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Interview with Neil Breen, 4BC

21 April 2021

Interviewer: 
Neil Breen

Subject: Emissions reduction, hydrogen, energy

E&OE

NEIL BREEN:    Overnight the Federal Government announced a massive $275.5 million investment in hydrogen, and Gladstone has been earmarked as a potential location for one of five hydrogen hubs to be set up in Australia. Joining me now is the Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor. Good morning Minister.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Good morning Neil. Thanks for having me.

NEIL BREEN:    Richard Marles, he could go to the Tokyo Olympics in gymnastics, he loves coal so much now after previously hating it so much.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well, they say one thing in one place and another thing in another. One thing at one time and another thing at another. Each-way Albo has it every which way. But the truth is we've always been committed to regional communities. This announcement today is another- over $500 million commitment to regional communities to make sure that we sustain those communities, we strengthen them. We see the coal and gas industries as enormously important to Queensland and Australia. And of course, the way we're going to continue to strengthen those industries and bring down emissions is through innovation. It'll be innovation, not elimination. That's always been our approach and it will continue to be our approach in contrast to the Labor Party, of course.

NEIL BREEN:    So, these five potential hubs, and Gladstone could be one - is Gladstone a good chance?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Gladstone is a very good chance. I mean, it is a great energy hub. It's one of the great energy hubs of the world. You've got alumina refining, aluminium smelting, you've got gas exports, you've got coal. 

NEIL BREEN:    Yeah. 

ANGUS TAYLOR:    It's an extraordinary place if you're interested in energy, as I am, of course. And there's great potential to add to that portfolio with hydrogen, which means adding jobs. We know hydrogen can add 8000 jobs for Australia. That's what our National Hydrogen Strategy work showed us. And Gladstone, of course, is a great candidate for that. It's got gas, of course, which is enormously important for hydrogen. But it's also got great potential to add renewables into that. So, all of that makes Gladstone a very, very good candidate, as it always has been for great energy industries.

NEIL BREEN:    Talking to the Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor. And Minister, when I was a kid - I'm 52 - when I was in primary school, one of the great issues that we dealt with in class was the energy crisis. And the energy crisis back then in the late '70s was that we're going to run out of coal, we're running out of coal and oil and we had to come up with alternatives. So, we're now 40-something years later and we're still struggling to replace coal and oil. Will it ever happen? Zero emissions. Everyone talks about zero emissions. Well, we've had 40 years of the greatest minds ever. We can provide a COVID vaccine in a couple of months. Will it ever happen?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well, Neil, I'm 54, so I remember exactly what you're talking about. 

NEIL BREEN:    Yeah. 

ANGUS TAYLOR:    I remember the oil crisis in the early '70s and the late '70s. 

NEIL BREEN:    Yes. 

ANGUS TAYLOR:    It was all going to finish, and of course, it didn't. And the reason it didn't is because we innovated. We found clever ways of finding more oil. We found clever ways of using coal and gas, which has become far more important in Queensland since then. And our energy systems will continue to evolve. But the truth is that coal will play an important role, a crucial role in our energy systems, our industrial supply chains - steel, of course, as well as aluminium on the energy side. It will continue to play an enormously important role for many, many years to come. Innovation is happening. There's changes that are happening in the way we do all of these things. Aluminium smelting done in Queensland is done very differently from the way it was done even 30 years ago, and that innovation will continue, and we should embrace it. But it's not about eliminating industries. This $550 million that we've committed today is about that innovation, and it's about making sure we've got the technologies for a future for those great communities like Gladstone, like all of those regional communities through Queensland that rely on energy as a lifeblood of their jobs and their opportunities.

NEIL BREEN:    American President Joe Biden is having this virtual climate change summit within days. The Prime Minister is going to be talking at it virtually. Do you know much about what's happening at that climate change summit?

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Well, it will continue to be a commitment from us, at least, to sensible, practical pathways on bringing down emissions without eliminating industries. It's about technology not taxation from our point of view. That's how the world will get there. You know, when you look at developing countries like China, of course, and India, they are expanding their coal industries dramatically. They know that it'll be innovation that will allow us to bring down our emissions. Carbon capture and storage, one of the technologies that we're backing with this $539 million, is a crucial technology that will allow us to bring down our emissions as we continue to strengthen the energy sectors in developing countries like India and China. Of course, that will be central to the discussion and debate. But what we can't do is slash jobs, we can't slow economies. That's not the way to do it, and that's certainly not the way we do it. In contrast to Labor, who was happy at the last election to talk about shutting things down, that's just not where we're going to go.

NEIL BREEN:    And it did them in the eye. Energy Minister Angus Taylor, thanks for joining us on 4BC Breakfast and mate, Gladstone, it's a great place. Give them the tick.

ANGUS TAYLOR:    Thanks for having me.    

ENDS