SUBJECTS: Liddell Power Station, Energy in the Hunter, Government’s internal division, Immigration.
KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome back to the program. Joining me now is Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon. We’ll start on the energy debate of course and AGL being pressured to keep Liddell open in your electorate but they are showing no sign of relenting on that. Again Andy Vesey talking about the alternatives that they’re already transitioning to.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Because they are so committed to this transformation and importantly for me, investment in my electorate. Billions of dollars going to pumped hydro, gas, the upgrade of Bayswater, large scale solar and battery storage. This is a wonderful thing for the Upper Hunter. This debate whether Liddell goes to 2022 or 2024 doesn’t mean that much to me really as long as of course it doesn’t interfere with AGL’s investment plans in that transition –
GILBERT: What if Alinta were to take it over though. Are you open to that? That’s something that Mr Frydenberg yesterday on this program again said he wants the AGL board to look at their offer.
FITZGIBBON: A conservative Government bullying private companies around in the market place is just extraordinary stuff. If you said five years we would see this I would have laughed. But no it’s a bad thing for AGL. Their asset’s there and their infrastructure is all part of their plans. And of course Bayswater and Liddell are owned by the same company and have common user infrastructure for example. The Government just needs to get out of the way – well produce an energy policy that we can all accept - then get out of the way and let AGL invest creating new jobs for decades in my electorate and helping us transition to a cleaner economy.
GILBERT: Are you worried - and as someone who knows the energy sector well, given the large presence in your electorate - are you worried about that dispatchability of the energy mix given the closure of Liddell because the other proposals that AGL are talking about can they fill up that reliability?
FITZGIBBON: Well look the Bayswater upgrade will produce an additional 100 megawatt hours on its own. Gas of course is dispatchable, storage is dispatchable. AGL is not going to invest money Kieran to lose money, to have a system that is not appropriate to our needs. They know what they are doing. If you extend Liddell for a couple of years you might retain some jobs for a little while but I want hundreds of new jobs that will last for decades.
GILBERT: Were you encouraged by this announcement that the Prime Minister is going to be a part of this morning – AGL Energy hosting a $500 million dollar trial out of Japan in the Latrobe Valley using brown coal to for - basically to turn it into hydrogen. Is that something you would welcome?
FITZGIBBON: If that is feasible we would all welcome that obviously. We have a natural resource there in brown coal which will be worth nothing sometime in the future. If we can exploit it now and take value from it and do something very good with it like hydrogen, that would be a good thing obviously. But all subject to the detail.
GILBERT: When it comes to the broader energy debate, do you feel that Labor is on a strong footing right now? Or do you feel like the messages are mixed given the very strong commitments from elements of your party for a tough renewable energy target for example?
FITZGIBBON: No I think we are in good shape and think more and more the electorate understands that the crisis we face now is a result of six years of policy inertia under this government. They can see we are offering a bipartisan hand to settle this thing forever. They can see an emerging consensus on a market base mechanism and now we are just arguing some of the finer points. I think Labor is well placed and in an increasingly progressive electorate expecting governments to do something on climate - I think looks at the Labor Party and sees that we are on the right side of this debate.
GILBERT: Malcolm Turnbull apparently hastening Liberal preselections and the possibility of an election in spring. Is that something Labor would be ready for?
FITZGIBBON: You would be scrambling too if you were Malcolm Turnbull. One thing can be said about Malcolm – he’ll put himself in front of the party and will go to an election if it means saving his own leadership. I think he’d rather be taken by the electorate than by his party room. So I think this is as much about his internal divisions as it is about trying to win the election.
GILBERT: Maybe he fancies his chances?
FITZGIBBON: Maybe he does and maybe he is an extreme optimist? We don’t take anything for granted and every election is contestable. We are doing the busy stuff on the policy front and are effectively governing from Opposition in terms of our policy pronouncements. Our candidates are on the ground campaigning. We are ready to go at any time he calls an election.
GILBERT: And finally this story my colleague James O’Doherty is reported that the Government had asked New Zealand to keep on the table the offer of resettlement despite the warnings of Peter Dutton publicly about the potential for restarting the boats. What are your thoughts on that story this morning?
FITZGIBBON: These are just more indicators of internal division. It is a Government all over the shop. I think people clearly understand where Labor stands on this issue. At the moment they have no idea where the Government stands.