Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB Sydney

Ben Fordham
Energy, carbon emissions, Glasgow summit, nuclear energy, Prince Charles, coal and gas industries, green hydrogen

BEN FORDHAM: Now, there is a brawl unfolding over energy. This is going to be a big issue. Australia is being pressured to join our allies and get to net zero emissions by 2050. So this would involve us rapidly phasing out the use of coal, oil and gas. Right now, 55 per cent of the country is powered by coal, 27 per cent by gas. And at the moment, you've got China and India who are running out of coal, they need our help. The UK is battling blackouts and high prices because of insufficient gas. So, Australia is worried about signing a blank cheque. We're worried about our exports, we're worried about our jobs. Angus Taylor is the Federal Energy Minister, and he's on the line. Minister, good morning to you.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good morning, Ben. Good to be with you.

BEN FORDHAM: We've got to get the balance right, right?

ANGUS TAYLOR: We absolutely do. Let's be clear about this. This is not about wiping out industries, and it shouldn't be. We will always stand up for our traditional industries and agriculture, resources, heavy manufacturing, our regions. Ben, those industries have been my life, and they're absolutely central to what we believe in as a government. So I can tell you we won't be sacrificing those. We do have to bring down our emissions, and we can. The important point here, to get to net zero you don't have to eliminate all your emissions. You have to make sure that you're abating them, that you're carrying them in your soil, that you're sequestering them under the ground so those industries can continue to have a great future, and they absolutely will.

BEN FORDHAM: Coal and gas exports are worth about a hundred billion dollars a year to the Australian economy. Coal employs 50,000 people; oil and gas, 25,000 people. So they're the people who are really listening right now. What do you say to them, Angus Taylor?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, look, I think those industries have a great future. I mean, gas, you're seeing only in Europe now, as you have more renewables come into your electricity system, you need to have the gas. If you don't, the lights go out and the prices go up. So these industries are hugely important, as is agriculture, livestock agriculture. Some are saying we should wipe that out. I mean, I can tell you that won't be happening under our watch. This is not about a blank cheque. It's about sensible policies that allow us to bring down emissions that ensure that our customers, our international customers, get the products they want because their demands are changing. There's no question about that. They want less carbon in the products they buy and we've got to deliver what they want. No business, no country, can survive if it doesn't deliver customers what they want, but we can do that and we can have strong industries like agriculture, resources and heavy industry, and strong regions. That's exactly what we're focused on, Ben.

BEN FORDHAM: We spoke to Andrew Twiggy Forrest yesterday who spoke about green hydrogen. And there's also opportunities, we read in the Financial Review today about opportunities for Australia as we transition to more renewable energy, because we're told that nickel and copper and lithium, they are crucial materials, and we've got this stuff in our backyard.

ANGUS TAYLOR: We sure do. The resources industries is sitting in a very strong position. So critical minerals, as we call them, that are going to be required and are required for many of the materials we need to bring carbon emissions down, whether it's lithium batteries or the copper we need in many of the cars, for instance, that are being built. This is something that we can provide from Australia. Look, hydrogen is the other great opportunity. There is no question about this; hydrogen and ammonia. It's not a new industry to Australia. We produce it now. That's where our fertiliser comes from, Ben. It's not new. We make it from gas. We can continue to make it from gas. We can also make it from renewables, which is what Twiggy's been talking about. We can do both, and that will grow our exports and create opportunities, not destroy them. I can tell you, there's nothing you will see from the Coalition around destroying these industries, cutting off our exports. We do have to adapt to what our customers want. That's absolutely crucial. But we won't be slashing jobs in the regions or slashing these industries in the region.

BEN FORDHAM: I'm guessing we're again going to hear nothing about nuclear, even though even today, the Australian Workers Union has come out and said we need a nuclear power industry established down under.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Look, the Australian Workers Union has had enlightened views on many issues in energy. They've been strong supporters of gas and many of the policies we've been putting in place to make sure we've got enough dispatchable electricity in our system. They are strong supporters of nuclear. If we are to proceed with nuclear, there's a moratorium right now. We would need bipartisanship. Right now, Albo is showing no interest in that, Ben. But we will continue to look at this… 

BEN FORDHAM: You guys are hardly showing any leadership on it though.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, at the end of the day, mate, you've got to get an outcome. And with Albo's…

BEN FORDHAM: Yeah, but he's in opposition, you're in government.

ANGUS TAYLOR: With Albo's position on it, getting the legislation through would be impossible and that's very clear. Now we are moving to nuclear subs, this is a big step forward. It's an important one. But right now we're not in a position where nuclear can be part of the mix. Let's see where Albo and Labor go in the future on this.

BEN FORDHAM: Alright. Prince Charles has made a comment on Scott Morrison wavering over whether he's going to go to this key climate summit in Glasgow. Have a listen to Prince Charles.

QUESTION: Australia, for example. What would you say to a government like your Government of Australia that seems reluctant to take on board the need to take really serious action on this issue?

PRINCE CHARLES: The point being that this is a last chance saloon. Because if we don't really take the decisions that are vital now, it's going to be almost impossible to catch up.

BEN FORDHAM: Prince Charles seem shocked that the PM was considering not going to Glasgow. Should we be taking lectures from the Royal Family?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I just point to the facts, Ben. The facts are a good place to start. Our emissions are down 20 per cent since 2005. That's more than Japan's, more than the United States, more than New Zealand, it's more than Canada. New Zealand and Canada's emissions have barely moved in that time. It's certainly more than China whose emissions have gone up by over 70 per cent. So we've done well, we'll continue to do well. In terms of the Glasgow Summit, I'll be there. We'll have good representation in Australia. There's a bid on at the moment for the Prime Minister. He hasn't made a final decision on this. No doubt he will in the coming weeks. But we will be well represented there regardless, we always are.

BEN FORDHAM: Okay, National Cabinet discussing net zero today. We'll chat to you next week. Thanks for your time.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Good on you. Thanks.

BEN FORDHAM: Angus Taylor, the Federal Energy Minister.