Press conference - SEA Electric - Dandenong, VIC

press conference
Announcement of the next round of $250 million Future Fuel Strategy

BILL GILLESPIE: Bill Gillespie, President for SEA Electric Asia Pacific. I'd like to welcome Minister Taylor here to our factory in Dandenong South. We're very proud to be able to host the Minister here.  This is Australia's only electric truck manufacturing business, in fact one of the leading ones in the world. So it's a great honour for us to be able to show off our technology, show the Minister what's happening here and then have a really good open chat about what we think would be appropriate to support a business of this size in Australia.  So a very exciting day for us and I'd like to hand over to Minister Taylor now.  Thank you. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Great. Thanks Bill. It's great to be here at SEA Electric. It's great to be here with Senator David Van, who I know is a passionate supporter of Australian technology, Australian manufacturing.  Robbie Beaton, the candidate for Isaacs, who I know is also very focused on the enormous amount of manufacturing that goes on across this region.  It's brilliant to be here today to talk about Australian manufacturing, Australian technology and Australia bringing down emissions through deployment of our technology, technology not taxes. Technology that is actually not only providing innovative solutions to hard problems in transport but also bringing down our emissions at the same time.  And that's what it's all about.  That's what we are focused on as a government when it comes to emissions reduction.  It's deploying technology, not taxes.  And making sure consumers have choices available to them. It's my great pleasure today to announce the next round of our $250 million Future Fuel strategy. This is a commitment to making sure we have the infrastructure and support in place to enable businesses and households to choose those technologies that are enabling them to get the full range of vehicles that are available now on the market, to have the infrastructure support and other support that's necessary to make sure they can make those choices, and the Future Fuel strategy is there to enable that. Now we've already seen the first round of the Future Fuel strategy, 400 charging stations across Australia.  This next round is focused on heavy vehicles, lighter trucks as well as smaller vehicles.  It's the small range.  But it's a particular focus on making sure we've got the infrastructure needed to get vehicles like these at SEA Electric into the marketplace as quickly as we possibly can. We know the demand is there. And we're particularly excited that Australian manufacturing is part of the solution here. I might ask David Van to make a few comments as well as the patron Senator in this area. 

DAVID VAN: Thank you Minister. Senator David Van. It's wonderful, Bill, to see Australian manufacturing and Australian technology that is globally competitive driving down emissions here in Australia and around the world.  What you're doing here and what the Future Fuels Fund allows councils, local councils, businesses to do their bit to drive down emissions for Australia and for the globe.  So well done.  I think this is an incredible local achievement with being globally competitive and leading.  So it's a great initiative to have here in Dandenong in the seat of Isaacs. Thank you. 

ANGUS TAYLOR: We might first ask for any questions you've got on this particular announcement and SEA Electric. 

JOURNALIST: Not on this particular announcement, I've got some questions on Eraring.  Origin is promising it would delay the closure of Eraring power station if the grid isn't ready by 2025.  How likely do you think it is that the grid will be ready? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it has to be. It's crucial when you lose a power station as big as that, 2,800 megawatts, that there's a replacement.  It's that simple.  We expect Origin to be part of the solution.  We expect Origin to maintain that responsibility they have to their customers and to all Australians to make sure that there's enough power in the grid for affordable, reliable energy and I've made that clear to the chief executive Frank Calabria. We expect them to be part of the solution.  We'll work closely with Origin and the New South Wales Government to make sure there is replacement. We have a strong track record on making sure there is replacement as generators leave the market. That's why we committed to the Kurri Kurri gas generator.  We've supported the Tallawarra gas generator in the Illawarra while we're supporting work on getting the Port Kembla gas generator into place. 500 million committed to transmission projects supporting all the major transmission projects on the eastern seaboard, and Snowy too, 2,000 megawatts of new capacity we committed to a number of years back. All of these projects are needed. There was lots of opposition to all of it.  People telling us they weren't needed. All sorts of stories they were telling about why this was not necessary.  But I tell you what: Australian households and manufacturers, small businesses, they need affordable, reliable power and we will make sure they have it.  Our track record is clear.  We've seen prices for households falling by eight per cent in the last two years, ten per cent for small businesses and twelve per cent for industry. This is a phenomenal track record and we're not going to step back. 

