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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Madeleine King on investment incentives and the pivotal role of gas

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Madeleine King on investment incentives and the pivotal role of gas

The energy debate has ramped up, with government and opposition trading blows over their respective plans to secure Australia’s energy future.

The budget announced big tax incentives for green energy projects. Earlier the government embraced the importance of gas up to 2050 and beyond. The Coalition is still promising its yet-to-be-announced nuclear policy, but that took a hit from a sceptical CSIRO report this week.

On the podcast Resources Minister Madeleine King pushes back against Coalition claims the green energy projects – developing green hydrogen, processing critical minerals – should stand on their own feet:

I think the opposition’s being a bit disingenuous in that regard, given when they were in government they also provided various forms of support to critical minerals projects. It’s very important to acknowledge that they’re not the same resources as the resources we might be used to in Australia. So it’s not iron ore, it’s not coal, which is a huge commodity export of this country.

King is confident tax-payer money will be going to the right places:

I don’t think there has been any bad money going into the critical minerals sector. They’re projects that have been supported by the former government and I. Some of them, of course, have had their challenges, but they are all projects that are progressing well, and even with some of the international challenges around pricing and market manipulation and, there will be guardrails, of course.

Whilst [the government assistance] incentivises investment and we want to international investment in this story, we want local investment in this story. For each dollar we put in we get more dollars out in terms of the jobs that are created right across the country.

King defends the government’s future gas strategy as a back-up to renewable’s and distances it from the Morrison government’s “gas-led recovery”:

The future growth strategy doesn’t come with any giveaways to gas companies or any funding at all. It was never intended to and actually never did and never will. It’s a million miles from the gas-led recovery. People [who] want to make that kind of comparison […] should perhaps read the future gas strategy and just look at what it’s based on, which is a thorough analysis.

Hopefully, there are other technologies like hydrogen that can supplant gas, and that would be great. And that’s what this government is investing in.

The responsibility of the federal government [is] to make sure we have a back up plan. So gas is the insurance on this.

While the opposition points to countries like Canada’s use of nuclear power as a model for Australia, King says it isn’t viable:

I went to Canada recently, and they’re only just sort of getting to the stage of […] disposing of [nuclear waste] permanently. And these reactors have been going for a number of decades. So, it’s hard to underestimate the challenge of nuclear power. I think the CSIRO have estimated the extraordinary cost, and why would you go down that path when it’s simply not needed?

Canada went down the nuclear path a long time ago, so they continue to use it, and that was their choice. They have a different establishment, they’re closer to North America, they’re able to have the technical cooperation, and I think they also don’t have the access to renewables like we do, given the weather there and the different geography. So it’s just a different story for a different place.

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