Australian Prime Minister Radio Interview – ABC Radio Melbourne

Prime Minister

We’re actually joined by the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese. Thanks for joining us.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Raf. Greetings from Perth.

EPSTEIN: Oh, that’s right. Oh, gosh, it’s early. Is there any significant difference in the graffiti on Josh Burn’s office this time compared to other times?

PRIME MINISTER: This is an escalation of the attacks that we’ve seen. We’ve been talking about this, we’ve got to dial this down. The people who were responsible for this attack should face the full force of the law. It is very distressing for Josh and for his staff. I spoke to Josh this morning. This is a pretty serious attack – windows broken, graffiti everywhere, fires lit there. It’s not quite clear what all of the damage is. There are, people live upstairs in that building, there had to be evacuations. This has occurred in the middle of the night with, it would appear, five people is the suggestion, at least. And this has got to be seen as an attack on someone who’s a Jewish MP, someone who is running an office that looks after people’s interests. And how people think that they advance their cause through activities like this is beyond me. It does nothing. It undermines the cause that people purport to represent.

EPSTEIN: Are you sure, I just wonder if what you know about the fire, that seems to be a little bit murky, those details. Do you have any understanding of what the fires were?

PRIME MINISTER: It is. Well look, we’ll await the police reports. When I spoke to Josh, it was still unclear. It is certain that there was an attempt to use some form of fire to cause damage, but he’s awaiting the report. He’s been advised, quite sensibly, for him and his staff aren’t on site there. The office will be closed. So they’ll still be providing assistance through phones or through emails to their constituents. But it is just, there’s no place for that form of vandalism and the level of violence. We understand that for some people, they feel very strongly about issues in the Middle East, but it’s no reason to target MP’s half a world away in Australia, and in particular, the targeting of a Jewish MP is very distressing.

EPSTEIN: PM, the coalition are obviously going to build, or they say they will build if they win, government funded nuclear power stations, including one in the La Trobe Valley. Why not just lift the ban and sort of let the market sort it out? We have a ban on nuclear power stations. If you’re so confident people won’t invest in it because it’s too expensive, why not lift the ban?

PRIME MINISTER: The market has sorted it out. That’s why they’re saying not just that they’ll have this nuclear fantasy, but it’ll be a taxpayer funded nuclear fantasy as well, because the markets won’t fund something that is 15 years away, something that is the most expensive form of new energy. We know that the energy transition is necessary. Coal fired power plants are closing. Fourteen of them announced their closures under the former coalition government. So it’s a matter of whether the rollout of renewables with solar continues in order to secure energy supply, or whether we just stop that, stop all that happening and wait for 15 years for the most expensive form of energy to come back online.

EPSTEIN: But the rollout does look like it’s in, the rollout does look like it’s in trouble.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s not right. What we saw in the last two years is record numbers of people putting solar panels on their roofs. What we’re seeing is major projects being approved and under construction. What we’re seeing is increased supply coming on, whether it be solar or wind or other forms of renewables. And increasingly, as well, with storage capacity to ensure that energy security. You can’t have energy security by saying we’ll do nothing for 15 years following on from the Coalition’s 22 energy policies that they announced and didn’t land one. This is a recipe for higher energy prices, for less energy security, less job creation. This is economic madness that the coalition are engaged with.

EPSTEIN: If it’s madness, why are their poll numbers going up? Why do you think the poll numbers are going up? You say their argument is hollow, I guess, but their poll numbers are getting better and the support for nuclear power is shifting a bit.

PRIME MINISTER: Look, the fact is that we in Australia, like the rest of the globe, have issues with cost of living pressures, and that is causing concern for people, and we understand that. That’s why we’re rolling out tax cuts for every taxpayer from a couple of weeks’ time, why we’re rolling out energy price relief for every household. Why wages will increase with the minimum wage and those on award wages. That’s why we’re rolling out cheaper medicines. We’re addressing all of those issues, but we’re also addressing energy security through the cheapest form of new energy.

EPSTEIN: PM, are you saying there that, are you saying that you think the poll numbers are shifting because of cost of living and not because of their arguments about climate and energy?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we know cost of living is causing pressures for people when it comes to energy. I note that Coalition spokesperson after Coalition spokesperson is saying, ‘Yeah, we support nuclear energy, but not in my own electorate’. There’s a reason for that.

EPSTEIN: Is there anything scientifically wrong with nuclear power in your mind?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, nuclear power has a role to play in Europe, in nations that have the natural advantages which renewables have here in Australia. We have the best solar resources in the world. They’re just above us and they’re renewable. They’re not finite. They are therefore the cheapest form of new energy. And just as it makes sense, economic sense for your listeners who put solar panels on their roofs, they might have done that to help the environment. But I tell you what’s really driven it, it’s because it makes economic sense. And just as it makes economic sense for households, it makes economic sense for our economy as well.

EPSTEIN: Why do you think that argument hasn’t won over some people. Outside of the big cities, I don’t know the numbers, but there’s clearly some communities very concerned about new power lines and new large scale renewables, be it offshore wind or solar farms. Why do you think those people are still angry and upset about the renewables rollout?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we need to make sure that there’s appropriate community consultation. We’ve put in place that to ensure that it occurs. But this is a –

EPSTEIN: Well, there obviously wasn’t enough consultation.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, this is a transition that is absolutely necessary to occur. Coal fired power stations are closing. The former government spent a decade talking about Liddell Power Station staying open, funding proponents of a new coal fired power station in Collinsville in Queensland, and nothing happened because the market rejected it. And now they’re moving to nuclear, where again, the market is rejecting it. Where it’s 15 years off. It’s the most expensive form of new energy and they’re saying that taxpayers will fund it. Well, we’ll wait and see the details of the announcement today, but this makes no economic sense, as well as leaving us in a position of energy insecurity because of the time that it will take to roll out a nuclear reactor. And it is just another reason for them to do nothing whilst we need to actually increase our energy supply, support the national energy grid. We inherited a grid that wasn’t connected. Even Snowy Hydro, a major project that costs now much more than we were told it would cost, but it wasn’t even connected up to the grid. That made no sense either.

EPSTEIN: So I realise you’ve rattled off a lot of arguments on why you think Peter Dutton’s ideas are bad ideas, but if I’m sitting in the La Trobe Valley right now and I’m listening to you or I get to hear you later on, what’s your number one reason? What’s your number one message to people who live in and around Luoyang, which is the site of a potential nuclear reactor? What would you say to them?

PRIME MINISTER: That a nuclear reactor is 15 years away and will drive up power prices, lead to more energy insecurity and lead to less jobs being created.

EPSTEIN: Would you support nuclear energy if the CSIRO sort of suddenly said, ‘Oh, actually, you know, it’s not as much as we thought it would be and it would be quicker’. Would that change your mind?

PRIME MINISTER: But they don’t. Every scientific analysis has said that it doesn’t stack up. Every economic analysis says it doesn’t stack up, and that’s why it’s extraordinary that they continue to go down this track in spite of all the advice of all of the experts, including the business community. One of the things that we have provided is a serious plan going forward with the Safeguard Mechanism, which was designed by Greg Hunt originally, with our Capacity Investment Scheme is that business certainty. That is what they were looking for in order to invest and that is what the coalition are seeking to take away. It’s like they want Australia to not succeed. And in all of their approaches, just as they’ve opposed every cost of living measure that we have put forward, they’ve now opposed that investment certainty that business are crying out for.

EPSTEIN: Appreciate your time this morning, Prime Minister. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Raf.

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