Press conference - Marinus Link - Barrington, TAS
Susie Bower: Well, we've certainly put the weather on for you today and this is exactly why these sorts of projects are so valuable in Tasmania as we have such a high rainfall and we have the storage availability here as well. So it's fantastic to be back again in Lyons with the Prime Minister, the Premier, Minister Taylor, Minister Barnett, the CEO of Hydro, Ian, and the CEO of Marinus Link, Bess Clark. So to give you all the details about this fantastic signing today that we just witnessed and the two projects around Tarraleah and Marinus Link, I'll hand over to the Honourable Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister: Thank you. Thank you very much Susie. It's great to be here with Susie Bower, the Liberal candidate for Lyons. Can I of course welcome my good friend Peter Gutwein, Premier of Tasmania. This isn't the first agreement we've had, we've had many over so many issues and I'm really excited that Peter and I can be here today. To Angus and Guy, who've done a terrific job pulling all this together as part of what is such an exciting project, not just for Tasmania, but for all of Australia. And I'll go into that in a moment. Bess Clark is here who is heading up Marinus Link, it's great to have you here with us, Bess, the CEO of Marinus Link and Ian Brooksbank, as CEO of Hydro Tasmania. Peter and I, began on Battery of the Nation some years ago. He was the Treasurer of Tasmania, I was the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and so it's with a real sense of excitement we're both here today as both Prime Minister and Premier to ink the next stage of this incredibly exciting project. Marinus Link and the Battery of the Nation project, what this means is more power, lower electricity bills and more jobs. That's what this is designed to achieve and to do so in a way which continues to see our emissions fall. We've already seen our carbon emissions fall by around 20 per cent in this country. That leaves behind, and it's great, New Zealand and Canada and the United States and Japan and many countries, we're achieving it. And here in Tasmania, the Battery of our Nation, as it will be, as it powers up the rest of the Australian economy, particularly in Victoria, providing low emissions, low cost energy to keep power bills down. As here in Tasmania, you're able to experience because of the foresight, the pioneering vision of those Tasmanians who came and turned 30 lakes into 15 power stations. And that vision is benefiting generations, not only of Tasmanians today, but generations of Australians well into the future.
Today, we have announced $140 million from the Commonwealth in further investment in two initiatives. One is to get the Marinus Link project to final investment decision by 2024, $75 million of that project, joining together with the State Government. And the second is $65 million for the Tarraleah Power Station Redevelopment, which is the first of the Battery of the Nation Hydro Power Projects. Now that brings to some $206 billion the Commonwealth's investment in these exciting projects. And they link together. You've got to generate power here in Tasmania and you've got to get it across the Strait. You've got to bring it to market at lower prices to get electricity prices down both here in Tasmania and across in the mainland. This will mean some 2,800 direct and indirect jobs. And so much of that right here in Tasmania, bringing the skills, bringing the investment, bringing awareness and leadership in clean energy technology, which leads the world. So I'm very excited to be here today with Peter, to announce this very important project. This is what good governments do as part of their economic plan. By the time we get this to final investment decision, investors will be lining up, we'll have to be beating them away. But let me be clear, to both ourselves and I'm sure the state government, we have a very good interest in these projects on an ongoing basis. These projects stack up commercially and they strengthen the balance sheets. I think of the Tasmanian State Government, but equally, they are very worthy projects which can stand on their own two feet and will demand investment in them. And that investment will flow because of the commercial success I think of these projects. So we're very keen to be part of that together. But our role is to make sure we can get to that critical point. Unless governments, Tasmanian Government, Commonwealth Government, Federal Government are working together to work this project up to a point where the private capital and other investment can flow, including if need be for the Commonwealth, then these things wouldn't happen. And when we stand in a place like this and we see the pioneering spirit that led to the Battery of the Nation, the amazing network of hydroelectric power stations here in Tasmania, this is up to that vision. And this is looking ahead, just as those pioneers did here in Tasmania so many years ago and on that note, a pioneering Premier, Premier Peter Gutwein, it's good to be here.
