Australian Prime Minister Television interview – ABC News Breakfast

Prime Minister

Well, energy is still front and centre in terms of Federal politics today. Let’s bring in the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. He joins us from Devonport in Tasmania. PM, good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Michael, on a chilly but beautiful morning here in Devonport.

ROWLAND: Certainly looks very chilly. We’ll get to the Opposition’s nuclear plan in a moment, but I want to get your views on AEMO, the market operator. A big warning this morning about potential gaps to gas supplies on the east coast following a combination of a few factors, including a cold snap and lulls in renewable energy supplies. How concerned should Australians be about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ll work those issues through with AEMO. It’s AEMO’s job to undertake these measures and to provide this information. Minister Bowen will work with AEMO. This is not the first time that has been declared. I do note that the former Government said they were going to have a gas-led recovery for 10 years as part of the 22 energy policies they launched, but never delivered on any of them.

ROWLAND: Okay. But the industry is saying we are in this situation because there is simply not enough gas flowing, particularly in Victoria. Do they have a point?

PRIME MINISTER: Of course we need more gas supply. We announced our Future Gas Strategy a short while ago because we understand that we need more supply. Gas has an important role to play in manufacturing in particular. But also in providing firming capacity for the renewables rollout.

ROWLAND: Okay. But we’re talking about the Victorian State Government, which the industry claims has been blocking further gas. Do they need to play a greater role to step up to ensure supplies do flow more freely?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we need more gas in the east coast market. That has been known for some time. That’s why we have launched our Future Gas Strategy.

ROWLAND: Should the Victorian Government do more?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we need – my responsibility is for the national Government.

ROWLAND: But you’re the PM, Mr Albanese. You can urge your colleague, Jacinta Allan, the Victorian Premier, to step up.

PRIME MINISTER: What we’ve done is to launch our national Future Gas Strategy. We need more supply on the east coast.

ROWLAND: Okay. Let’s speak about future energy supply and turn our attention to the Opposition’s nuclear announcement. Ziggy Switkowski, a prominent business leader who also, you would know, is a nuclear physicist, has come out in favour this morning, saying, ‘I think nuclear will be more favoured than it has been in the last 20 years. At one level it may not be the least-cost option but at another level, it would-be the most valuable option’. What do you say to that expert?

PRIME MINISTER: Surprise, surprise. That expert, as you full, well know, Michael, I’m sure, you’ve been around a while, you’d remember the Switkowski report, the last time that nuclear was examined. He was given the job of undertaking a review and guess what? Nothing happened. And the Howard Government, indeed, he played a role at that time in providing in advice, introduced a ban on nuclear energy. The truth is that even who someone who is a so-called advocate can’t say that it’s anything other than the most expensive form of new energy. And that’s the problem here, Michael. You had this announcement of seven sites, six of which have said they don’t want a bar of it. You’ve had no costings put forward. In 10 days’ time, we’ll produce energy price relief of $300 for every household. In the 2040s, they’re saying we’ll do nothing until then and then in the 2040s, some time, there’ll be the most expensive form of new energy brought into the system. There’s a reason why the Coalition are saying that they’re going to nationalise that part of the energy sector, unusually for a Liberal Party, and that’s because no bank, no financier, will touch it with a barge pole because it doesn’t stack up. That’s why. They’re hiding what the costs will be of this nuclear fantasy.

ROWLAND: Ziggy Switkowski also says it would be more secure energy, ‘But you need base load power and the grunt that comes with the big reactors and how well they perform once they’re built’.

PRIME MINISTER: Michael, go back and have a look at the Switkowski report. There’s nothing new in bringing Ziggy out to promote nuclear. He’s been doing it his whole life.

ROWLAND: So you’re saying the Opposition is bringing him out?

PRIME MINISTER: He’s been doing it for decades. And what we know is that the former Government, after all of this analysis was done, had 22 energy policies, and they didn’t go anywhere near nuclear. What they did was that they denied climate, they dithered around over that decade. They saw 14 coal-firepower stations announce their closure on their watch, they used to stand up and say Liddell should be kept open before it closed. They funded a proponent at Collinsville to build a new coal-fired power plant. Nothing happened on their watch. And we didn’t have supply. We didn’t have renewables connected to the grid. Even Snowy Hydro wasn’t connected up to the national energy grid. What this is now a recipe for is for further denial and delay. They’re trying to scare off investment rather than attract the investment that we need for the transition that is occurring. They won’t say what their emissions target will be in 2030. They’re saying, ‘Vote for us and we’ll let you know after the election some time what will actually happen’. They should be embarrassed that they’ve presided over a decade of denial and delay and now what they want is more denial and delay up until the 2040s. We’re getting on with the business of rolling out what is needed. I just met someone, Wolfgang his name was, came up to me here in Devonport. He’s here working on Marinus Link, making sure that renewable energy will go to the North Island, the mainland of Australia, from here in Tasmania, making sure that Victorians can benefit from that and that it can be plugged into the national energy grid. The vision here in Tasmania, I’ve been working with the Tasmanian Government on, is for 200 per cent renewable energy going forward as well and Marinus is an important part of that.

ROWLAND: Okay. I want to talk about, you have a legitimate right as the Government to argue against what the Opposition is proposing, but these social media memes put up by some of your colleagues, including from the Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, a three-eyed Blinky Bill. We’ve had Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan using social media to put up posts that have three-eyed fish. Dan Repacholi, the Labor MP for the seat of Hunter in New South Wales with another three-eyed fish. And it goes on and on and on. It’s all pretty juvenile, isn’t it?

PRIME MINISTER: Have you got the one with me, Michael, with three eyes on the Prime Minister, that’s been put up by the cheer squad for the Coalition on this nuclear fantasy? You can put that up as well. Lighten up, Michael. For goodness’ sake. We’re not going to take lectures from a mob who said that an advisory committee for Indigenous Australians on matters that affected them would lead to everyone losing their house and their private property.

ROWLAND: Okay, but I want to get you on record, you’re the Prime Minister of the nation. Do you endorse those social media memes put up by your colleagues?

PRIME MINISTER: Lighten up, Michael.

ROWLAND: That wasn’t the question.

PRIME MINISTER: I endorse what I say, Michael.

ROWLAND: Do you endorse what they’re doing?

PRIME MINISTER: You can ask whatever question you like. It’s up to me to give the answer.

ROWLAND: That’s my job.

PRIME MINISTER: Lighten up. Lighten up, Michael. It is your job and you do it very well, along with other ABC broadcasters. But lighten up. For goodness’ sake. What they’re trying to do here, it is their responsibility, the Coalition, if they have not put out any facts or costings. They won’t say what form reactors will take. They won’t say they will overcome the state as well as the Howard Government’s ban on nuclear energy. There is no detail. If a Labor government had put this up, there would be outrage from every tabloid newspaper in this country, ridiculing this proposal because of its lack of substance, its lack of facts which are there. So, it’s not surprising that it’s attracting some ridicule.

ROWLAND: Okay, Prime Minister. Thank you for your time. You say you’re cold in Devonport. It could be worse. You could be stripping off to take part in the nude solstice swim in the other end of Tasmania this morning. Thank heaven for small mercies.

PRIME MINISTER: Indeed. No-one wants to see that, Michael. Least of all, your viewers.

ROWLAND: This is true and we’ll take that as comment. Prime Minister, thank you so much for that.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks, Michael. You didn’t have to agree with me there!

ROWLAND: Thank you, PM.

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