Hon Patrick Gorman MP Radio Interview – 6PR Perth Live

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

OLIVER PETERSON, HOST: We bumped our next guest yesterday for the Prime Minister, but Patrick Gorman is the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and the Member for Perth. And he joins me in the studio today. Patrick, good to see you.

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE: Good to see you Oly, I did worry that the Prime Minister had such a good time yesterday that you might bump me for a second day in a row, go back to back.

PETERSON: I apologise.

GORMAN: Pleased to be here.

PETERSON: Well, it’s good to see you here. There’s a bit on the agenda because the Coalition has come out with their nuclear policy today, they’re going to go ahead with this. We don’t have costs at this stage. We don’t have a firm commitment other than sort of 2035-2036. Somewhere in the eastern states, but the Collie power plant looks to be somewhere in the future. You don’t like nuclear power? ‘No way, Jose,’ your side of politics sits?

GORMAN: Look, I just think we’ve got challenges right here right now. And why would we look at a plan that’s going to only start putting power into the grid, possibly in 2035, based on a technology that really is still in its infancy in terms of these small modular reactors that Mr. Dutton is talking about. And I just don’t think that it’s fair for the people of Collie who are being told, ‘well, for 25 years, you’re going to have to wait until there is this thing that is supposedly going to be built.’ I just think the Australian people would expect that when you’ve got the Federal Opposition their first major policy after two years in opposition, I think we deserved a bit more than just a list of locations. I think people wanted to see some economic modelling, some costings, maybe some firmer timelines, because I think, again, already people have been concerned about what this is going to do to property prices in Collie.

PETERSON: On the costings, CSIRO said about $8 billion a plant. So $56 billion. Is that what you’re working off, the calculations of the government at the moment?

GORMAN: The costings we’re working off is really what is the cheapest form of electricity. Similar research than what you just referred to is that firmed renewables cost about $120 per megawatt hour once they’re in the grid. Nuclear reactors, nuclear electricity, costs about $382 per megawatt hour. So we’re actually comparing what this is, and then that’s the cost that then gets passed on to consumers. That’s the cost that we really need to be talking about. And I think it’s really telling that we’ve got a situation today, where either Mr. Dutton came out and released a policy where he hasn’t done the costings; or he’s got the costings but he’s not willing to release them. Now, either of those, to me, when we’re less than a year from election is deeply disrespectful.

PETERSON: Ultimately, Australians just want to pay less for their power.

GORMAN: Damn right.

PETERSON: So, how do we know that under your policies of renewables and the targets that have been set, we will be paying less for our power, versus even keeping coal on perhaps for a little bit longer, or gas during the transition phase, or even now throwing nuclear into the mix – just to pay less to be able to turn the lights on?

GORMAN: The answer to your question Oly is there in the name – renewables. You don’t actually need to refuel them, they get their fuel, or their energy, from wind, or solar, or water flow. And as a result, you’re not relying on a feedstock. We’ve seen the price of coal in recent times, in part due to conflict in Ukraine, go up. We know that the price of gas fluctuates quite wildly. We know that uranium and refining uranium is a highly complex process. And as a result, why not just use the cheapest fuel that’s available, which is the wind and the sun that we’ve got right here. And when we need it, we’ve also got those wonderful stocks of lithium which we can turn into batteries, just as they’re doing in Collie right now, to firm up the grid. That is the cheapest way to get more electricity into our grid, cheaper electricity. And to take great advantage of the resources we have here in WA.

PETERSON: 13 38 82. You mentioned feedstock before, I just had Mark Harvey-Sutton from the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council on the program. He wasn’t happy with the Prime Minister’s comments yesterday here on 6PR, when he made light of the Keep the Sheep slogan, and he just said he’s going to be making this an election issue and they’re going to be targeting Labor held seats in WA in regards to the live export phase out. Are you a little worried about this, Patrick?

GORMAN: Firstly the thing I’d say to your listeners Oly, is that I support the sheep meat industry. Like many Western Australians, my family, my grandparents raised sheep on their property for many years. I recognise that this is something that generations of Western Australians have both sustained their family and sustained our economy on.

PETERSON: So you support sheep meat?

GORMAN: I support sheep meat. But I recognise as well the challenges that Livestock Exporters’ Council and others have had, which is that when it comes to live export of sheep, that trade has been declining for about 20 years. It’s declined 90% in the last 20 years. And so I think if you – as I do – support the sheep meat industry, and you want to make sure that people can have great lamb on their plate – and what’s good enough for Western Australians is good enough for us to sell to the rest of the world – then I think we have a responsibility as a government to make sure that we transition over to make sure that we keep those markets. But let’s sell them chilled meat, let’s sell them frozen meat. Let’s do the abattoir work here. That’s WA jobs, it’s actually more WA jobs. And we’ve – as the Prime Minister on your programme yesterday said – put $107 million on the table to keep the jobs to grow the industry, but to do it in a way that also makes sure we have really strong and broad community support.

PETERSON: So community support though from regional WA is stretched. But they are angry. And you’re hearing that Patrick. Do you think, through even this consultation process to the decision that Murray Watt made here on St. George’s terrace, he didn’t even go and see the farmers face-to-face. Do you think he could have handled it better?