Premier Peter Gutwein: Thank you, Prime Minister. I could not be more pleased to be here today. This State, for 100 years has been building renewable energy assets and at the moment we can generate 100 per cent of our needs in terms of renewable energy. But what this means is we can now take the next step to assisting the rest of the country to transition to green energy, to renewable energy. Importantly, the $75 million that the Commonwealth have pledged today, in terms of Marinus, will be matched by $75 million by my government to get this project to the investment decision point. I'm very pleased, already, we are seeing significant private sector interest in ensuring the Marinus is delivered. Importantly, with the Commonwealth agreeing to consider funding as well for this project, what it says to me is that we have passed a threshold now and this project will be delivered. What that's going to do is unleash an incredible amounts of investment in Tasmania. Already, we have wind farm proponents queuing up in terms of wanting to provide generation capacity in this State. Importantly, in respect of Tarraleah, the Commonwealth investment of $65 million will be met with the State contribution of $58 million, ensuring that Tarraleah can double its capacity from 110 megawatts to 220 megawatts, becoming the first component part of the Battery of the Nation. I could not be happier with where we have landed. Importantly, this will generate thousands of direct and indirect jobs here in Tasmania and builds on the 100 years of investment that we've already made in renewable energy. And the moment that we're about to capture will ensure that not only will we be able to continue with our target of doubling our renewable energy capacity here, but importantly we're going to provide jobs and prosperity for Tasmanians. And so I couldn't be more pleased with the announcement today.
Minister Guy Barnett: Thanks very much Premier and Scott Morrison, Angus Taylor, Susie Bower. It is a very special day. It's an historic agreement today and I couldn't be happier as Energy and Emissions Reductions Minister. This is part of our vision, it locks in Tasmania as a leading renewable energy jurisdiction. We have already, as the Premier has outlined, 100 per cent fully self-sufficient in renewable energy, heading to 200 per cent. This is remarkable not just across Australia, but across the world. We're a globally leading jurisdiction when it comes to delivering affordable, reliable, clean, 100 per cent clean, electricity. We're excited about that. We have a big vision and today's historic agreement locks that in and cements Tasmania's renewable energy credentials. We are standing here at Devil's Gate, one of the 30 power stations in Tasmania, one of the 50 lakes across Tasmania as part of the network. For Tarraleah redevelopment is very exciting. The investment in partnership with the Australian Government will see by the end of this year, 100 jobs in terms of that early works to see that vision come true for Tarraleah to double the megawatts from 110 to 220. This is exciting being part of the Battery of the Nation and then further plans with Lake Cethana and West Coast as well. So it's a great day, it's great to be part of it and it locks us in as a renewable energy powerhouse of Australia.
Minister Angus Taylor: Well, thanks, Guy, Premier, Prime Minister, Susie, great to be here with you. Talking about investing in a modern electricity, that's what this is all about, and doing it on the shoulders of those great pioneers, as the Prime Minister said. This is $140 million investment in Tarraleah and getting Battery of the Nation up and running, but also getting Marinus to the point of financial investment decision. And that will provide the affordable, reliable, sustainable electricity that's not just required here in Tasmania but it is required in the mainland as we see record levels of investment in solar and wind and the highest rate of household solar investment in the world, in Australia. And that needs to firm, it needs to be stored and we need the matching dispatch able generation and that's exactly what these wonderful assets here, that were built in the 50s, 60s, 70s and earlier, in some cases, that's what they provide us. Now we've heard about the benefits, 2,800 jobs in Victoria and in Tasmania during construction. But the other big source of benefits is those customers that rely on the affordable, reliable energy, with falling emissions, right across the east coast of Australia. Whether that's our aluminium smelters or our steel mills, they need affordable, reliable energy. Now we've seen around close to a million people working in manufacturing right now, we want that to be significantly higher. We've seen with the Modern Manufacturing Strategy very significant investment happening in manufacturing in this country, but it relies on affordable, reliable energy that's there 24-7. And those customers want it with falling emissions and that's exactly what this project and other projects like it provide. The commitment is significant, it's $140 million, we've talked about it across Tarraleah and Marinus, but there's also a clear pathway now to the underwriting of Tarraleah as part of the Underwriting New Generation Program. A program, I should point out that Labor is proposing to abolish. But that's what's necessary. That program is necessary to get Tarraleah up and running, and there's a clear pathway now to the support of the Tarraleah investment through the Underwriting New Generation Program. As I say, this is what investment in a modern electricity grid looks like and the benefits are strong. Thank you.
