Interview with Patricia Karvelas, RN Breakfast
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Bass Strait could host Australia’s first offshore wind farm. An area off the Gippsland coast will be assessed for its potential development given its favourable wind conditions and strong investor interest. The new focus on wind coincides with yet another warning from the United Nations that the world is on course for catastrophic climate change unless drastic action is taken this decade to exit fossil fuels and slash carbon emissions. Tim Wilson is the Assistant Energy Minister and our guest. Welcome to the program.
TIM WILSON: Thanks for having me, Patricia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: We’ll get to wind in just a moment, but first to Liberal MP Catherine Cusack, who says that Scott Morrison has ruined the Liberal Party with his self‑serving ruthless behaviour – bullying rather. Are you worried that this is becoming the perception of Scott Morrison?
TIM WILSON: Well, what I’m actually focused on, Patricia, is making sure obviously I have [indistinct] the constituents of Goldstein and focused on the policy of the country. There will always be opinions on politicians. There will always be opinions on public figures. There will always be people who will be upset or disgruntled about previous experiences, but I just don’t think it’s where the focus of the Australian people are or where they want us to have our focus either.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But in your own party he has been described as a bully, a complete psycho, no moral compass, menacing controlling wallpaper, just some of the recent character assessments of the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, your leader. If that’s what your own – this is his own side of politics. If that’s what they think of the Prime Minister, does it worry you that voters will be influenced by these views?
TIM WILSON: Well, it’s just not even remotely relatable to any experience I’ve had. The Prime Minister and I have had a number of differences of opinion on issues over the time and he knows that, I know that, the public knows that, particularly on issues sometimes of morality and the like, but I’ve always found my engagement with him to be incredibly professional and engaged on good faith because in a free society, people can have a diversity of views, and I think that’s what people see is, you know, people are standing up for what they believe in and standing up very assertively, as they should.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Catherine Cusack says the Prime Minister has trashed the party’s values though, especially with his intervention in the New South Wales preselections. How much harder will it be for you to win the election given the debacle in New South Wales?
TIM WILSON: Well, the choice confronting Australians at the next election is clearly going to be between two alternative issues for the country but also two leadership teams and two governments: One that’s led by Scott Morrison versus Anthony Albanese, one where we have a Defence Minister like Peter Dutton versus someone who most people can’t even name. Of course, we’ve got a choice between the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg versus, you know, Jim Chalmers –
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So, they’re all the talking points, but that’s not the question I put to you.
TIM WILSON: No, no, but it is the question that’s the choice that’s going to be confronting Australians –
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So, no‑one will even think about any of these things that have been said about the Prime Minister by his own colleagues.
TIM WILSON: Well, people make criticisms of politicians and public figures all the time. It’s water off a duck’s back for all of us because that’s part of the test of being in public life that, unfortunately, people throw a lot of money in your direction and part of it comes to your character and your resilience about whether you’re prepared to keep going because you’re in it to advance the interests of the nation, and I know that fortitude sits at the heart of Scott Morrison.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Will you campaign with him in your seat? Do you want him to come lots and spend time with you there?
TIM WILSON: I have no issue if the Prime Minister wants to come and help in Goldstein, but –
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Not if he wants to. Do you want him to?
TIM WILSON: I’m quite happy. I’ve always been quite happy to have him in the Goldstein electorate, but I imagine he will be focused on some other electorates which are more likely to go down to the wire so I’m hoping that he’s going to focus his energies where the best position is so we can form Government to deliver stability in these uncertain times for Australians.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: I have to ask – “other seats where it will go down to the wire” – are you confident in your seat?
TIM WILSON: I’m extremely confident. Last night we had our campaign launch and the energy and the buzz of hundreds of locals that turned up has sent clear message that our community isn’t for sale to Simon Holmes à Court and his party and their attempt to buy our community’s voice.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: How are they trying to buy your community’s voice? You’re running just like other candidates run. Are you buying your community’s voice by that sort of language?
TIM WILSON: No, not at all. We’ve already stood by the community and actually worked and delivered by comparison we have a Labor opponent, Martyn Abbott, who’s out there and fiercely campaigning, but we also have people who had a campaign and a million‑dollar chequebook before they even had a candidate and it’s clear they’re treating our community like an acquisition in an investment portfolio or a trust fund.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Bass Strait has been prioritised for assessment. Why? What makes the Gippsland coast suitable for an offshore wind farm?
