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Interview with Katie Woolf, MIX 104.3 Darwin

20 October 2020

Katie Woolf

Subject: Beetaloo Basin, gas-fired recovery


KATIE WOOLF: Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, was on Friday out at the Beetaloo Basin talking up the Morrison Government's gas-fired recovery plan. The Minister joins me on the line now. Good morning, Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR: G'day, Katie. Thanks for having me.

KATIE WOOLF: Now, you were out at - well, you were in the Northern Territory on Friday, but you didn't come and visit us? [Laughs]

ANGUS TAYLOR: Oh, look, I was flat out but it is great to be able to talk now. And of course, we went out to the Beetaloo Basin. So, it was fantastic to get out and see these new gas developments happening there, the drilling work that's going there, which has been very, very positive. All the indications are this is an extraordinary gas resource and has the potential to drive enormous job creation and investment in the Territory. And that's what we're excited about - not just on the gas side, but of course, this is a gas resource that will require processing, it will require and has the potential to add a lot of downstream manufacturing. And that side of it as well, I think is and has enormous potential and we really want to focus on it in the coming months and years.

KATIE WOOLF: Yeah, we certainly keep hearing about the potential of the Beetaloo Basin and, you know, the fact that it could power Australia for a heck of a lot of years. How exactly though are we going to really be able to capitalise on this and, you know, for the territory to be able to prosper?

ANGUS TAYLOR: The key is to get the drilling done as quickly as possible. That's happening now. So, the good news is this is real, we're getting real drilling results and they're extremely positive. We know from similar resources we've seen in the United States, they have transformed the United States economy in an extraordinary way. And that's an economy of 250 million, the Northern Territory's an economy of a couple of hundred thousand. So, you can see the potential there. But the key thing is to move to production. We've got to make sure that all the, you know, appropriate regulatory approvals are achieved through that process. But we're also going to need investment in infrastructure and downstream processing, and we're focussing on that right now. We've announced a whole series of reforms in the gas markets in Australia, including for the first time having a natural gas infrastructure plan, which is all about the pipelines. That's all going to be part of it and then we need the downstream manufacturing. And of course, that has been a big focus of the Budget and government announcements in recent months as well. So, you know, the timing is good. This is a very receptive Federal Government, in terms of getting these sorts of resources up and in terms of the policies required, and we want to see job creation and we want to see a booming Territory economy in the coming years.

KATIE WOOLF: Now, when we talk about the infrastructure and also the manufacturing, that downstream manufacturing, you know, are we sort of thinking here that it's going to be private investment that drives this? Or is there going to be a push from the Federal Government and funding provided in order to make this happen?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, our approach has always been, our preference is for the private sector to invest, but if necessary, we'll step in. The good news is I think that these resources are looking so strong and the early results are so good. If it keeps moving in that direction, there will be an enormous interest from the private sector. There will be a role for government to play, there's no question about that. Pipeline planning, for instance, is a very important role for government and, you know, I was involved before politics in some of the work, early work on the northern gas pipeline, which is there in place now. But there'll need to be more of that, and that is an important role for government. But, you know, we will play the role we need to, as little as we need to, but as much as we have to, to make sure these extraordinary opportunities are realised and that the Northern Territory makes the most out of it.

KATIE WOOLF: Now, when you talk about that pipeline planning, where are things at? And, you know, with the Beetaloo Basin, where is it expected that that gas is going to flow to?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's a number of options. We're right now doing the work on what we're calling the National Gas Infrastructure Plan which is working at where the missing pipelines are that will need to be built in the coming years, to leverage, to make the most of these resources and to build customer hubs, manufacturing operations in the appropriate places around Australia. That work is moving at pace. We've never had a plan for our gas network before, this will be the first time and my department is leading that work as we speak. And that will be more than timely or well in time for any kind of production that will come from the Beetaloo. But it is important work. Now, there's a number of options for where the Beetaloo gas would go. It can go over to the East Coast, it could potentially go up through Darwin, to processing in Darwin and export in Darwin, and it can go south as well there. They're all the options we're exploring right now.