Bess Clark: Thank you, it's wonderful to be here today on behalf of Marinus Link and we welcome this announcement, which will allow the Marinus Link business and TasNetworks to continue the important work to bring project Marinus to an investment decision so that we can deliver benefits here in Tasmania, to Victoria and beyond. Delivering clean, reliable, affordable power and supporting regional communities. It's an exciting project and we're very proud to deliver on it. Thank you.
Prime Minister: Happy to take some questions on this project in particular and announcements we've made today, [inaudible] partnership, which is a very strong one to ensure that the Tasmanian economy remains strong. It's true here, it's true everywhere. A stronger Tasmanian economy means a stronger future for Tasmania. The same is true nationally. Then happy to take other questions.
Journalist: Who will actually pay for the $3.5 billion it's going to cost to construct the Marinus Link?
Prime Minister: Well, it will be paid for through either one or two channels. We're very confident that by doing the work here and getting the final investment decision that investors will be lining up. And I have no doubt that as a Commonwealth Government, that we will be looking at that very closely ourselves. Why? Because it stacks up. Because it's a really good project. It pays for itself in that investment. And so the challenge will not be attracting investment in this project, the challenge will be who gets there first because it is such a strong and valid project. So that is not something that's really concerning people at the moment. We both have a very strong interest. What matters is you've got to get to the starting line of these projects and you don't get there unless governments work together, like Peter and I are, to ensure we get to that point where the investors start lining up.
Journalist: In 2020, you came here and said that you were fast tracking Marinus. We're still years away from construction, is this really a fast track?
Prime Minister: These are massive projects with incredible design issues, incredible engineering issues, I mean, just look at the maps there. These things aren't done overnight. What it requires is the patience and commitment and determination that we're showing as two governments to make this a reality. You work through it painstakingly. And that's why commitment and determination and having a clear plan when it comes to running the State Government or the Commonwealth Government is really important. This stuff just doesn't turn up overnight. The fact we're standing here today is because we stood together back in 2020 and we stood together back in 2018, in very different roles. But that's how you get these things done. Do you think they built these 15 power stations, sorry these 30 power stations, around Tasmania, could it all happen overnight? No, it takes discipline, it takes time, it takes vision, it takes commitment and determination. And that's what we're seeing from the Federal Government and the State Government.
Journalist: How can we be sure this isn't a white elephant? It's cheaper to build a couple of big batteries on the mainland than an expensive cable underwater.
Prime Minister: Well, I might ask Angus to speak to that.
Minister Taylor: Well, look, actually, this is the lowest cost of storage of electricity that we can see by a long, long way. It's true of all pumped hydro projects, they're very low cost storage, a particularly longer duration of storage, and that's what's needed in the grid. So we're seen record levels of investment in renewables in this country, highest level of investment in household solar in the world. We're approaching one in three houses now with solar on their roofs. They need backup and storage. Batteries can store for an hour or two. But beyond that, they're very, very expensive. And that's where pumped hydro comes in. Whether it's this project or Snowy 2.0, that's what the grid needs. And we know from our own experience, because we own pumped hydro assets, they are needed in the grid. They're affordable, they're reliable, they give a good return to taxpayer's money, but they also give a great return to customers. That's why we're investing in it.