JOURNALIST: Is there any sign of the infrastructure that will be required to make a 2025 exit viable? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I found out about this decision by Origin 48 hours ago and so we'll be working through with Origin making sure there is a solution in place. But they have to be part of the solution, as will the State Government.  I've spoken to the State Energy Minister Matt Kean and made clear that we will work with them to get a solution in place, but they need to be part of the solution, as does Origin. 

JOURNALIST: And why do you think you weren't informed of Origin's plans to bring forward the closure prior to the decision being made? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well we've been very clear from the start that we expect big energy companies to do the right thing.  We also expect prices to come down over time and to be at a sustainable level. It's true that there's some big energy company executives that don't like that. They'd rather see profits higher and prices higher. We've been unambiguous on this. We took the big stick legislation through the Parliament despite enormous opposition from Labor.  We've brought the Kurri Kurri gas generator into the market.  That's been built now as we speak despite enormous opposition from Labor.  There's no shortage of people who want to see electricity prices go up and big energy companies, profits get to levels which are well above where they were a number of years back.  But we are focused on what is right for energy consumers and we'll stay focused on that. 

JOURNALIST: Kerry Schott says that the closure can be managed without adding to power bills, do you agree? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it needs new capacity. You can't have 2,800 megawatts leaving the market and expect prices to stay where they are without replacing them.  There must be replacement. It's as simple as that. This is not difficult economics.  That's 20 per cent of the market disappearing if there's no replacement. Prices go up. That's what happens. Now we're determined to make sure that doesn't happen because we want to see replacement, Origin needs to be part of the answer. There's lots of vested interests who'd like to see prices go up and energy company profits go up, but consumers need a fair deal.  Places like the Tomago Aluminium smelter. They will save those manufacturers if we see prices spiking.  So we determined to make sure that power in New South Wales and across the SC board remains affordable.  Labor wanders around all over the place on this. They can't work out where they sit, and they've opposed every measure we've taken to make sure we have affordable, reliable generation in place in a timely way. But we remain determined to ensure that consumers get a fair deal. 

 JOURNALIST: And in New South Wales what do you make of the criticism of the Coalition's attempt to politicise national security this week? Should the Coalition bump up its attacks on Labor, as many experts are suggesting? 

ANGUS TAYLOR:  I just don't accept the premise of that question. I mean the point here is there is a difference in policies between the Coalition and Labor. There is a difference. And it is right and proper that the Australian people see that difference. We see that difference in Defence spending. Our Defence spending commitments have increased by six per cent a year. Under Labor Defence spending was slashed. I mean that is a material difference which matters for Australia's national security and it's right and proper that Australians see that difference. I tell you what, Australia will never step back in standing up for our values and our interests in the world. That is something that our side and the Government will not step back.  Labor has all sorts of different points of view on this and have expressed those points of view over time. They've been very critical of our approach towards China. But we have put a line in the sand.  We've said, "Here's what our interests are" and we're going to stick by them every day. 

JOURNALIST: And with pre‑selection delays, are you concerned pre‑selection delays in New South Wales could cost Liberals an election? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: This is a matter for the New South Wales division, but I tell you what, I want to see candidates in place as soon as possible. There are many candidates in place.  We've got a wonderful candidate here in Robbie and in place in Isaacs in Victoria.  We want to see more candidates in place right across the nation and I'll certainly be doing everything I can to make sure that is the case. 

JOURNALIST: Should all sitting MPs be re‑endorsed at the very least? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Again, these are matters for the New South Wales division.  I'm a Member of Parliament and that's what I focus on. I focus on my job as the Minister and as the member for Hume. 

JOURNALIST: Is there any kind of circumstance where intervention from the Federal executive is warranted? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Again, I'm not going to get into matters around the New South Wales division but I'll say that we have a good story to tell about Australia's economy, our response to the pandemic, our recovery from the pandemic in the coming months and years and the importance of national security to all Australians, and we'll continue telling Australians about the strength of our position and our track record every day. 

JOURNALIST: Just one more, coming to Victoria, with the new Victorian quarantine hub in Mickleham, do you know how much that will cost? 

ANGUS TAYLOR:  I'll leave that to the Victorians to answer that question. I don't have the answer to that question.  The relevant minister I'm sure will be able to answer your questions on that issue.