CHRIS BOWEN MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY
MEMBER FOR MCMAHON
ACT CHIEF MINISTER
MINISTER FOR CLIMATE ACTION
ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES
ALICIA PAYNE MP
MEMBER FOR CANBERRA
DAVID SMITH MP
MEMBER FOR BEAN
MONDAY, 28 MARCH 2022
SUBJECTS: Community battery announcements for Canberra; infrastructure funding in the ACT; Western Sydney Airport; election prospects; National Cabinet.
ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good afternoon, everyone and thank you for coming. I'm Alicia Payne, the Member for Canberra and it's my great pleasure to be here this afternoon with our Chief Minister Andrew Barr, and my federal colleagues, the Member for Bean, David Smith and Member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh to welcome Chris Bowen, our Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy to Canberra to make this great announcement this afternoon about community batteries.
And that announcement is that an Albanese Labor Government will deliver three community batteries for the ACT, including one right here in Dickson in the electorate of Canberra. The people of Canberra desperately want to see action on climate change, and we need an Albanese Labor Government to deliver that. They've been taking matters into their own hands and investing in renewables way ahead of what the Coalition Government have been doing. More than one in four ACT households have rooftop solar, but they're not able to get the full benefit of that at the moment because they can't, most of them can't afford batteries.
What these community batteries will do is enable us to store that energy, taking pressure off the grid, and meaning we store it during the day and draw down on it during the night. It also means that people who can't get their own rooftop solar such as people who live in apartments or are renting can be part of this move towards renewable energy. It'll also bring down power prices and of course, most importantly, reduce emissions. An Albanese Labor Government has a comprehensive plan around climate action that will see us get to 82% renewables by 2030, create 600,000 jobs and reduce power bills by $275 a year on average. This is the action we need. And I'm so proud to be part of a team that will deliver it if elected very soon. And I'll pass over to Chris to talk more about this. Thanks.
CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY: Thanks Alicia, and thanks for your leadership and your strong advocacy both of the people of Canberra and strong action on climate change. Well, I'm delighted to join with David and Andrew and Alicia and of course the Chief Minister Andrew Barr to make this announcement. The ACT under Andrew Barr’s leadership is already one of the country's leading jurisdictions when it comes to renewable energy, indeed, one of the world's leading jurisdictions, but there's always more to do. And one of the big tasks for our country and for each community is the storage of renewable energy.
The naysayers say the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine, which is true, but also about as relevant as saying the rain doesn't always fall and arguing we shouldn't drink water. We store water and we can store renewable energy, and we can store your energy in a multitude of ways, in household batteries in grid batteries in other ways, but also in community batteries. And so I'm very pleased to be making this announcement that under an Albanese Labor government, there'll be a community battery here in Dickson, also one in the suburb of Fadden, and one in Casey. Across these three locations there are 6000 households with solar panels on their rooves but less than 300 batteries, we understand why. Batteries are expensive at the household level. But a community battery opens up the opportunity for people who can't justify or afford the cost of a household battery to participate further in that renewable energy revolution, to reduce their own power bills, reduce their own emissions to help stabilise the grid.
And this is an important part of the national effort and will be an important part under an Albanese Labor government and of course, the ACT has a big role to play in that, given its importance in leadership in terms of renewable energy, and the strong take up of solar panels across the ACT. The next step is to store more of it. And so the ACT can play an even bigger role. So I want to thank my colleagues. I also want to thank John Grimes, the Chief Executive of the Smart Energy Council who is here today, for his leadership and the Smart Energy Council’s leadership in promoting the opportunities of renewable energy and the opportunities of more storage and the jobs opportunities because we know in the alternative government, the world's climate emergency is Australia's jobs opportunity.
And we have much much to do, in a few weeks hopefully we get the chance to be the government of the country and to give the country a climate change policy we can be proud of on the international stage but as the old saying goes, think global act local and we're acting local today and ensuring that we will install those three community batteries here in the ACT. We will work closely with Andrew and his government, of course, on implementing this scheme, and it complements his own government's efforts in storage. But we have to be all in. Having a federal government that understands this is the first step. But it won't be enough. We'll be working very closely with state and territory administration's across the board on both sides of politics. But particularly, it will be good to work with Andrew given his leadership and his government's leadership when it comes to renewable energy. And of course, working with our three wonderful ACT parliamentary colleagues, I'll handle the Chief to say a few words, and then we'll take your questions.
ANDREW BARR, ACT CHIEF MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Chris, for those very kind words. And it's a great pleasure to be here with Chris. And with Alicia, Andrew and David to be part of this announcement. It's a really significant and important commitment from federal Labor, and one that, as Chris has outlined, really complements the policy agenda that we've been pursuing in the ACT for some time now. Well, I can say with absolute certainty is that there's a massive appetite in our community to be part of a really significant programme of climate action. And we're seeing that through the take up of our sustainable household scheme, and through the interest there is in being part of the big camera battery project.
