UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 21 NOVEMBER 2018
SUBJECT/S: Renewable Energy; Jobs; Warren Mundine; UN Migration Pact; Victorian election; Liberal Party chaos and division
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hello everyone, welcome to UTS. Mark Butler my Shadow Spokesperson for Energy and Climate Change and I have been visiting a great project, cutting-edge, lead by UTS, where we see a solar facility - a wind facility which provides superb research opportunities which is starting already to reduce the energy costs of the university by 10 per cent and is delivering jobs in regional Australia.
This is ground breaking and it reinforces our view that renewable energy is the energy of the future. Today the Australia Institute has released new research which demonstrates that if we invest in renewable energy, we're going to see a jobs boom in Australia – especially in regional Australia.
Renewable energy, if we invest in it in the manner in which Labor is proposing, the Australia Institute has shown, will create 60,000 jobs in construction, another 12,500 jobs in maintenance alone. Renewable energy will be the source of new jobs, it will be the source of lower energy prices and a cleaner, better future for our kids. Labor is going to make sure that renewable energy is at the front and centre of our policies for the next election because we want a renewable energy future for Australia.
I'd now like to hand over to Mark Butler to talk a little further about Labor's exciting vision for renewable energy as part of our energy mix going forward.
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY, MEMBER FOR PORT ADELAIDE: Well thank you Bill and can I also thank UTS for inviting us to have a look at these fantastic facilities here today. UTS really is a great leader in new energy technologies, both in research and a teaching point of view. It has a fantastic facility on this roof which is harnessing a whole range of new exciting technologies both to cut their own power bills, as Bill has said, but also to provide an opportunity for research and learning for students who are going to be working in the energy industry in the future. UTS was the first private organisation, company or university to do an off-take agreement, some years ago with the renewable energy industry, and this model which has been picked up by companies now across Australia, is providing a floor for renewable energy investment as the Federal Government’s policy starts to taper off and see the possibility of investment and jobs going.
There was also a number of jobs created on the rooftop here at this building. Jobs created in the solar farms that UTS is supporting through these offtake agreements and that is just one example of what Bill described as a jobs boom that will come through the 2020s if Labor's 50 per cent renewable energy target is able to be put in place. The Australia Institute has confirmed that a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 will see up to 60,000 jobs every year in the renewable energy industry, in the construction, in the installation of renewable energy projects, and if we get our settings right, we'll put in place investor confidence in manufacturing opportunities to ensure that those projects as far as possible are built with Australian content, supporting Australian manufacturing as well. As Bill said, beyond that, once the projects are built there will be more than 10,000 people working in the operation and the maintenance of these jobs.
Australians know that renewable energy is going to cut pollution, it's going to put downward pressure on prices, it's going to sure up the reliability of our electricity system as the old, increasingly unreliable coal generators exit the system. But what we learned today is just how big the jobs boom will be if we get our settings right and getting the settings right requires a new government who is committed to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
SHORTEN: Thanks Mark. Are there any questions on this or other matters?
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, do you think that University campuses have done enough to make the case for climate change action or should they do more?
SHORTEN: Listen, we always need to do more to make the case for climate change but you know, you've got to look at who the audience is that you're trying to persuade. Everyday Australians accept that climate change is real. Everyday Australians are voting with their feet. We're nearly at two million households with solar panels on their roofs, business are investing in renewable energy, as are universities.
The problem is that we've got a stubborn, conservative government in Canberra who does not want to pay any attention to the science. The problem is not business, the problem is not universities, the problem is not the people of Australia - the problem is the Morrison Government.
I cannot believe that ten years after John Howard proposed taking action on climate change we're still arguing about the science with the knuckle-dragging right wing of the Liberal Party. We can't get any certainty about investment, or policy for investment. The single biggest driver of power prices going up and up in Australia is a lack of a climate change energy policy. You can have all the evidence in the world, you can have all of the people power in the world but if you've got a government too stubborn and too stupid to recognise that renewable energy and climate change are issues that we've got to deal with in the future, you're going to make no progress. The missing link will be the next election and a Labor Government which will be able to properly drive renewable energy so that we can have more jobs, lower power prices, a better future for our kids.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten how will these policies drive prices down for families that are really struggling in Sydney right now?
