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Interview with David Eisenhauer, FM 96.3, Sounds of the Mountains

2 July 2020

David Eisenhauer

Subject: Plantation forestry projects, Emissions Reduction Fund, Snowy 2.0, Eden-Monaro by-election.


DAVID EISENHAUER: Angus Taylor joins us on the line. Minister, thank you very much for your time today.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me, David.

DAVID EISENHAUER: On a fairly overcast day, a little bit different to when you were in Lobs Hole a few days ago. We've certainly got a real winter's day across the region. But I appreciate you joining us for a chat today. The Government announcing today, Climate Solutions Fund support for forestry jobs. And this is quite an exciting project this one - reading through the info that John sent through, Minister - allowing plantation and farm forestry projects to access the Emissions Reduction Fund which is good news for our local region along with other local regions as well.

ANGUS TAYLOR: It sure is. So, we're creating a series of hubs where forestry can access the fund, and one of those hubs will be in the Tumut area. Importantly, what this allows is access to the funds for planting new plantations, and this is something the forestry industry has been asking for for some time. We've been working our way through it, and now all the technical issues are resolved. It simply means we'll see more plantations than would otherwise have happened, particularly in higher rainfall areas. And that's been the issue - should higher rainfall areas be able to access this? The answer now is, yes. And the result will be more access to timber over time, which is incredibly important for the industry. They invest because they know there's going to be timber in the future of course, and they need to have the confidence they're going to have access to that timber for their business.

DAVID EISENHAUER: And of course, it also, with the carbon credits for establishing new forestry plantations - I mean, as you are very much aware, you've got a great local grounding in this district, Minister, and with the recent bushfires that have been through, it's decimated the forestry industry.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, that's right. This is all part of the rebuilding. And as the fires went through, or soon afterwards, the industry was pointing out to us that its future depended on being able to replant and having the right regulation in place to be able to replant, and of course, that's what this will allow. So, Visy, for instance, has said that, back in April, that they're prepared to commit to 20 million new trees being planted, $200 million worth of investment, and of course that, as they pointed out at the time, was dependent on getting access to the appropriate regulation. That's exactly what we've done here today.

DAVID EISENHAUER: This is something that's not supported by the Opposition?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, the Emissions Reduction Fund is something they've said they will abolish if they ever get into government. This is an important point. We've used this fund to support agriculture and forestry across Australia, but in a way that's going to reduce emissions. I mean, the truth is, most farmers know that when they do a good job, they add to vegetation, they add to soil carbon and of course that's good for the environment, but it's also good for their business. This has been a way of encouraging lots of good practices in forestry and agriculture, and Labor is now saying they will abolish it which is incredibly disappointing, I know, to so many people who have been able to access the fund.

DAVID EISENHAUER: Of course, and we talk about that with jobs and the job creations around this. We're not the only ones in this program. There are five regional forestry hubs across Australia that are in the making. This is something that's, it's a very long term project when you talk trees. I mean, at the end of the day, it's not something that happens overnight, is it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, it's not, but the planting can happen quickly. And of course, the confidence that there'll be a timber supply is crucial to keeping jobs and growing jobs in the downstream processing industries, and that's enormously important to the Tumut area. So, whilst you might not be harvesting the trees for 30 years or 25 years, you are certainly getting the jobs in the short term, and that's why it's so important. I mean, it is such a strong focus right across this region - over on the Monaro as well and down onto the coast - rebuilding after the fires, making sure these crucial industries like forestry are able to invest, create jobs, and sustain themselves into the future. That's been a very, very strong focus - as it is with our Snowy 2.0 project of course. You know, how do we make sure we've got jobs for the region, and that's really bearing fruit now already.

