Transcript - Television Interview - Sky News Morning Shift - Tuesday 19 September 2017

SUBJECT/S: Liddell power station, energy in the Hunter.


LAURA JAYES: I spoke to Joel Fitzgibbon, today. He is the Member for Hunter where this Liddell coal-fired power station is situated and today, AGL is taking a tour of journalists and also local Members and trade unions through the plant, perhaps to show how aging the facility is. Either way it is a big PR drive. As I mentioned I spoke with Joel Fitzgibbon and asked him what he will be asking of AGL.

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: First of all I believe AGL obviously is keen for Australia’s media to understand the plant better. Particularly the age and the enormous challenges involved in keeping it going beyond 2022. My main aim is to talk with people on the ground - workers, trade union delegates and of course management about AGL’s future plans. I’m very keen to of course see AGL follow through with their commitment to keep or maintain the Upper Hunter as the power house of New South Wales by investing very significantly in gas power and of course renewables in particular large scale solar, pumped hydro backed of course by battery. And of course Bayswater the sister power station just across the road will continue for many years to come which gives us a real mix and delivers energy security for people and of course hopefully lower prices.

JAYES: You didn’t mention coal in your answer and I know AGL has a commitment to get out of coal but AGL is also going to come up with a plan by December presented to the Prime Minister, either extending the Liddell power plant’s life or filling the power generation gap with affordable and reliable energy. Is that bipartisan commitment and does affordable and reliable in your mind include solar?

FITZGIBBON: I hope we have a bipartisan commitment to a strong energy mix which for many years into the future delivers both affordable and reliable power. Bayswater power station will operate for at least 15 more years but we need to invest now in the technologies beyond that and of course if we get this right, and I am confident we can, we will produce and create as many jobs in those new sectors than we would lose in coal over time. It is highly unlikely in 15 years’ time when Bayswater closes it will be replaced or extended with coal. Therefore we have an opportunity to be, if you like, first through the door to establish this new energy mix which is going to employ people for many decades to come and produce a reliable and affordable power mix.

JAYES: Okay but what will you be telling the workers at Liddell power station today that they won’t have jobs in that plant beyond 2022? That those jobs will be found elsewhere in solar and a gas peaking plant? Because Michael Sukkar yesterday became the first Government Minister to say publicly that the power plant should be kept open for the next five years. That’s what the Prime Minister has said as well but he has raised the idea of actually taxpayer funds going into that. Is that a good idea? Is that something you could take to workers today and reassure them with bipartisanship?

FITZGIBBON: Well Michael Sukkar from metropolitan Melbourne wouldn’t have a clue about either coal mining or power generation. But the workers on the ground at Liddell do and they understand how old the plant is. They work overtime every day to try to keep it going. It only runs at about 60 per cent of its capacity at best by the way. Such is the age of the plant and the difficulties in keeping it going. The boys on the ground and women of course know what’s ahead and they also know that this is really only a debate, and this is a really important point, it’s only a debate about whether the plant stays open for the five year period AGL has nominated, or the ten year period Malcolm Turnbull is talking about. They are all smart and they know 10 years is highly unlikely.

JAYES: Okay but ten years in the job is better than five years in the job.

FITZGIBBON: They understand Laura. These people running the plant, the people at the coalface if you like, understand the challenges involved in keeping it open another five years. Andy Vesey of course will invest,  I think it is about $190 million keeping it open for just five years. They know better than anyone the folly of Malcolm Turnbull’s spin and I think Malcolm Turnbull realises now that he did overreach and he should visit Liddell with me. I have invited him many times. He has to drive past there on the way to his cattle station. If he did he would learn the challenges involved in the plant and he would better understand, and hopefully he will soon understand the enormous opportunities we have in the area. We have the land, we have the transmission lines, we have the skilled workforce which is easily transferrable to these new technologies, we have the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle and we have gas in relatively close proximity. We have everything you need to make the Upper Hunter, or to ensure the Upper Hunter continues as the powerhouse of New South Wales, but in a  cleaner or more sustainable way.

JAYES: Okay we look forward to talking to you after this meet and greet with AGL workers and the trade unions today. Joel Fitzgibbon, thanks so much for your time.

FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure Laura. 

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