getting the support you need from New South Wales?  Because the New South Wales Energy Minister Matt Kean says if you're interested in driving down electricity prices, then you'd be mad to use gas.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, he's supported the Tallawarra gas generator in the Illawarra so, you've got to reconcile those two things, but he has and I spoke to him last night and he was very supportive. I'm sure the New South Wales Government will support this. They've given it accelerated approvals. It's important we get this in place. I think they understand, we all understand that if we don't have the power we need, the lights go out and the prices go up and we can't afford to have that.

BEN FORDHAM: Angus, you'd be familiar with what's going on in the central west of New South Wales at the moment with the mouse plague. I want to get a response from you about this call from PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I kid you not, they are saying today that the farmers should not be killing the mice because the rodents should not be denied their right to food. They say these bright, curious animals are just looking for food to survive. They shouldn't be robbed of that right because of the dangerous notion of human supremacy.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, they need to spend a bit of time out at Nyngan or Tottenham. And, you know, that's where my wife's family's from, out at Tottenham. They say it's an extraordinary plague. They've had a massive crop which had been absolutely wonderful after some tough years. But they've got this mice plague and you've got to get rid of the mice. It's pretty simple. So, frankly, you know, I think, as always, we're Australians, we're pragmatic. We don't listen to some of that drivel.

BEN FORDHAM: Well, I've got an idea. If they want to rehome the mice, surely we can collect them all and deliver them to the headquarters of PETA.

ANGUS TAYLOR: [Laughs] I'm not quite sure what they would do with them, Ben. But, I mean, at the end of the day, look, this is a big issue for farmers and everybody out in that region, a really big issue. And it's got to be treated properly and we've got to deal with it in a sensible, pragmatic way. That's what Australians do, Ben. And, you know, we don't need to listen to advice from groups like that.

BEN FORDHAM: Great to catch up. We'll talk to you soon.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good on you. Thanks Ben.