Journalist: A recent report did say though that it would be too expensive to keep battery storage in Victoria. Do you disagree with that?
Minister Taylor: Well we don't accept that. The storage cost per megawatt hour of these, projects like this one, are a tiny fraction of what we've seen on batteries. Now the battery cost will come down, but long duration storage is going to sit with pump hydro for many, many years to come. We're very comfortable with that. And that's why these projects are so important.
Journalist: Premier, your government still can't guarantee Twiggy Forrest that he's going to have energy for his hydrogen development at Bell Bay and there's a couple of components there that also want energy. So how are we going to find 1500 megawatts?
Premier Gutwein: Well what is fantastic about this project and others that we have in front of us, there has never been a Premier in this State that has had more proponents for renewable energy lining up than me. And importantly, what this decision and the outcome of today means, is that we can provide surety for those proponents moving forward. And what we will see quite clearly is a doubling, as we've already announced, of our renewable energy capacity in this State over that time. And so, having enough energy is not going to be the problem. They are lining up.
Journalist: Will the State Government actually help fund the construction of the Marinus Project?
Premier Gutwein: Well, we've announced today that we're putting in $75 million to match the Commonwealth funding to ensure that we can get to the financial investment decision point. But importantly, as the Prime Minister has said, as and 'm well aware of as well, we have investors already. The private sector is knocking on our door to get involved with Marinus Link. And with the Commonwealth also considering whether or not they might play a role post the financial investment decision, what that signals to me, is that this is a done deal. Subject to the successful outcome of the financial investment decision, Marinus is going ahead. And what that will do is provide enormous certainty for those proponents who want to build more wind or more solar in Tasmania for that matter.
Journalist: Are you expecting there'll be enough private investment funding that the State and the Commonwealth won't need to chuck any money in? Or is that still going to be required?
Premier Gutwein: Look, in terms of the Link itself, we have private investors knocking on our door right now. What this decision and outcome today signals to them is that this is going to go ahead. And importantly, what we expect to see is an avalanche of interest in respect of Marinus moving forward. There is no doubt in my mind that this project is going to go ahead. There is no doubt in my mind that the 100 years of investment that we have already made into renewables in this State and the further investment that's going to occur is going to assist the country with its transition. But importantly, in terms of the other generation that is being developed around the country, nobody can provide firming capacity like we can or Snowy can. And importantly, that's what we're going to put into the grid.
Prime Minister: Are there any other questions on this project? Well, I just want to thank my colleagues for being here today, very much. I want to thank you Peter, as well, of course. And to Guy and to Angus who have just done such a terrific job in pulling this agreement together. You know, in the last two years, electricity prices have fallen by 8 per cent. That's what we said we'd do at the last election, I appointed the minister for getting electricity prices down, well they're down by 8 per cent. And they're down by 8 per cent because we do things like this. We've got form on doing things like this. Through Snowy Hydro, whether it's up to the Hunter or now, directly working together with the state government here, reliable, affordable power is what ensures the industry continues. It's what gets electricity prices down. And that's what we're delivering. It's a key part of our economic plan because with a strong economy, you have a stronger future and reliable, affordable energy is central to that. And in regional areas across the country, that is what's delivering. That's what's helping us get those electricity prices down. Whether you're in the city or you're out in the regional areas, these investments are what are the game changing investments. $21 billion has been invested in our regions in this Budget alone, transformative investments, and I can't think of a more transformative investment to Tasmania than making Marinus Link a reality. You are going to power up the rest of the country and with green power, that's reliable and affordable and cheaper. There's only upside in all of that. So thank you all very much for being here today. I'm going to thank my colleagues, particularly those from Tas Hydro and from Marinus Link. Happy to take other questions.
Journalist: Prime Minister, if you didn't say anything to preselectors about Michael Twoke's Lebanese background, are you saying that he and Scott Chapman lied on their Statutory Declarations?