SHORTEN: I'll get Mark to supplement this answer but what we need in Australia is new power generation. A lot of the coal power stations are coming to the end of their technical life - technical operating life - so we're going to need to replace generation. We need to replace generation with the cheapest and most efficient forms of new energy - that's renewable energy.
All of the experts, not just in Australia but around the world, say that renewable energy is getting cheaper. So what we need is more energy generation, but we're not going to get that while we've got a government who keeps pretending they should back in more expensive forms of energy over what the market actually wants to invest in.
And the losers out of this conservatism, this climate change denial attitude of the Government, the losers are everyday Australians and everyday businesses. But I might get Mark to talk further about how renewable energy is the best for people struggling with power bills.
BUTLER: Thank you Bill. Well, first of all, can I say what Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg spent most of this year telling Australian households and businesses is that the best way to get prices down is to put in place the National Energy Guarantee, to put in place a bipartisan policy that would underpin investment. They said to households that they would save $550 a year in their power bills if that were to be in place, and the same modelling said that if the National Energy Guarantee was dumped power bills would go up by almost $300.
So the first problem we have here is that Scott Morrison has decided to hand all control over energy policy to Tony Abbott and the hard right of the Liberal Party, and households are already paying the price for that. We're already seeing future prices - electricity prices in 2019 - climbing by as much as 40 per cent since the National Energy Guarantee was dumped. So that's the short term problem for households here in Sydney and elsewhere in the country and for businesses as well.
In the longer term though as Bill has said, companies now recognise the cheapest way to access new electricity is renewable energy. Just over the last couple of weeks we've seen Lizard the international business group, the International Energy Agency and Bloomberg confirm that renewable energy - which is firmed up by storage so it's dispatchable 24/7 - is now substantially cheaper than fossil fuel electricity, and that gap is getting bigger every single year. So, it is a no-brainer that new renewable energy is going to be the cheapest way to renew an infrastructure or an electricity system that, as Bill said, is getting increasingly old and increasingly unreliable. Three quarters of our coal and gas generators in Australia are already operating beyond their design life. They will inevitably retire over coming years.
And it's a question of whether or not the Federal Government has a policy in place to ensure that the cheapest, the cleanest, the most reliable energy is built to replace it. You're not going to get that under Scott Morrison because he has handed control over this to Tony Abbott. You will get it under a Bill Shorten led Labor government.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what will households and workers get from Labor’s policy – will it be like NEG plus?
SHORTEN: Well, tomorrow, I am giving a talk outlining our policies, so I don't want to spoil all of the surprise. But we've already outlined some of the policy parameters we have.
And let's go back to the heart of the matter here - Australians are bewildered that for five years, they've had a government who simply can't make a decision on climate change and energy. They want to pretend that they're not related. The reality is that renewable energy is going to be the cheap source of energy in the future. Storage and batteries mean that we can utilise this energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So the technology says, go renewable. The scientists say, go renewable. Most of business says, go renewable. And the fact is that most Australians you talk to are pretty keen to get solar power on their roofs and batteries in their houses.
So what we're going to do is offer the hand of bipartisanship to the Government, yet again. I mean, the record here is that Labor listening to the people, the scientists, the environmentalists, listening to business - we've said that we will work with the Government, we said we would work with the Chief Scientist's report, but then the Government, the Coalition ran away from that. We said that we'd look at an Emissions Intensity Scheme and then the Coalition ran away from that. We said that we were willing to have an Emissions Trading Scheme, then the Government ran away from that. And then with the National Energy Guarantee, we said we'd work with the Coalition and the Government - in fact on three occasions, the Government voted to endorse that idea. And then knifed poor-old Malcolm and now, they’ve gone back to the start again.
So what we promise Australians is we will work with the Coalition, but we're not going to wait for them. What we promise Australians is that we want to see more blue collar jobs which come through renewable energy. We want to see lower energy prices which come through renewable energy. And we want a better future for our kids and that comes from renewable energy.
JOURNALIST: Will your policy include reference to baseload power and could that (inaudible)?
SHORTEN: Well, we've said that we want to see, as part of our energy mix by 2030, 50 per cent renewables - so there's still a role for coal and for gas in our energy mix going forward, there will still be a role.