TIM WILSON: This is a major announcement by the Government to realise and deliver on our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, and Gippsland has been selected for a number of reasons. It has huge amount of wind resource potential. It’s obviously away from populated areas. It has access to existing network infrastructure, so it’s not just about building offshore wind. It is about making sure it connects to the cables so that the power can go through to homes. There’s the potential to develop up to 2.2 gigawatts of power of offshore wind in Gippsland, which can directly connect into the grid and power 1.2 million homes all without emissions.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: How much of a say will the local government community have in the development – I mean, its size, whether the turbines will be visible from the shoreline?
TIM WILSON: Well, the legislation, the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Act, actually provides for community consultation for a period of 60 days. But the step we’re taking today is just to assess the viability of the development of offshore wind. There will, of course, be further consultation not just on community sentiment but also on ensuring we secure environmental protection as well as fisheries protection because we know that if you want to build Australia’s future, you have to make sure that it leaves as light a footprint as possible.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Dozens of countries have had offshore wind farms for decades, especially in Europe. Why hasn’t this been done years ago?
TIM WILSON: Well, I can’t answer to why it wasn’t done in the past, but what I can say is after three weeks of being the Minister responsible for this area, we passed laws to enable it to happen and now we’re getting on with the job. This is a huge announcement to build not just Australia’s offshore wind industry and send confidence to the market and to investors that there’s opportunities in Australia, but more critically –
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Can I politely interrupt? You know how polite I like to be. This is my polite interruption.
TIM WILSON: Always, Patricia, always.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: That’s how I was born. I want to ask you – you say “I don’t know in the time I’ve been” – I mean, you’re part of a Government though. You’ve been in charge for a decade. Why didn’t you use the last decade to do this?
TIM WILSON: But there was a parliamentary inquiry looking at how to develop legislation in this area. We developed legislation. It was passed. Passing laws takes time, Patricia, because we want to take the whole of the community with us. This is the fundamental difference between our approach and so many other political parties that always want to make big announcements but don’t do the hard work and the detail to make sure that we get it right. We want to make sure that when we invest in offshore electricity infrastructure, particularly offshore wind, we gain community confidence, minimise the environmental impact and build Australia’s carbon-neutral industrial future.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But the Government has dragged its heels. The legislation needed to start the industry has only just passed Parliament. Are you now promoting wind because the climate is such a red‑hot issue in a whole raft of Liberal seats like your own?
TIM WILSON: We’re promoting it because it’s part of building Australia’s industrial future. We are the first Government in Australia’s history to announce a comprehensive economy-wide plan towards carbon neutrality by 2050, we’re now backing that up with clear action and not just action rhetorically but actually in terms of steel and cement and building the industrial future and base of Australia’s economy, and that’s what’s so exciting about this announcement today: it’s such a big step in the right direction and a decision we’re proud to make.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The latest IPCC report is essentially a final warning to the world. It says that it’s now almost inevitable that the globe will overshoot the 1.5 degrees rise in temperatures. There’s still a slim chance of staving off a climate breakdown but only if countries like Australia drastically cut carbon emissions this decade, not just in the future, 2050; yes, you’ve committed to net zero, but this decade. What more evidence does the Government need that it must be more ambitious than its 26 to 28 per cent target by 2030?
TIM WILSON: We’re already delivering and exceeding that target. We set a 26 to 28 per cent target by the end of the decade. We’re already projected to achieve 35 per cent and with the rate technological innovation and deployment is happening, it’s possible we could exceed that. But what we actually need is other countries to follow our lead. While we’ve committed to net zero by 2050, we’ve got the UK now asking for wriggle room and backsliding on their commitment. China hasn’t even committed to net zero by 2050.
And this is the approach the Government has always taken: We need global emissions to come down, which means we need other countries to follow our leadership in making sure they take decisions, they back them in, they then realise them with investments like offshore wind and offshore wind industry and continue to take their communities them on the journey.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Tim Wilson, we are out of time. Thanks so much for joining us.
TIM WILSON: Thanks for having me, Patricia.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Tim Wilson is Assistant Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction.