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Politics with Michelle Grattan: Ted O'Brien on reaching for the nuclear button

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Ted O'Brien on reaching for the nuclear button

The Coalition is taking a major political gamble with its nuclear power policy, which is facing criticism from a range of experts.

The opposition has announced seven proposed sites for power stations but has yet to provide costings and other details.

Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy Ted O'Brien, who spearheaded the policy’s development, in coming months has to carry the detailed argument for it against strong headwinds.

Ted O'Brien is our guest today.

Polling shows Australians are split about nuclear power but O'Brien is confident local communities would accept it:

We genuinely believe, based on overseas experience, that the biggest winners from us introducing zero emissions nuclear energy will be those communities which host the nuclear power plants.

This is why we see overseas local communities, once they understand the economic potential from hosting a zero-emissions power plant, they compete with each other. And I believe that’s what we’ll end up seeing in Australia.

Although we have only very partial information so far O'Brien says the results of modelling will be released:

We will release a broad spectrum of advice. And look, I’ve had a good 20-plus years in business before politics, and I understand sometimes, with modelling, it’s garbage in, garbage out. You need the right assumptions upfront, which is why we’ve taken our time with this. We’ve been methodical with it. I’ve been in the bowels of too many spreadsheets in my life. Which is why I know we have to get this right.

Will the details on costings and modelling results be released before Christmas?

In general terms, yes. And at this rate, after over two years now of an Albanese Labor government, believe it or not, you’re actually going to get our costings from opposition before the current government’s costings.

O'Brien defends Coalition’s decision to scrap Labor’s 2030 emissions reduction target, saying:

There are other countries who, like the Albanese Labor government, have set targets they can’t reach. If you think of the sort of counterfactual, though, what does the Coalition do? Do we stand with the Labor Party and tell a bald-faced lie to the Australian people that all this is all fine, we’re going to get there? No, we shouldn’t do that. This is too important.

O'Brien is sceptical about the government’s ambition to host the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2026:

We’ll wait to see whether or not they get the bid. But what I can say at this point is I don’t believe it’s our right priority as a nation.

To date, the government has not told the Australian people. The cost of its bid. It has not told the Australian people the key theme and objectives it would seek to achieve if it were to host the COP.

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