May 5, 2017










FRIDAY, 5 MAY 2017

SUBJECTS: Australian Maritime College, Tasmania energy exports, Emissions Intensity Scheme, Basslink

BRIAN CARLTON, PRESENTER: Why did you decide to come down for Agfest this year?

PAT CONROY, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: It was great opportunity to really meet a lot of Tassie industry leaders whether it’s in agriculture or clean energy like your great solar installers or just other general producer so it’s a good opportunity to get around with Brian Mitchell the local member and have a yak with people.

CARLTON: What are you seeing, what are you finding what are you making of the vibe?

CONROY: Oh it’s great. I love a good market or agricultural fair and this is the biggest one I’ve been to. It’s really interesting bringing everyone together and having the youth leadership drive this, I think gives it a lot more power.

CARLTON: There’s a sense of, how can I put this, optimism in Tasmania at the moment. A sense of maybe our time has come a bit and we really do have an opportunity to leverage ourselves into all sorts of areas, which is a clumsy way of segueing into having a chat with you about the Australian Maritime College (AMC). You went out and visited yesterday I understand, what was your take out from it?

CONROY: Yeah, Ross Hart, the Member for Bass took me out to the AMC because it is a national institution. I represent a seat around Newcastle, which is the biggest coal export port in the world. Most of our seafarers have been trained at the AMC, in fact my office manger’s husband trained down here and it does great work and I’m always interested in learning what they’re doing. I got to pilot a ship into Newcastle port through the brilliant simulator you’ve got there and didn’t crash it which was good, a bit of pressure there. So, it was really interesting knowing what their plans are around maritime training. Secondly, getting briefed about what they are doing around renewable energy particularly wave and tidal power which is going to be positioning Tasmania as an energy powerhouse going forward.

CARLTON: It’s an undermentioned and possibly under-understood if I can use that term, from the public, how it is actually possible to generate some pretty serious electricity from just tidal flows in and out. And obviously The Tamar estuary being as tidal as it is there’s been some tests going on there. So there’s a lot of potential for thinking outside the square in term of energy generation. I want to get on that in a sec. The Defence Industry Minister, Christopher Pyne has, as you know announced a $25 million training college for want of a better term, based in Adelaide, do you get a sense in Tasmania, and I’m getting this from all side of politics, that there is a lost opportunity to really establish Launceston as the centre of maritime training in the country? Is that something you share do you have concerns about the way that’s been done?

CONROY: Well I’m concerned about the mass confusion from the Government about how the AMC will work with the Adelaide college. Because, if they’re duplication what’s occurring here then there’s real questions about the ongoing strength of AMC. If it’s something that compliments the AMC in different trades then it might make more sense. But the Government hasn’t been able to outline effectively what they’re going to be doing in Adelaide, other than just throwing some money at Christopher Pyne’s political troubles, and that’s the real issue. I know the AMC offered to establish an outpost in Adelaide so there’d be real links between the world’s best practice that’s occurring here in Launceston and what occurring in Adelaide. So I think the Government really has to outline how their Adelaide centre will work with the AMC otherwise people are going to be very concerned.

CARLTON: The first school of thought is that perhaps that $25 million should be spent here in Launceston first up. The second school of thought is that over time, if there’s a competing facility, which to be fair to Christopher Pyne he said won’t be the case, they won’t be directly competing with each other, they will be complimenting each other and until we get the actual makeup of the Adelaide facility and what it will be doing precisely, we have to trust him on that. There is a sense also that over time, if the Adelaide facility gets up and running and becomes really preeminent place there’ll be a drift away from Launceston over time across Bass Strait and up to Adelaide? Is that a concern as well?

CONROY: I think that’s a real concern. I think that Christopher Pyne coming down here on Thursday and not allaying the community’s concerns about really how they will work is a real failure on his part. They can work together if they’ve got clearly defined responsibilities that complement each other. But we can’t accept anything that diminishes the AMC’s role in the maritime industry. Is it a national institution that’s doing great work and anything that undermines confidence or undermines the bipartisan support for that college is something that we need to fight.

CARLTON: Would the ALP make a different set of decisions in terms of where the maritime training will happen for our big defence spend?

CONROY: I don’t think we can go down that path yet, but at a minimum, a Labor Government would be very clear about how they’ll work together; what the AMC’s role is, what the training college in Adelaide is. I can’t imagine why the AMC shouldn’t have a strong link to the Adelaide facility and why they can’t work together. I think a Labor Government would do that as minimum. I think we have to recognise there’s going to be a lot of ship building in Adelaide, they’re going to need a trained workforce and it makes sense for some of it to occur in Adelaide. But we’ve got to get the links right, and at the moment, we’re flying blind because the Government doesn’t know what they’re doing here.