GORMAN: I think when you’re going through big changes in any industry, people are always going to put their strongest case forward. I think what we’ve done – and this is not something that’s just come out of an announcement which Minister Watt made here, it’s something that’s been on the table for a number of years, we’ve taken it to two elections now – we’ve been really open with people. And we’ve done the consultation, as I said, $107 million package. And that’s not just money that we’re going to hand out as compensation. It’s a transition package, because we recognise that the growing parts of this industry, the bits where you can get the highest value per kilo for sheep meat, is what we are saying we want to keep going with, what we do want to do. Which is keep the sheep processing here, keep the sheep meat industry here. But just recognise that there’s one part, which is actually a declining part of that industry, which has lost a lot of community support. And that’s because we’ve all seen images of animals treated not to Australian standards.

PETERSON: And they improved after that. 43,000 signatures on it. 57,000 in just three weeks on this petition to keep it. I believe that this is going to be a big issue here in WA Patrick that I still think is being miscalculated by your government.

GORMAN: What I’ll say, that everyone who’s passionate about that industry, anyone who’s listening who’s in that industry, and to the state government and others, is that if the Federal Parliament makes this decision, the legislation is in Parliament now, myself and all of my Labor colleagues will be following through on that commitment. To make sure the industry – that is the sheep meat industry – continues to grow here in WA for those who wants to produce. But we’re going to do it in a way that doesn’t have the cruelty and doesn’t have the community concern, and doesn’t risk the social licence for this industry. I saw the data for the United Arab Emirates who’ve purchased sheep meat from us for many, many years. Now, about $650 million of that trade is not from live exports, only $50 million of that trade is from live exports. So that shows you that there’s huge markets, growing markets, markets that are going to want more over time. And that’s all Western Australia’s to grab. I want to grab those opportunities, we’re a great trading state, but I want to do them in a way that has broad community support. And that’s why we’re taking this action.

PETERSON: On a local issue concerning your seat as the member for Perth. The fight continues with the City of Perth for a school in East Perth, for anybody any closer.

GORMAN: Not as far as I’m aware, no. I haven’t had a lot of patience for this disagreement, I’ve got to say. I think normally when you’re building new parts of the community you normally build the schools ahead of the population. And I think we’ve got a challenge in the inner city where we’re constantly playing catch up on the work that has to be done. We had to build Bob Hawke College, which now services my electorate. I think the argument – the discussion we need to be having, it’s not even an argument – the discussion we need to be having is about getting so much further ahead. That is, it’s not just about a primary school for East Perth. If you’re going to need a primary school, you’ve got another primary school down the road in Highgate also at capacity. We’re going to need another inner city high school soon.

PETERSON: So where would you like to see it built?

GORMAN: I’m pretty open minded. I don’t want to say ‘it must be here’ and then all of a sudden we’re stuck in this debate about ‘no, it can’t be there, here’s who owns that piece of land-‘

PETERSON: You’d like it to be the WACA, wouldn’t you?

GORMAN: That’d be good. It’s a great oval. It’s becoming a good community oval. Obviously, there’s a lot of Commonwealth money going into the rebuild of the WACA. There’s a lot of opportunities around there. I’ve said you’ve got a range of TAFE sites in the inner city. I think it’s a bit ridiculous actually. I think for people in the suburbs of Perth, the outer suburbs, they’d probably go, ‘why do you have four TAFE campuses in the inner city.’ So there’s obviously TAFE sites that you might be able to consolidate to make some space for a high school. And we do have some great high schools in the Independent and Catholic sector. And we predominantly fund those as the Commonwealth, but I think we need a public high school in the inner city.

PETERSON: So ultimately planning for this is both the local and state government’s responsibility, as the Federal Member for Perth though, you take a keen interest because it’s in your electorate, or can you force the hand of these governments?

GORMAN: I want my constituents, whether they be pre-primary students who are my constituents, whether they be teenagers who are going to high school, I want them to be able to go to a local school. I mean, that’s a pretty basic thing for any Member of Parliament to expect. And so I just want to get ahead of the debate. I’ve seen what’s happened with the East Perth primary school, where it’s got to this stalemate, where I did cheekily describe the Lord Mayor of Perth as a ‘human roadblock.’ But I don’t think it’s right that any individual elected member can hold up the educational aspirations of the local community. And that’s why I think we also need to start talking about what else is going to happen, when are we going to start finding that site for a high school? Because it’s clear that we’re going to need it. If we’re going to see the City of Perth go from some 30,000 to 47,000 residents in the next 20 years. The demand is going to be there. It’ll probably be politicians past my time will have to answer whether or not we actually met the expectations of the community. But we’ve just got to invest more in an inner city education plan, and that’s what I put forward. We need a comprehensive inner city education plan that brings together local, federal, state and community together. So we actually have a clear path forward.

PETERSON: Patrick Gorman thanks for coming to the studios today.

GORMAN: Thanks, Oly.

PETERSON: Patrick Gorman, the Assistant Minister for the Prime Minister and of course the Member for Perth.

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