Interview with Richard King, 2HD Newcastle
RICHARD KING: It was also earlier this year that our next guest, Angus Taylor, announced the Government's fuel security package. Part of that includes hundreds of millions of dollars and it’s competitive grants program known as the Boosting Australia's Diesel Storage Program - BADS, it's not a good acronym BADS, the BADS program - and it's all about increasing and expanding diesel storage, our capacity here in Australia. It was a competitive process. Ten projects have been announced, two of them are here in Newcastle. With more on that, joining us now is the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor. Good morning, Minister.
SHANNA BULL: Morning.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
RICHARD KING: That's alright. Now, why is the bulk of this, in terms of storage, coming to Newcastle? Why do we need diesel so badly here in Newcastle, Minister?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the Hunter Valley, of course, is a big user of diesel. The focus here is on diesel. It's part of a broader package where we've shored up our remaining refineries, we've set minimum stock holding requirements to ensure we have enough fuel for those important times when we have a problem. But in particular, what this is about is just under 780 million litres of new diesel storage around Australia, and a significant portion of that, a total storage of 196 million litres in Newcastle were two major projects, the biggest of the projects in Australia, in Newcastle. Newcastle, of course, is a great place to bring, to have fuel stored, bring it in from our local refineries and elsewhere, and distribute it across New South Wales. So it's turned out to be two very good projects there. We're very excited that there's going to be significant investment in the area - 131 jobs during construction across those two projects. Of course, Newcastle gives us great access to the rest of New South Wales.
SHANNA BULL: Minister, how can you guarantee this will actually keep our petrol prices down?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it's all about making sure that we have two things. Number one, that we have enough fuel for those critical times, particularly if there's some disruption globally or around Australia, that we can get that fuel. Secondly, that at those times we put downward pressure on prices. So this requires a minimum amount of stock to be held so we don't get into a situation where there's a shortage of local stock and that allows, of course, petrol companies, oil companies to push up the price because there's not enough stock around. This puts downward pressure and ensures that we have that stock we need at a price which is appropriate.
RICHARD KING: Right. Now, I think our commitment- we've been a part of the, the IEA since, since 1979 and I think under that obligation, we're supposed to keep the equivalent of 90 days' worth of net oil. But as I understand it, we haven't been compliant since, well, for about eight or nine years now. Is that correct?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, we, we are compliant now. I mean, we've actually got over 90 days of total fuel in our supply chain, including the crude oil we have which we put through our refineries. This is all about making sure we stay at the level we need to. It is a big deal, we have been non-compliant at times, there's no question about that. This is part of, as I say, a broader package around our refineries, minimum stock holding obligations and additional storages which ensures we have the fuel we need, when we need it and we don't get back into the situations like I remember in the 70s when you had an even number plate, you could only get your fuel every second day and odd number plate the other days. I mean, we got into a situation where we had to ration it. We never want to be back at that situation again.
RICHARD KING: Hear, hear, hear! Okay, two of these projects coming to Newcastle, and as I understand it the Federal Government will be funding 50 per cent of these two projects, is that right?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, that's right. In fact, the total investment across all of the projects is a little higher than we'd expected, which is good news and more storage than we'd expected, 636 million. We're providing 260 million of that total. But in Newcastle, as I say, it's around 50/50.
SHANNA BULL: Minister, since we spoke to you last, still a decision hasn't been made on this controversial PEP 11. Why the hold up?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, that's a matter for Keith Pitt, he's the Minister, he makes the decision. I can't comment on that. I'll leave that to him. What I would say is right across Australia we're seeing places where we can get more upstream oil. We do need it for our fuel security. The Northern Territory's proving to be a region which is offering enormous potential. So, we will get the fuel we need, whether or not that project goes ahead. As I say, I'll leave the specifics of that project to Keith Pitt.
SHANNA BULL: But excuse me, Minister, aren't- are you the man at the moment, though, representing this resources portfolio in Cabinet discussions?
ANGUS TAYLOR: It's not my decision. This is a decision for Keith Pitt. He is the Minister who makes the decision. That's the legislation that would [indistinct]…
RICHARD KING: Even the Prime Minister has expressed his desire to not renew this permit. It does seem strange that it's been months now since it expired, and yet a decision still seems to be off over the horizon.
ANGUS TAYLOR: You're more than welcome to call Keith and get him onto the show.
RICHARD KING: Okay
ANGUS TAYLOR: It's his decision, so I'll leave it at that.
RICHARD KING: Well, look, the other thing I'd like you to comment on, was the Federal Court's finding last week that Australia's Environment Minister owes a duty of care to children when considering approvals for coal mines, which certainly raises a few interesting legal issues. Your thoughts on that?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, look, I mean, it's the job of Government to, to balance the interests of all groups, including future generations, in the decisions we make all the time. In how we do our budgets, and we just had the Intergenerational Report come out. This is part of what Government does. We will be appealing that decision, we don't think it's an appropriate role for the courts to take over the role of Government. You know, it's the role of elected officials and ministers to make these difficult decisions and important decisions. They've ultimately got to be about getting the balance right. I mean, our energy system has always been and will always be about balance. Coal will continue to play an important role in our system for many years to come, but the balance is changing. We're seeing the highest level of household solar in the world in Australia - one in four houses - no other country in the world has that level. So, we'll get the balance right, that's our job. We don't think it's the job of the courts and we will be appealing that decision.
SHANNA BULL: Minister, I believe you're a bit of a keen runner and a cyclist, so no doubt you're probably looking forward to cheering on the Aussies at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which gets underway next week.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I sure am. I've been watching the Tour de France over the last little while and, you know, I'm a keen cyclist and runner and get out and actually met some of the athletes who were heading off to Tokyo just a few weeks back in Canberra. It's great, just great to see some incredible Australians and what a tough time they've had with the postponing of the Olympics.
RICHARD KING: Are you a lycra wearer Minister?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Sadly, I am.
SHANNA BULL: Oh, he's got the whole gear. There you go. Very professional.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I do love my cycling. I've done it for many years and, even do a bit of racing still so [indistinct].
RICHARD KING: Wow. Okay. Good on you.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I've ridden up around Newcastle too. I've been in races up around Newcastle in the past, which is a great place, a great place to ride a bike.
RICHARD KING: It certainly is, and it's good to see the Federal Government investing much needed money here which is terrific. Thank you. Thank you always for your time.
SHANNA BULL: Thank you.
RICHARD KING: Good to see New South Wales win an Origin series, albeit losing in the third and final game, unfortunately, last night.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah and it was just sad to see that their third game not being, Newcastle missing out. But I'm sure there will be another opportunity.
RICHARD KING: Always good to talk to you. Thanks for your time.
SHANNA BULL: Thank you.
ANGUS TAYLOR: All the best.
RICHARD KING: Angus Taylor, who's our Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction. Yeah, a couple of big projects and money being spent here, which is always a good thing.