Now, this project is a distributed network of batteries across the territory in three key streams. And one of those streams is community level batteries. So what is being announced today will enable us to do more and do it more quickly. And it is a really important announcement and commitment, and demonstrates what would be possible if you had a federal government that was supportive of the sort of action that is being undertaken at the state and territory level. So this is great public policy. It complements work that's underway, the state and territory level, it's practical, its deliverable. It'll help create jobs, put downward pressure on power prices, and it reduces emissions. So it ticks a lot of really good public policy boxes. And that's fantastic. We want to be partners in the delivery of it.
We've been undertaking through our work with EVO energy an assessment really of where these batteries need to be, across a distributed network, across the territory demoed a number of emerging trends. Not only the level of rooftop solar installation, but where existing batteries are, where we would have some of our larger institutional level batteries, for example, in schools, universities, TAFES, and then also the even bigger ones that will be part of our broader inter-jurisdictional connector network.
So this is a really significant and important announcement. I want to particularly thank Alicia for her advocacy in support of my government in relation to the projects we've been rolling out across the ACT. I know her electorate of Canberra overlaps my territory, electorate of Kurrajong. We've had a lot of conversation about how best to deliver this. And this is a really good announcement. Not just though, for the electorate of Canberra, but also for Fenner and for Bean. I do know you're looking at the data on the take up of our sustainable household scheme. It is right across Canberra suburbs. So I have no doubt that in all of the electorates in the ACT, there's a really strong appetite for this. So really pleased to be here today really pleased to endorse this project, and look forward to delivering it after the federal election when the Albanese Federal Labor Party is elected to government. Thank you.
BOWEN: Okay, folks.
JOURNALIST: I’ll start with a question for you, Chris. There's been some commentary around this community battery scheme, particularly the locations that have been chosen so far. So more batteries skew towards Labor held seats or seats that are under threat from the Greens or target seats. How do you respond to claims that this is a political pork belly exercise? And if you can just run through why these specific locations were chosen, it was not pork barrelling. So why are we doing them in these particular?
BOWEN: Well, thanks for the question, but I totally reject the premise of the question. I mean, I've been making announcements across the country. The week before last I was in the electorate's of Wide Bay, Fisher, announcing community batteries. Now while we'll be fighting hard in Wide Bay and Fisher, we’ve got great candidates and asking for everybody to vote for us. It'd be particularly optimistic person who said that we were the front runners in the seats of Wide Bay and Fisher. The Leader of the Opposition announced a community battery in Moore in Western Australia, likewise, not regarded as a marginal seat, a very safe LNP seat. Again, I hope we win it but I hope we win 150 seats. So it would be hardly accurate to say that that reflects a political calculation.
That's what the Liberals and Nationals do. We talk to communities, and you ask what the criteria is, the criteria goes to a number of things, it goes to community support, which we have clearly evidence to today, it goes to how we interact with the grid. And we've consulted with the ACT government about these locations. The beauty of community batteries is they can work in different ways, in different communities because they are from the ground up. So here in the ACT, they have the beauty of allowing, as I said before those 6000 households with solar panels on their roofs, but only 300 batteries, to participate in the storage revolution. And of course, we've announced so far, around 7.5% of our community batteries. So we have many more to announce. And I can assure you, when you do the analysis, you'll see that it's based on community benefit, and community benefit alone.
JOURNALIST: Can we go to a question for the Chief about infrastructure funding, so we learned today there’ll be $51 million in tomorrow's budget for ACT infrastructure projects. Not quite as much as was announced in other jurisdictions, but surely you welcome infrastructure funding in the ACT?
BARR: These were largely projects that we submitted into the infrastructure process. So to the extent that they're not dreaming up something new, that hasn't been discussed with us, I welcome that. But it's not enough. When you look at, on the, even on a per capita basis, the ACT would be entitled to more. So I'll be looking tomorrow night through the Budget papers with a somewhat optimistic hope that there might be some more commitments for the ACT. But we'll also look to the election campaign as well, to ensure that we get our fair share of national infrastructure spending.
JOURNALIST: So if it is just $51 million, that's all the Budget papers show, do you feel like the ACT’s been dudded?
BARR: If that's all it was then really, that would be the case. I mean, we are around 1.7% of the national population. So as Australians, surely we would be entitled to our population share of infrastructure spending.
JOURNALIST: Is there any expectation from your part that things would be better under a Federal Labor government when it comes to infrastructure spending? Now, correct me if I'm wrong, obviously this announcement today, but it probably totals $1.5 million? There hasn't been any, again, correct me if I'm wrong, major infrastructure promises from Federal Labor? There's no money, no concrete commitment on the AIS, there's no concrete commitment on more funding for light rail. We don't know what's happening with the sports stadiums and convention centres and so forth. What assurances do you have that things will be better under an Albanese Labor Government?
