Hon Patrick Gorman MP Doorstop Interview – Collie

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for the Public Service

JODIE HANNS, STATE MEMBER FOR COLLIE-PRESTON: I’ll start by saying thank you very much to Patrick Gorman, who is representing Prime Minister Albanese here today. He’s come down to Collie to look at the local perspective around the recent announcement of the Liberal Party. But today we’ve spent a lot of time meeting with members of the Just Transition Working Group who’ve been working incredibly hard since 2018 on Just Transition and providing a renewables focused future and a green energy future for Collie beyond the coal industry. So thank you, Patrick.

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE: I want to say firstly, thank you to Jodie Hanns, the wonderful member here for Collie. I’ve known Jodie for a number of years, I know what a great job she’s doing in helping this community lead a transition to a new future, as we see some of the coal fired generation that has been a proud part of Collie’s history for 125 years leave the system, but recognising the great opportunities that are here. And it was that optimism and those opportunities that we heard at the roundtable that Jodie pulled together this morning. Listening to Local Government, tourism operators, people who’ve worked in the power industry here in Collie for many decades. And what we heard from them is that they recognise that Collie has a bright and diverse future. It’s not a future entirely focused on nuclear power plants. It’s not a future that they want to wait for until 2050 before we see any sort of change. The change is happening now. We’re seeing it in increased tourism numbers. We’re seeing it in rising housing values. And we’re seeing it in the investments that people are making in the new energy economy of the future, and the new industries of the future, right here in Collie. And I think when it comes to the great work that Jodie and the state government do, it’s all about doing what’s right for WA. And what’s not right for WA is a massive new nuclear reactor here in the heart of Collie, combined with storage for 50 or more years of nuclear waste. Now, the thing that I heard from the roundtable we held this morning, was that the announcements that have been made in the last 72 hours have just led to more questions. Are they going to tear out the investments in critical minerals? Is the Liberal Party and the National Party going to rip away investments in transition? Are they going to get rid of the Net Zero Authority? What does this mean for jobs over the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 years? What does Mr. Dutton’s nuclear reactor plan mean, has he done all of the work to make sure there’s enough water to service a nuclear reactor? There’s still questions around the costings. There’s questions around how many actual jobs would this create long term? Mr. Dutton’s announcement where he announced the location here in Collie leaves so many questions. I think one of the reasons that it leaves so many questions is that Peter Dutton has never been to Collie. Peter Dutton never stood here. He’s never driven through this town. And that culture that’s there in the Liberal Party, the National Party, has continued today. We’ve seen the Leader of the National Party, David Littleproud, who would be Peter Dutton’s Deputy Prime Minister if they were to win the next election. Wannabe Deputy Prime Minister David Littleproud has flown all the way to Western Australia. But he then said that he was too busy to actually visit Collie. Now I think this community deserves more than that. I think if this is just one of seven sites that Mr. Dutton and Mr. Littleproud are planning to put a massive nuclear reactor, then they should come and have the conversation and they should have the conversation with the facts. They should show us the costings. They should show us the jobs plan. They should show us how we’re going to make sure that between the closure of some of the Muja facilities and 2050 when their plant would come online, where are the jobs in between? Where’s the energy going to come from? What’s going to happen with all the exciting projects that are already on the books? All of those questions are unanswered. I’ve also got another challenge for David Littleproud. He said today while in Western Australia, that they’ve done the geological surveys for the plant that they want to put in Collie. If Mr. David Littleproud has done the geological surveys right here, about the nuclear plant that he wants to build right here, he should release them today. He should release those geological surveys. And equally if they’ve done the costings, which again I understand that Rick Wilson and others have said they’ve done the costings, they should release those costings, too. Because then people will know. But at the moment, and I’ve seen in the roundtable we held this morning, I’ve seen it, and talking to people in the street here today. There are so many more questions than answers, at a time where what people want is certainty. We know that we’re going through a global energy transition. And I want the certainty of the jobs that come from more renewables in our system, the certainty of jobs that come from doing the transition to new things. We saw some of those projects talked about today. I want those opportunities. And I think people want, after the climate wars that Peter Dutton and others were happy to preside over for a decade, I think people want certainty. And again, the announcement of the last 72 hours has ripped that certainty away. People deserve better than that. And they equally deserve, if you’re going to rip certainty away from people, then people deserve that you actually come and front up. You actually visit. And I say Peter Dutton has never been to Collie. David Littleproud was too busy to visit Collie. And again, I think the people of this community deserve better than that. Over to you.