KATIE WOOLF: When you talk about then, you know, the way that our gas in the Beetaloo is able to sort of form part of the energy plan for all of Australia, and then you talk about the manufacturing - how does the Northern Territory, how are we going to compete with some of these other states, like WA, for example, and, you know, really trying to capitalise when it comes to employment and when it comes to creating jobs? Because we know that very often places like WA, sort of, I don't know whether it's because their approvals processes are faster or why exactly. Companies very often choose to do business in other states. I mean, how do you think that the Northern Territory can really sort of try to make the most of this opportunity?

ANGUS TAYLOR: There's a couple of points I'd make. You are right, that Western Australia's approval processes, for instance, are very effective. They've been doing it for a long while. They're a resource state. I think the Territory can actually achieve those sorts of outcomes though, and I know there's a real commitment to make sure the approval processes are world class in the Territory. But, the second point I'd make is that the nature of this resource, the geological features of this resource are unrivalled almost anywhere, not just in Australia but in the world. It is a very, very special resource and that's partly because it has both oil and gas liquids, as they're called, as well as gas. And that makes it very low cost and extremely attractive. So, it means that attracting the investment, attracting the capability, attracting the companies and having an incentive to get through approval processes, work with the local traditional owners, and of course the pastoralists, all of that is much easier if it's a very high-quality resource. We've seen that elsewhere, and that's certainly the case here in the Territory. But, you know, I spoke with the new Minister and new Government and I know the Prime Minister spoke with the Chief Minister on Friday. There's clearly a commitment to get moving on this. There's a lot of work to be done. But I do think the territory is extremely well positioned.

KATIE WOOLF: And you spoke about the different manufacturing hubs and the various locations where they could be positioned around Australia and you did mention the Northern Territory. What would it take really for the Territory to become a manufacturing hub?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, there’ll have to be the will, but there also has to be the supporting policy and the supporting resources. We think the supporting resources are there if these drilling results continue to prove up. Certainly, I think there's increasing will and certainly from the Federal Government, but I think also from the Territory Government to start to build those manufacturing opportunities. And I think with those resources, we'll see the investment. So, the pieces are coming into place here. We've all been backing the Territory to build a very strong economy in recent years. I've been involved in agriculture and the mining industry in my past life, and the Territory has always been a great opportunity. Now, the challenge is to convert to make that that opportunity, that potential real. I've got to tell you, these resources we're seeing now, what I saw in the Territory last week tells me that they're very real and we can deliver.

KATIE WOOLF: Minister, at the back of my mind whenever we talk about gas, I'm very aware that there are people that would be listening to the show that are thinking why aren't we going down the renewables path and why aren't we doing more around solar? I know that here in the Territory we are doing various things when it comes to solar. You know, from the Federal Government's perspective, is that a path that you're also wanting to go down in the Territory?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it is not either or, it is and, it is both. So, we as a country had $9 billion of investment in solar and wind last year, 2019. We expect it to be about the same number this year. That's absolutely world leading investment in solar and wind. But that needs to be backed up. When the sun goes down, when the wind doesn't blow, you still got to have energy. You need gas for industrial feedstock for critical goods like manufacturing plastics and fertiliser. And it's the combination of the dispatchable energy source in gas, with renewables that really works. That's what we want to see. That's what we're starting to see. But we need to have the gas and that's why we've focussed in the Budget, in the lead up to the Budget on unlocking supply, getting the right infrastructure in place, making sure gas customers are getting a fair deal, that we've got Australian gas working for Australians. And all of those pieces are going into place to ensure that we get the right balance in our energy system, and that includes solar and wind.

KATIE WOOLF: Minister, you sound pretty excited by what you've seen at the Beetaloo Basin late last week?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, absolutely. Look, as I say, I've believed in the Territory for a long while. I think many of us have felt that it hasn't realised its full potential, even though there's brilliant people there and fantastic businesses. But this is like nothing I've seen before. I've seen what it's done in the United States, particularly in the south east, in states like Texas, Louisiana, and I think we can say the same kind of outcome here in the Territory. And I think that will be good for jobs and investment, the economy, for people’s standard of living and I think that would be a very good thing, not just for the Territory, but for all of Australia.

KATIE WOOLF: Well, Angus Taylor, the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, always appreciate your time. Thanks so much for having a chat with us today.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me.

Media contact:

Minister Taylor's office: 02 6277 7120