Prime Minister: Well, all I can say is it is just simply untrue. And these are quite malicious and bitter slurs, which are deeply offensive, and I reject them absolutely. I have always walked the walk when it has come, particularly to my relationship with the Lebanese community in my home state of New South Wales and my home city of Sydney]. I walked the walk with Jamal Rifi and Jihad Dib when I banded together with the Member for Blaxland and we came together, our two communities after coming into the parliament together, Jason Clare and I, to heal the rift that had been caused by the terrible riots that we saw in Cronulla and the revenge attacks that took place. My role ever since being elected has been to heal; heal the divisions between these communities. And the suggestion that I have done anything otherwise is deeply offensive. And it comes at an interesting time, that these vicious personal attacks come on the eve of an election. On the eve of an election. I'll let people work out their own findings on what's motivating them.
Journalist: But there are voices inside your own party …
Prime Minister: Bitterness can often produce all sorts of slings and arrows and attacks. I know where they've come from. And bitterness can always produce this. I've been around politics a long time, and people, when they've had disappointments, whether they be in preselections or in decisions, can often remain bitter for many, many years. And all I can tell you is my record of my relationship with the Lebanese Maronite community, in particular, as well as the Lebanese Muslim community, is one that I think stands out amongst any other member of Parliament and certainly above any other prime minister of this country. My track record of walking the walk, literally on the Kokoda track together, day after day, to do one thing - to demonstrate unity between people of Muslim faith and other faiths in this country, between two communities which were completely shattered by the events that took place back in Cronulla and the revenge attacks that took place all those years ago. And we helped heal that and we've helped bring it back together. So I reject it completely, and others can speak of my record in this area. But when it comes to my commitment to the people of the Maronite faith, of Muslim faith in this country, particularly those who have Lebanese ancestry, there's not a member of the Parliament that could speak to the work that I have done, out of love and out of friendship, for my dear friends in the Lebanese community, particularly in Sydney, where I know them best. But more broadly, across the nation where I've enjoyed a wonderful, supportive relationship. So you can make your own assumptions about why people would want to viciously attack me on the eve of an election. Those who may have been disappointed by past outcomes in politics, you know, in politics, you need to move forward.
Journalist: Prime Minister, if you stand by that then will you be willing to sign a statutory declaration that you didn't?
Prime Minister: Yes, of course I will.
Journalist: So we'll see that?
Prime Minister: Well no one's asking for one and I'm not going to court over these matters. I'm not bringing any actions. I stand by exactly what I've said here in the public domain, which I do every single day. But more importantly, it wouldn't be just me signing such a statement. It would be the walk and experience and the record I have and the testimony of so many others who have understood my deep and abiding relationship with people of Maronite faith and people of Lebanese ancestry in Australia. We have, we have cried together. We have prayed together. Whether it was after the Christchurch massacre and I stood at the mosque in Lakemba and we were in each other's arms. And we are working through those issues on every single occasion. When after the terrible explosion that occurred in Beirut, it was either, it was on the phone, into the Lebanese community, offering that support and they know that. And so for other Australians, I'd simply say this, in politics, in elections, if you're the Prime Minister, the leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party, people are going to throw stones. They're going to make accusations. But you've got to look at the motivations. You've got to look at whether people are speaking out of disappointment or and as a result and making unfounded allegations. They are unfair because my record speaks for itself.
Journalist: It's not just on the eve of an election that these sorts of attacks on your character have been appearing, why do you think these people who have worked with you seem to have these views of you?
Prime Minister: Well when people don't get the answer that they want for me, whether it's in cancelling a French submarine contract or people have had disappointments in their political careers along the lines, then bitterness often speaks out. It often speaks out. And it will find its target in a convenient target, and it'll be repeated and it'll be reported. But the reality is, and I think this case demonstrates it more than any other, that the walk I have walked with the people of Lebanese ancestry of Maronite and Muslim faith in this country speaks greater volumes than anything else, and I stand on my record.
Journalist: If you're saying these people have lied on their Stat Decs, are you willing to investigate it?
