December 12, 2016






TOM CONNELL: I spoke with Mark Butler earlier on who is going to pay for these transmitters.


MARK BUTLER MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY, MEMBER FOR PORT ADELAIDE: I think we need to work through this in a deliberate way, this is a proposal from the market operator today not only for new interconnectors between South Australia and New South Wales but also a Second Bass Link between Tasmania and Victoria; also to improve the interconnection between the three big Eastern Seaboard States. We’ve known for decades now that better interconnection between states provides firstly improved reliability of the system, but it also improves competition in particular states, and that is important for South Australia at the end of the network; it brings down prices for households and consumers. This is something we need to work through in a deliberate way but it is important that AEMO says although there would be a cost in investment up front, the net benefit to households and businesses would be around $300 million.


CONNELL: It seems though it is going to be that interconnector which connects South Australia to the Eastern States that is going to particularly sure up South Australia’s supply in a similar storm lead crisis, so do you think it will be fair enough for the other states to expect South Australia to take the bulk of the bill for that one?


BUTLER: There is a process already underway that the transmission network operators are consulting on to consider what the basis of a second interconnector between New South Wales and South Australia would be. Obviously this would be a two-way interconnector so there would be an opportunity for South Australia to export power to New South Wales as well, particularly the lower cost renewable energy that it is able to achieve from its wind and solar farms. But it is at a fairly early age and I think it is important that we stick through this and ensure that it is done in a proper way. What is surprising though is the Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg has already it would appear ruled out any Commonwealth support for this. Apparently the Commonwealth Government, the Turnbull Government, has no interest in ensuring our electricity network is more reliable and more affordable to consumers. Which is ironic given that it was only last week that they indicated that they would be willing to sling $1 billion to the Adani Coal Company to operate their new coal mine, to build a private railway line that would be of the benefit of a multinational, multibillion dollar company. They have no interest in a better network for Australia households and businesses.


CONNELL: On Adani then this proposal appears to be from the Northern Australia Infrastructure fund to give a loan to having this rail line being built, is this something Labor is opposing?


BUTLER: Well we think this project should stand on its own two-feet. We’ve said that for a considerable period of time, we thought that was the position of the Turnbull Government. That is what the then Resource Minister Josh Frydenberg said before the last Federal election. This is as I said, a private railway line that will benefit a multinational, multibillion dollar company. This Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund has been operating for quite a considerable time now, yet the Turnbull Government has not been able to deploy a single dollar. We went through the last election, with Anthony Albanese saying that we would earmark a billion dollars for tourism opportunities in the northern part of our country; small and medium size operations that would really unleash a whole range of different tourism opportunities. But this Government has no imagination, the only thing they can think of to do with a multibillion dollar infrastructure fund is to sling $1 billion to a big coal company from India.


CONNELL: Does that mean you disagree with the NAIF being involved with any non-tourism infrastructure? That would mean any other coal mine, any water projects, that would all be a bad use of money do you think?


BUTLER: No we haven’t said that. We did point to tourism as a particular opportunity for the northern part of Australia, but we have said that a big coal mine in the middle of Far North Queensland needs to stand on its own two-feet and public money should not be spent to fund what is essentially private infrastructure, a private railway line between the mine and the port. At the end of the day this company wants to develop the mine then it has got be able to fund it itself.


CONNELL: I’m interested last week we obviously had this domination of talk about the Energy ETS the Government was initially interested in and then ruled out. This is not exactly your party platform but you do have a separate ETS on the electricity sector. I’m interested why you perhaps, or Bill Shorten, one of the first things we didn’t hear from Labor was a welcoming of this canvas by Josh Frydenberg?


BUTLER: Well you obviously haven’t read my transcript Tom because that is exactly what I did. On the Monday when Josh Frydenberg outlined the possibility that the Government would consider this, because this exact scheme, the Energy Intensity Scheme that was modelled by the Energy Markets Commission, was an essential part of the policy we took to the election. We said that we would adopt the policy that the Government has now rejected. This is a policy remember that was supported by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel and presented to COAG on Friday. Supported by all of the State Governments, Labor and Liberal alike, supported by the industry, the CSIRO, the Energy Markets Commission and was an expressed part of the Labor Party election policy. Really this refusal of Malcolm Turnbull to sit down with Labor and implement a bipartisan scheme, with the support of all of those organisations, is an extraordinary public policy failure on his part. And it reflects a refusal of him to stand up to Cory Bernadi and Tony Abbott and others in the right wing of his party, a refusal that the Energy Markets Commissions says will cost households and businesses $15 billion in higher power prices over the next decade.


CONNELL: And yet the big emphasis on Labor’s side was talk of chaos, division on the other side. What you’ve just mentioned there that he is not standing up to the right side of his party. Why not emphasize on this area of policy Labor says it wants to get politics out of so there is that bipartisan support. Why not make that the focus rather than the old politics and division?



BUTLER: Because there was the possibility of bipartisan support there for about 36 hours. And then Cory Bernadi got involved and Tony Abbott put the veto on Malcolm Turnbull considering a policy that has such broad base support. In the first 24 hours, when Josh Frydenberg appeared to be taking an open-mind on a policy that Labor had taken to the election, I was very welcoming of that fact. I indicted a strong willingness to sit down with the Government on behalf of the Labor Opposition and see whether finally after a decade of division over Climate and Energy Policy there might be the possibility of a substantial bipartisan effort.