But what I don't want to do is turn my back on the future and pretend that we don't have to change. It's not leadership to tell Australians that we don't have to do anything. The coal power stations are reaching the end of their technical operating life. They'll have to be replaced at some point in the future. Now we can pretend that you don't have to do that or we can pretend that miraculously, the market or the taxpayer is going to pay for more expensive forms of energy. That's just illogical.
Australians know that what we want is lower energy prices and we know that we want to have the cheapest and most efficient and reliable forms of energy. Renewable energy ticks all those boxes. The advances in technology are startling. You know, it wasn't so long ago that very few Australians had solar power on their rooftops. Now in the next few weeks, we'll be approaching 2 million households that will have solar power on their rooftops.
We just want to back the science. We want to back the environment. We want to give a better deal to our kids. We want lower prices for households and for business. You know it's a very good set of propositions and of course, with the developments in technology, solar power and wind power, renewables are becoming much more reliable.
JOURNALIST: How do you propose countering another carbon tax scare campaign (inaudible) -
SHORTEN: We're not putting a fixed price on carbon so it would just be a lie if the Government say it. I mean, really what I want to say to the Government is Australians are sick and tired of politics being played with energy prices and climate change and the future we hand our kids. We say to the Government, we're prepared to be bipartisan, we want to work with you but in saying that we want to work with you; we want to make sure that we go for the best science, the world's best practice, giving a better future to our kids, creating tens of thousands of new jobs in renewable energy and we want to make sure that we're pushing prices down not up.
Everyone knows - and many people in the Government knew, former Prime Minister Turnbull knew that increasing renewable energy as part of our energy mix is where the future's headed. But unfortunately, we have a government who is holding Australia back. They're holding back lower power prices, they're holding back handing on a better deal to our kids, they're holding back taking action on climate change.
So the Government can try and run all the sort of negative lies they want to, but even with a National Energy Guarantee, how does the Prime Minister and Treasurer argue against a National Energy Guarantee when for a year, they were spruiking it as the best thing since sliced bread.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Fairfax is reporting that Warren Mundine is considering running for the Liberal Party in the seat of Gilmore. What do you make of that given he was once the President of the Labor Party?
SHORTEN: Well, I guess anyone's got a right to try and get into Parliament by whatever means. When he couldn't get a seat in the Labor Party, he's looking elsewhere. I guess that's his democratic right.
I think the real issue though is that there's currently a Liberal member in Gilmore. The Liberal Party is divided. Yet again, another Liberal woman is going to be sacrificed by the powerbrokers of the Liberal Party.
We're going to run on the issues not the personalities. Fiona Phillips is our candidate - she's a local, she's been campaigning there for many years. She doesn't want a seat in Parliament because she thinks that's her right, that she's owed a seat. She wants to be in Parliament because she wants to fix up the schools, fix up the hospitals, fix up the public transport, fix up the roads - make sure that Australians in Gilmore get a fair go all around.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Scott Morrison has spoken a lot about reducing immigration potentially, thresholds, talking to various Premiers. Can you outline Labor's approach to that - whether you'd be in support of that or ?
SHORTEN: Listen, permanent immigration - the cap is 190,000. Mr Morrison said that - he hasn't give a lot of detail - he says he wants to reduce that by 30,000. Miraculously, permanent immigration has already fallen to 160,000. So you know, he's entitled to his views, we'll have a look at the detail.
But the real problem that Mr Morrison's avoiding - the two real problems he’s avoiding - is that permanent immigration of 160,000 is only about 10 percent of all the temporary migration with people with work rights. Let me repeat this number: there's 1.6 million people who have visas in Australia with temporary work rights. Now I wish Mr. Morrison, rather than focus on the 10 per cent, would focus on the 100 per cent and give jobs to Australians and train up Australia. So that's one issue. You can't be serious about migration levels when you don't talk about the 1.6 million people on temporary visas which give them work rights.
JOURNALIST: Is that something you want to focus on -?