JOURNALIST: Well on that note, has the Prime Minister visited Collie?

GORMAN: The Prime Minister has funded projects in Collie. He’s been South West, Bunbury and elsewhere. He’s been here so many times. You’d even know that the Prime Minister recently, a little bit further south, went on a holiday at the end of last year. He’s been all the way through the South West. And I’d also note that the Prime Minister and I know very clearly that Collie is not the right location for a nuclear power plant. In fact, there is no good location in Western Australia for a nuclear power plant.

JOURNALIST: What’s some of the feedback you’ve received from the Just Transition meeting you were sitting in on this morning?

GORMAN: Some of the feedback that I’ve received, the thing that really shone through so proudly, was that there’s a really proud history here in Collie as a coalmining, power-generating town, a town that has powered so much of Western Australia for more than a century. Huge pride in that work and real pride in the opportunities that are coming down the track, both in terms of what they’ve done, a 73% increase in tourism visitors from pre-COVID levels. That’s a huge achievement. And just getting started. Real pride in some of the work that’s been done, coordinated through Jodie and the team, the State Government through the transition authority. Really great work being done there. We also heard that people appreciate the complexity of the transition that’s already underway. But also they appreciate that if you’re going to do something really complex, you’ve got to talk it through with people. That’s what’s been happening here for a number of years now. Since 2018 that Just Transition Taskforce has been together. You’ve got to work these things through with people, and you only get good policy outcomes by listening to people.

JOURNALIST: And who else have you spoken to so far today?

GORMAN: We’ve spoken to the Council, we’ve spoken to representatives from some of the local unions who represent workers, we’ve spoken to people who work and have worked for a number of years in the energy industry here in Collie. I’ve had some really good feedback from Jodie as well. I think one of the things that gives me great optimism about the future of the South West in general is the excellent representation, but particularly right here in Collie. Jodie Hanns has a great vision for what her community will be in the future, and how to make sure that the next generations of local residents have excellent jobs, excellent opportunities, and this continues to be a great place to have a really secure economic future.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned that the nuclear plan may derail Australia’s Net Zero targets?

GORMAN: I think Peter Dutton spent a number of years when he was in government trying to derail Australia’s ambitions towards Net Zero. The National Party have done the same. I see no reason why they wouldn’t do in opposition what they sought to do when they were in government. The reality is there is only one party who puts forward a credible plan to work with these communities to get to Net Zero by 2050, and meet all of our Paris obligations on the way through. We saw in the presentations that were put to us today, recognition that Just Transition is an important part of the Paris agreement which Australia is signed up to, we saw all of that. What is very clear to me is there’s only one party with a serious, credible plan to take Australia from where we are today, and embrace all of the proud legacy that we have, to take us to where we need to be for the future. Which is a future as a renewable energy superpower, thriving regions, and transition to more renewables with the appropriate firming in the system. The only people who’ve got a fully costed plan out on the table is the Albanese Government. It’s there in the budget, you can see it. It’s there in the work that we’re doing with the Net Zero Economy Authority. It’s there in the work that we’re doing with the Department of Climate Change and Energy. It’s there throughout all of those pieces of important government decision-making that we’ve put together. And those who’ve come out with the nuclear plan, have left more questions than answers.

JOURNALIST: Talking about some of the questions, you mentioned a bit earlier some of the concerns about waste. When would you like to see the Coalition release their plans with what they plan to do with the waste from the nuclear power facility in Collie.

GORMAN: I’m conscious that currently they’re saying that their plan for the waste is that it would sit in Collie for 50, 60 or 70 years before they move it off site. That’s their current plan. But I might let Jodie say a few things about that.

HANNS: Thanks very much Sean for the question. It’s really important to understand that the details are really sketchy around the Liberals plan for nuclear waste, if they were to establish a nuclear power plant in Collie. I think what’s really clear to me is this community is not overwhelmingly receptive to a nuclear industry in Collie. I think the thing we have to really highlight is the pursuit of jobs that we’re undertaking through the Just Transition processes around creating a diversified economy. So, lots of different opportunities for advanced manufacturing and clean energy, and delivering on those jobs for the jobs that will transition away from the coal mining and coal related industries. In relation to the plan that the Liberals have in front of us, I’m really disappointed that they haven’t come down and really extensively consulted with my community. I think it just creates, as Patrick said, a huge amount of uncertainty for the projects that we’ve got in the pipeline. I’d hate to think that people reconsider coming and living and establishing businesses in Collie. And I’d hate to think that investors would reconsider the investments that they’ve already made. We’re absolutely committed both at State and Federal Government to pursue the renewables pathway that we’re on. And I think that bringing the community along with that journey is something that we’ve done really well since 2018 under the former member Mick Murray, and continued with myself with support of the State Government and the Federal Government.