DAVID EISENHAUER: Isn't that true. And we move towards that project with Snowy 2.0, and particularly with the name Angus Taylor, we tie that in with Sir William Hudson, of course the Commissioner for the Snowy Mountains Authority many years ago, and you were in the region recently, it’s a very unique situation, Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, yeah, I've got deep family ties in the region. I grew up near Cooma and obviously, you know, the Snowy Scheme is an iconic project across the region, and one that I grew up with all around me and travelling through the mountains, constantly. It is very exciting to see the next stage of this and the boost it's giving to the region. We were all brought up on stories of the incredible first round in the Snowy project, and all the people that came into the country and how they became part of one great team doing a great national project which has made a real difference to our electricity grid, and we're doing it all over again. So, this is absolutely fantastic. I'm personally very excited. 4,000 jobs across the life of the project. We're seeing businesses, all sorts - a little café, Coffee Peddler on Wynyard Street in Tumut, I was talking to the team there the other day, they're getting business out of this and taking coffees up to Lobs Hole, for instance - 100 different businesses already getting benefits from this. And we haven't even started the tunnelling, but that will start soon now we've got environmental approvals which we announced the other day.

DAVID EISENHAUER: That's right. We talked jobs, we talked with the Climate Solutions Fund creating jobs with the forestry industry, and we talked Snowy 2.0 with the jobs in the mountains as well and of course, it was an exciting announcement that the Prime Minister made alongside yourself as the Minister for Energy, with the tunnel boring machines only a matter of months away. I mean, the project has really started to ramp up there, isn't it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It sure is. And actually seeing what's happening there at Lobs Hole, you know, it had that look of those old Snowy camps, we've all seen the photos of. And just incredibly exciting to see the team there. As I walked through, I knew a number of the locals there working on it. They were so excited that we were doing a project which is great for the region, but great for the country because it adds supply to our electricity grid, putting downward pressure on prices, it's reliable, we know when we flick the switch, that power will be there which was the proposition of the original Snowy, and we're at it again. So, really brilliant to see that, very exciting for the region, but exciting for Australia more generally as well.

DAVID EISENHAUER: Oh look, in a big way. And of course, with the environmental approvals announced there with the Prime Minister through the week, we look at what was, as they say, in the drawer of Sir William Hudson's desk, all the time, this project, it's nothing new, as such as an idea. But he would be very proud today to see that moving ahead with its approvals now rubber stamped, ready to go.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, that's right. I mean, I remember standing with him at Talbingo, at Tumut 3 in the early ‘70s. I would have been seven or eight years old, only young. But I still remember him talking about pumped hydro and the potential it offered, and how there was more to do. That was a long, long time ago, of course. So, this is a plan that's been around for a long while. We're finally doing, now the time is right. It will work for our electricity grid, it'll put downward pressure on prices, it'll keep the lights on, it'll reduce emissions, it'll do all of those things and it'll create those local jobs, of course, which is so important.

DAVID EISENHAUER: Absolutely, alongside what we're talking about today, with the forestry jobs and, of course, that's been in the making since 2014 - $1.9 billion - we're talking a lot of money.

ANGUS TAYLOR: It sure is. And, you know, I mean, it is easy to underestimate the importance of forestry right across this region, on both sides of the mountain. I grew up in Nimmitabel, little timber town, right near the sawmill. And, you know, forestry has been the lifeblood of this whole region - on the western side of the mountains and on the eastern side of the mountains – and it is so important we see continued plantation, continued new supply of timber for the processing industry, and that's what this is all about.

DAVID EISENHAUER: Absolutely. Minister, time is of the essence. Anything you'd like to add before we sign off this morning?

ANGUS TAYLOR: I would love people to support, Fiona, at the by-election on the weekend. I mean, we need the member for Eden-Monaro around the table. You know, it is an electorate that's very dear to me and I would dearly love to have Fiona with us, advocating for us and making sure these projects deliver for the local region. So, vote Fiona.

DAVID EISENHAUER: And we'll be speaking with Fiona a little later on today, as well, so we look forward to that. Minister, thank you very much for joining us today really appreciate your time joining us on the local station, Sounds of the Mountains and Radio Upper Murray.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks, David.