SHORTEN: And I said there was a second issue. The other big problem is that reducing by a few thousand people in Sydney or Melbourne - that's an idea, I'm not going to automatically bag that, but the real problem is that people in Melbourne and Sydney are sick of their kids going to overcrowded schools, their loved ones going to overcrowded hospitals, being stuck in traffic on overcrowded roads or catching overcrowded trains. The Turnbull Government, the Morrison Government, the Abbott Government have not invested enough in the infrastructure of our cities; in the schools of our cities, in the hospitals of our cities.
So I understand why people are frustrated with congestion but simply pretending that tweaking one number is going to change all of that is mischievous, it is a distraction. You need to properly fund the infrastructure. Australians pay taxes to Canberra to make sure they can get to see the doctor, they can get to hospital when they need to, to make sure their kids can get a decent education and of course, to make sure that we're not stuck forever on roads or trains.
JOURNALIST: The Government says it won't sign up to the U.N. migration pact because it will compromise border security. Would Labor sign up to such a pact?
SHORTEN: Oh listen, I've seen what the Government said. We're not fussed if they sign or don't sign. Obviously we'll take the advice of our security experts on what we should and shouldn't do. But again when you talk about this, the big issues here are not a U.N. migration compact. The issues here are when are we going to tackle the number of people here on temporary visas which give them work rights. The big issues here are when are we going to tackle congestion. So I'm not losing any sleep over what the Government said. If that's the right course of action, if we're in government we'll get the same advice and pursue the same action.
JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, Matthew Guy has promised to move the Victorian consulate in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem within his first 100 days if he wins the election on Saturday. What's your response to that?
SHORTEN: Well the last bloke who proposed moving an embassy in the last week of an election, it didn't turn out so well. I'd say to Matthew Guy, Victoria is not the sovereign nation of Australia - focus on the basics; look after the hospitals in Victoria, look after the schools in Victoria, look after the infrastructure in Victoria.
I mean I understand that most of Israeli industry and business is in Tel Aviv, so why you would move a business office from where all the businesses are, I don't know. But it does sound like a end-of-election Liberal special and I'm not sure it will have been well thought out.
JOURNALIST: Transgender rights reforms passed the Tasmanian lower house last night for an opt-in gender mark on birth certificates, that was put forward by Labor and the Greens. Is that something that your party supports at a Federal level?
SHORTEN: I've got no plans to change the way the birth certificates are filled out in this country. I just say for the Federal Government, because I saw Mr Morrison out talking about gender issues again, if that's what's most important to him, that's his prerogative. What's most important to me and I think most Australians, is who's got a plan to make sure we hand on a better deal to our kids, a better environment? Who's got a plan to lower energy bills in this country for business and for households? Who's got a plan to create new jobs in renewable energy? Who's got a plan to make sure that Australia is the number one global destination for investment in renewable energy. These are the issues that I think people want to tackle and this is what Mark and I will be talking about tomorrow.
Last couple of questions.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of the motion today by the Roseville branch of the Liberal Party to expel Malcolm Turnbull?
SHORTEN: Aren't the Liberals vindictive about Malcolm Turnbull? As a general rule, I'm not going to comment about another part, that's up for them. But gee whiz, the Liberal division, disunity, instability soap-opera goes on and on and on. Poor old Malcolm Turnbull, what did he ever do to the Liberal Party except give them $1.75 million. And remember the last election? The Liberal Party spent millions saying Malcolm Turnbull is the man who the Liberal Party say is the person you can trust to run Australia. Now the Liberal Party don't even trust him to be in their Party.
The Liberal Party is losing the plot. They now hate Malcolm Turnbull so much that they want to expel him from the Liberal Party yet only a few months ago, they said he was the best Liberal to run Australia. The division has got to stop it.
I'm focused and I want to reassure Australians who say, aren't all political parties as bad as each other? No, they're not. We change the rules so that we couldn't have the instability we saw where Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott undermined Malcolm Turnbull. So that can't happen in our Party.
But also, I just want to reassure Australians beyond that point - we're focused on you. We're focused on a fair go for all Australians. We want to drive down the cost of living costs. We want to make sure that we get wages moving again in this country. We want to make sure that when your kids are sick, you can see a doctor or go to a hospital without facing massive out-of-pocket costs. We want to make sure that you can find your older parents aged care when they need it. We want to make sure that we provide a clean energy future for Australia which means more jobs, it means a better future for our kids and of course, very importantly, lower power prices for families and business.