JOURNALIST: Have you been able to speak to your Federal counterpart Rick Wilson about the plan yet?

HANNS: No, I understand that Rick was in town during the week and I think that really highlights the fact that such a huge announcement for my community meant that you know Peter Dutton sent his local member, his backbencher, down to deliver that news. When we delivered the news of the transition for the coal fired power stations in Collie, Premier Mark McGowan at the time and Minister Bill Johnston stood alongside myself to deliver that news to the community. And I think that is in stark contrast to the way that the Liberals and Nationals have treated my community.

JOURNALIST: On a slightly broader perspective as well, Collie’s only one of a number of plants proposed. Is the Albanese Government unilaterally opposed to all nuclear power stations or do perhaps some of them in other States maybe make a little bit of sense?

GORMAN: We’ve been really clear that the proposal for seven nuclear reactors across Australia is not a proposal that we support. We recognise that it was the Howard Government that banned nuclear energy in Australia. That’s stood on the statute books for more than 20 years. We recognise there’s a number of states and territories who said that they do not want these nuclear reactors. And we also recognise that Australia is already on the journey to being a renewable energy superpower. And it’s being a renewable energy superpower which is where we want to go. That is the cheapest form of energy to put into the system. That is the fastest way to get more energy into the system. And it’s also what I think the Australian people expect, which is that we’ve been talking about meeting our 2030 and 2050 targets. That is to reduce emissions. And our plan is to reduce emissions over time. Mr. Dutton’s plan with these nuclear reactors in 2050 is to basically sit back and do nothing, hoping that some of the older parts of the generation system, including older coal fired power stations, don’t fall over in the process. But to do nothing for 25 years and hope that by 2050 you can reduce emissions, that’s not a plan. And it’s definitely not a plan if you want to say that you’re serious about taking climate action to preserve the wonderful natural environment that we enjoy across Australia, and particularly here in Western Australia.

JOURNALIST: I know you’ve touched on it before, but I’ll just go back round to it. You know, if not nuclear, what are some of the main alternatives that the Federal Government’s considering to keep communities like Collie ready for the future?

GORMAN: We’ve already signed a partnership with the State Government for a $3 billion Rewiring the Nation investment to make sure we’ve got the energy distribution. Obviously we’re looking really closely at what they’re doing when it comes to the big battery that is going to be here using the transmission lines that are already here. And that will take up a lot of the capacity that’s already in those transmission lines. We’re talking about – at some of the conversations we’ve had today -what else can be done on tourism? What else can we done on education? What else can we do when it comes to attracting new industries here. And some of that’s really practical stuff like Jodie is a great advocate. As I said before, she’s already said some of the things that the Commonwealth could look at is partnerships with the State Government around road and rail infrastructure. We’ll continue those discussions because we recognise that we all need to work together; Local, State and Federal to get this transition happening. But also to make sure that we don’t leave anyone behind. And I think about what Anthony Albanese always says ‘no one held back, no one left behind.’ When we think about this transition, it’s communities like this we want to make sure actually are just not left behind, but grab huge new opportunities of economic diversification. I don’t know if Jodie wanted to add anything on any of the projects you’re particularly passionate about.

HANNS: From the perspective of the work that the Just Transition Working Group has done since 2018, the focus of that was to really bring businesses to the table for them to present their ideas and their concepts to the Just Transition Working Group. And for the Just Transition Working Group really to identify ‘are those the businesses that are the best fit for the skills that we’ve got and the workers that we’ve got in the community.’ And I’m really proud to be able to say that we’re working very closely with Magnium, with International Graphite, and with Green Steel Western Australia, because they were identified by that Just Transition Working Group as being key industries for the future of those workers.

GORMAN: Anything else?

JOURNALIST: I do have two more quick questions about this, and then about sheep?


JOURNALIST: One of the things that we’ve heard is that one of the proposals for waste storage is the same sites as the waste for the AUKUS project when that comes online. Is that going to be placing more pressure on the federal government to find secure sites to store that waste?