CARLTON: The cynics out there are wondering whether South Australia could actually power any maritime development or serious ship building at the moment, let’s leave that aside. But it is again a segue to the other issue; energy. This time last year, we had yet to emerge from our own energy crisis where our water levels plummeted to pretty serious levels to the extent where the State Government had to import diesel generators to effectively keep the lights on. Despite the spin, they all know and I’ve spoken to many of them off the record, they know they were saved by the rain. Quite literally saved by the rain. So there was some disingenuity around when the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull started making announcements about how we might be able to double the capacity of hydro here is Tasmania and effectively export a lot of extra energy. Let’s leave aside the ability for the Government to deliver that or, indeed for hydro to be able to find that extra 2,500 megawatts. In order to get the flow on private investment, non-government money to build in renewable like solar, like wind. The investors are going to need the capacity to guarantee their shareholders that they will be able to sell the product they’re generating. Given that Basslink, the existing Basslink went down for six months; it’s not exactly a solid guarantee is it when you’re going off to get some seed capital to build your facility of some description, to say ‘oh I’m sorry the thing might break for six months and we don’t know when we’re going to fix it, we don’t know what actually happened and we can’t do a proper forensic on it.’ Will Labor support another Basslink or a secondary or tertiary cable? If you think about the capacities here really simple maths Basslink can do 500 megawatts up, 400 down, or is the other way around? I sometimes forget if it’s 400 or 500. If we’re going to increase the capacity of Tasmania by double 2,500 megawatts, we’ve got to get it off island, how do we do that how many Basslinks are we going to need?

CONROY: Labor’s on the record providing in-principal support for a second Basslink. We’ve got to make sure that we don’t just export cheap power for Tasmania but there’s still an opportunity for Tasmania to be a manufacturing powerhouse based on its cheap, clean power. But we are on the record of supporting a second Basslink. The second thing we need to do is give investors certainty and that’s why we are supporting an Emissions Intensity Scheme which every major power company in the country, the CSIRO –

CARLTON: Hang on, that’s a carbon tax isn’t it?

CONROY: It gives an incentive for clean producers. So what it effectively does is places a cost on coal-fired power stations, including some in my area. It rewards any producers that are cleaner like in Tasmania. Whether is wind, hydro or tidal they will get a subsidy that will drive more investment. But all the power station companies who own coal-fired power stations, the CSIRO, state government both Liberal and Labor, the Business Council, the Australian Industry Group all support this as the only way we can get the next generation of investment in the power sector. We’ve got a national energy crisis and part of it is because investors don’t have any confidence they can invest in the industry, and until we do that we’re going to see more blackouts, we’re going to see curtailments.

CARLTON: Part of the problem there is the lack of bipartisanship on energy policy, and one of the observations that most people who operate in the space have made off the back of the carbon tax is that it did actually distort the market pretty seriously and had a whole bunch of unintended consequences. Can we afford to say, for example, on a change of government the Labor party introduces an Emissions Trading Scheme then we go back to a Liberal government at some point in the future they change it again. Doesn’t industry and the entire sector deserve some kind of national coherent plan that has bipartisan support so we can blood well get on with this. Because it’s the flip-flopping that is doing much of the damage to the energy market in fact you could argue that much of South Australia’s troubles have come about because of the market distortions introduced under the carbon tax.

CONROY: Well, I disagree on that aspect. But you’re absolutely right that industry and consumers need a bipartisan settlement. Our policy is essentially the same that Malcolm Turnbull was pushing for in 2009; it’s the same policy. It’s supported by all of industry, not only will it unleash $50 billion of investment in the sector, the Government’s own modelling shows it will reduce power prices by $15 billion. Think about it, drives investment and reduces electricity prices by $15 billion. I’m confident that if we win government the business community, the investment community will push the Liberal Party to supporting it. Because we need to end this argy-bargy, we need to have a policy that people think will be in place for thirty years. That’s how long these investors invest for in these power stations. That’s essential if we’re not going to become a third world country in terms of energy.

CARLTON: Indeed. Pat, I’m sure there’s several thousand other things we can have a chat about but time is going to beat us unfortunately. It’s starting to get a bit busy here today. But look, enjoy the rest of you time in Tasmania, enjoy Agfest. Have you been for a proper wander around?

CONROY: Yeah absolutely I’ve had wander; I’ve bought an egg and bacon roll from Rotary so having a lot of fun.

CARLTON: Pat Conroy who’s in state today thanks for coming in and having a chat at Agfest, appreciate it.

CONROY: Thanks Brian my pleasure.


© 2013 Pat Conroy | Disclaimer