THURSDAY, 5 SEPTEMBER 2019
MARK BUTLER, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Australia finds itself in the deepest energy crisis we’ve faced since the mid-1970s. We’ve had prices skyrocket by as much in the wholesale market as 158 per cent since this crisis started in 2015 and prices are still going up. We’ve had warnings about blackouts across our two biggest states if summer ends up being very hot this year in New South Wales and Victoria. We’ve had a roll call of businesses over recent weeks say this is all jeopardising their viability and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it and that the key problem is the lack of energy policy. All of those businesses, the New South Wales Liberal state government and many others beside them have said we need a policy like the National Energy Guarantee.
But we have an Energy Minister who is floundering under the weight of his own personal scandals as well as his role in spearing the National Energy Guarantee, a policy that everyone supports, and who instead of dealing with this crisis has embarked upon a flight of fancy on nuclear power.
Today I’m pointing out that there are dozens of sites that in the past have been identified as potential locations for nuclear power stations; communities that are now thinking through the consequences for their backyard of the inquiry that Angus Taylor started into a nuclear power industry for Australia.
It is incumbent now on the Prime Minister to do one of two things. Either over rule his Energy Minister by ruling out nuclear power as an option for Australia because we know it will be three times as expensive as other options and decades away. Or, if he is not able to do that, he needs to come clean with the Australian people and point out which communities are going to end up with a nuclear power station in their backyard.
JOURNALIST: What are your greatest concerns with nuclear energy and it coming to Australia if that does happen?
BUTLER: Our concern is that it is not a practical option. It is not a good option for Australia, its power would be three times as expensive as other options – firmed up renewable power with pumped hydro, gas peaking and suchlike, at a time when Australian households and businesses are already suffering under the power price skyrocketing that we’ve seen over the last few years.
I’m also concerned that it is a distraction; it is a distraction that will do nothing to solve the energy crisis that is confronting Australian households and businesses now. It is a distraction from the real work that Minister Angus Taylor should be embarking upon to put in place the sort of investment policy that all of the business groups of this country and state governments, Liberal and Labor alike, have asked for.
JOURNALIST: The map that you provided, how many of those nuclear dumps and proposed sites are new?
BUTLER: Many of them have been proposed years ago and some of them are more recent. Port Adelaide, where we are today, is one location that has been identified in the past as a potential location for a nuclear power station. That is really in the gift of the Government. The Government needs to come clean; if it is thinking of nuclear as an option for Australia it must be thinking about locations for those nuclear power stations and it is beyond time that the Prime Minister, or the Energy Minister, came clean with the Australian people and pointed out where those locations are.
JOURNALIST: The most recent ones, when were they announced?
BUTLER: Most of the most recent ones happened under the Howard Government when John Howard commissioned an inquiry that was overseen by Ziggy Switkowski, but many of the others were before that and others have been since that time when particular Members of Parliament have volunteered their own electorate. I remember Tony Abbott doing it ten years or so ago, offering his electorate as a potential location for a nuclear power station.
The point is this, if the Australian Government is thinking about nuclear power seriously, and it must be because this inquiry was initiated by the Energy Minister, then it must also be thinking about locations and it is time for them to come clean with the Australian people about those locations.
JOURNALIST: Which of those locations are of greatest concern to the communities?
BUTLER: I think not knowing is the greatest concern for communities. Communities want to understand, whether it is Jervis Bay in New South Wales, or the Gold Coast in Queensland, or here in Port Adelaide in South Australia – is that where the Government is thinking of putting their nuclear power stations? If it is, it is time the Australian Government was honest with the Australian people.