Prime Minister: No, these statements haven't been submitted for the purpose of any court or anything of that nature. I can tell you, I've been a director of the Liberal Party and I'm sure secretaries of the Labor Party will know, people make sort of statements and they'll sign them. It doesn't make them true, it doesn't make them true. I have no interest in chasing those matters for legal purposes down. They've said what they've said. I completely reject it, I absolutely reject it. But my actions are the greatest proof of that. But what I have done in working with the Lebanese community in Australia speaks for itself and what they have said and the way that they have honoured me in their homes, in their mosques, in their churches, as I've put my arms around them in some of the worst of times that they have experienced. And Jenny has done the same, Jenny has done the same. So if anyone wants to have a crack at me on those issues, they better have walked a mile in the shoes that I've walked in because if they can't, they can stay on the sidelines.
Journalist: Prime Minister, the allegations towards you are that you are a bully, a liar, and now that you've used someone’s ethnic background against them, does this hurt your [chances]?
Prime Minister: Well it's untrue.
Journalist: Are all of those are untrue?
Prime Minister: Completely untrue. It's completely untrue.
Journalist: It's coming from a lot of places now.
Prime Minister: From individuals who haven't liked the answer they've got it. They haven't liked the answer they've got, and so rather than accept that, they have decided to cast all sorts of slings and arrows. You know in politics, particularly if you're Prime Minister, you've got to have thick skin. You've got to have broad shoulders. People will throw all sorts of mud at you, particularly when you get up close to an election, and they'll make all sorts of things up because they have other motivations. I only have one motivation and that is I want to ensure that Australia remains strong, keeps getting stronger and so we can secure the future. If people think they can go to an election and seek to change the outcome by throwing mud like they have on this occasion, and it's very rare that I will even counter this or respond to these things. But on this particular occasion, as others have continued to wish to report, I could not reject this more fundamentally, more soundly and you will hear voices of others who will do exactly the same thing. So if others want to throw mud at me on this issue, well, you know, it says more about them than it does about me because my record of caring and loving the Lebanese community in this country speaks for itself and stands head and shoulders above all the other pretenders. I think I've covered that one off.
Journalist: Is that what you think their motivation is though? That they want you to lose the election. [Inaudible]?
Prime Minister: Well, you're an experienced journalist, I'm sure you can work it out.
Journalist: Can your party be unified before the election, and if it can't, will you lose?
Prime Minister: We are totally united in the Parliamentary Liberal party. That has been one of our great strengths. Through all the challenges we have faced as a government, we remain absolutely united. Absolutely united. And as we go forward this election, looking forward to people like Susie joining our team for the seat of Lyons and the wonderful work that's been done by our entire Tasmanian team. Bridget Archer who I was with yesterday and Gav who I will be with later today. I mean, we have a wonderful Tasmanian team here, Jonno and the whole team that lead our Senate team here in Tasmania. A great team working for what's best for Tasmania, but also for the country. That is true right across our country with all of our candidates and with all of our members of Parliament. We are going forward united because we know we've got the right plan and we know it's a plan that has got Australia through one of the worst times we have seen, both from a health point of view and an economic point of view. Well, from a health point of view, you've got to go back 100 years and on the economy, you've got to go back to the Great Depression. Now we've come through this pandemic, which economically meant a hit 30 times worse, 30 times worse than the Global Financial Crisis. And that, as you know, was when Labor was in power during the Global Financial Crisis. So we have dealt with the problem 30 times worse and we've got an employment outcome that's 50 per cent better because we've had the right plan, we've made the right decisions. That means our economy is strong. The biggest recovery we've seen in 70 years. More people in work, more people investing, unemployment coming down, growth going up. All of that is being produced by our strong economic plan that is working. And that's the economic plan that we'll take into the future. It's the economic plan that has invested in projects here in Tasmania to ensure that regional economies are strong and they can realise the great ambition of these projects with Marinus Link and Battery of the Nation. Thanks very much, everyone.