GORMAN: I think that’s a question for Peter Dutton that if he doesn’t have an identified site for the nuclear waste that he is planning to generate with seven new nuclear reactors. Then that is just one more in the long list of questions that he, for some reason, either knows the answer to and refusing to release, or he doesn’t know the answer to, which shows he’s completely unfit for office.

JOURNALIST: Okay. And the last question is just about the roundtable this morning, meeting with the Just Transition and a number of other local groups; is Local and Federal Government looking to involve the voices of our First Nations people and any concerns that they might have about seven new nuclear power stations across the country.

GORMAN: Of course. That work is already underway. That’s part of the consultations that, again, have been happening since 2018. They outlined a range of the pieces of First Nations work that has been done. That’s the work that we expect to happen when the Net Zero Economy Authority, we hope that legislation will pass the Federal Parliament, that has some explicit requirements in this legislation for First Nations involvement and First Nations Economic Development. Of course, we are continuing to do that work, and it’s vital to making sure again, that we bring everyone along on this journey towards Net Zero.

JOURNALIST: Amazing. Thank you. So my colleague has sent me through a couple of questions about sheep. So the first one is, the Parliamentary Inquiry into the live sheep phase out legislation has handed down its report, do you have a reaction to the findings?

GORMAN: I’ve obviously been in a conversation with those who are delivering the transition here in Collie about another really important transition. I’ll just note that obviously the Albanese government in that transition is putting $107 million on the table to help. I’m a really strong supporter of those that raised sheep on their property here in WA. A really strong supporter of the sheep meat trade. We just have a view that the way to make sure that we keep that trade strong for the future is to remove the live exports component of that trade. But we’ll have a look at the report. We very rarely respond instantly to Parliamentary Committee reports. Normally the Government response comes normally within three months of those inquiries. There’s obviously the legislation moving through the Parliament at the moment. So we’ll just continue to do that work.

JOURNALIST: And last question, sorry. So, the farmers have held two large rallies against the proposed ban in WA. Why is the Federal Government pushing on with the ban despite the growing backlash?

GORMAN: I love Australia’s democracy where everyone gets to have their say, I think that’s really important. I think it’s really important that the Parliamentary Committee Inquiry came here to Western Australia, went to Northam to listen to people, and they could hear from a range of people with a range of different perspectives. It’s important that we fulfil the commitment that we took to the election. And it’s important we do that in a way that, as I said, I’m a huge supporter of the sheep meat industry here in WA, and across Australia. I see that it has a really bright future and indeed, actually a bigger future than its present. But we know the best way to get value and to make sure that we continue to grow that industry is to do it with domestic processing, creating more jobs here in Australia. And again as I said, $107 million that we put on the table for transition. That’s all about making sure that we can create more jobs in meat processing, meat packing, booking, what else is needed by the industry, I really want to work with the industry to make sure it’s strong for the future. But just without that small component that has been declining for some 20 years of live exports. I will continue those discussions that’s the appropriate thing for government to do. That’s my thoughts.

JOURNALIST: Your State colleagues have raised issues with the transition package. Is there likely to be an increase in support at all?

GORMAN: I’ll just note that even Minister Jarvis herself has noted that she’ll be meeting with Minister Murray Watt in the weeks ahead so I’m sure they’ll be very productive discussions.

JOURNALIST: And just one final question, obviously, with State politics as well, Louise Kingston has resigned from the Nationals. What’s your reaction to that?

GORMAN: I’ll let the State Member respond first.

HANNS: Thanks, Sean. I was incredibly saddened to hear Louise’s very emotional response to those issues yesterday. I guess the number one thing I can say is that bullying in any workplace is just not acceptable. As somebody who sat on the Parliamentary Inquiry into FIFO sexual assault and the findings out of that was incredibly distressing. I’m not saying that was the issue here. But it’s incredibly distressing to see that women in a workplace in this day and age don’t feel that they are treated equally and with respect.

GORMAN: It’s really clear that there is a huge cultural problem in the National Party. We see more and more evidence, year after year, there’s a huge cultural problem in the National Party. None of their leaders are taking responsibility for that. None of them want to clean it up. So that might be a job that the voters themselves have to do.

JOURNALIST: Well, I think we’ll wrap things up then.

JOURNALIST: Thank you so much for your time.

GORMAN: Thank you. Thank you very much. I’ve just got to jump on a Skype with Sky News.

/Public Release. View in full here.