BARR: Obviously, we will be looking closely at commitments that are made during the campaign. And we're doing if there is an annual budget process, and not every not every infrastructure project or program will be announced as an election commitment at the beginning of the process. What we look for is year on year commitment to partner with the territory government on necessary infrastructure, hardware that's on us as well to put forward projects that will be supported. And we've had some success with that even with a Conservative government. In recent times, if you'd asked me in 2016 would Zed Seselja deliver funding for light rail, I would have laughed, and it was probably the most uncomfortable press conference I've ever seen. And I mean, and he's had several uncomfortable press conferences in his career.
So there's no doubt that the onus is on us to put forward good projects. But I think there's clearly going to be a need for dialogue between the ACT and Commonwealth governments on a pathway forward on some of the projects that you've highlighted. The Commonwealth might own the asset, but we either lease it or are a major user of it. And that applies to sports infrastructure, particularly, but not exclusively. So I've always advocate for more resources for the ICT, but I'm also conscious that we are one of eight states and territories and there's need across the country. All I'm asking for is our fair share of that national infrastructure spending.
JOURNALIST: And just on the duplication of Athllon Drive, when did the ACT Government approach the Commonwealth for joint funding and was there a prior expectation?
BARR: Several years ago, so we submit infrastructure priorities through the regular process depending on the scale of the infrastructure project, either through Infrastructure Australia or through the program rounds that do occur. The relevant directorate; Transport Canberra City Services has been engaged with the relevant federal department for some time. We often don't hear about the success or otherwise of those, those particular approaches until the annual budget round. So, again, I welcome the funding. It does help a little. But when you look at the size of funding commitments to the other states and territories, and then do your per capita assessment, you can see that a little over $50 million is not the ACT’s per capita share.
JOURNALIST: And Zed Seselja claims this has been an ACT Government promise for six years. What's behind the slowdown in [inaudible]?
BARR: Well, as I understand the project development obviously, has needed to go through various planning, approval and detailed design phases to get it to the point that it was shovel ready, if you like for infrastructure financing. We have many competing infrastructure priorities. Not everything will be supported in any one budget round, either at a territory level, or from the Commonwealth. I do note, the Commonwealth with the exception of that one commitment towards light rail has largely favoured road infrastructure projects over most other infrastructure spending in the territory, so that I guess speaks volumes around what they see as the most important things. But roads is not the only area of infrastructure need in the territory. So we've got a fund of a vast array of needs. And our focus in recent times has been on health and education infrastructure, particularly.
JOURNALIST: Question for Andrew Leigh. You spoke out this morning about a threat to yourself and your office that gave you cause to take out a personal protection order. I understand politician’s offices would get a lot of feedback and criticism regularly. Can you tell me what exactly about this threat met the threshold for this personal protection?
LEIGH: Yeah, look, I can't answer questions about the specifics of the threat, as I'm sure you'd appreciate. But it does speak to the changed environment that politicians have found ourselves in over the course of the last 11 years that I've been in Parliament.
*Pedestrian honks their horn*
BOWEN: Good on you mate. Thanks for your support.
LEIGH: There's just a very different environment to be operating as a politician now than there was when I entered parliament a decade ago. And that's reflected in publicly released statements from people such as Madeleine King and Kristina Keneally, as well as the recent attack on Ged Kearney’s electorate office. This is something that you're seeing around the world with the January 6 Capital riots. And since I've been elected to the Australian Parliament, there's been too many members of the British Parliament who have been killed while meeting with constituents. All of us love engaging with constituents. It's how-- it’s why we got into politics, we want to engage in that grassroots campaigning. That is the very lifeblood of politics, and are divided that we can be out there disagreeing without being disagreeable. So the reason I took out that personal protection order was to make sure that I could continue to do the sort of community campaigning that I love. I was at the Charnwood shops on Friday afternoon, I'll be doing a host of street stalls leading into the election. And I'm sure along with all of my colleagues, really enjoying the conversations and the feedback that comes from that and the fact that that is an essential part of a vibrant democracy.
JOURNALIST: Sorry, another question. Just in relation to the DHA headquarters in Gungahlin? Are you hoping it will attract more Government services on both federal and territory level and jobs in the electorate?
LEIGH: Yeah, look, I was really pleased to see the finally there being some Commonwealth jobs move to Gungahlin. When the coalition came to office in 2013, I immediately wrote to every single minister, urging them to move an agency or a part of an agency to Gungahlin, a place where they're almost 10,000 Canberrans live and work. I got knockback after knockback. Angus Taylor, Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Dutton, all wrote back to me to tell me it couldn't be done. We ran a community campaign, a large petition, in 2016, calling on the federal Government to move public servants to Gungahlin. So I was really pleased to see today the opening of those, that DHA facility in Gungahlin, it's going to be important in terms of reducing the commuting time for Canberra public servants working at the federal level. And of course, also has an environmental benefit, same sort of thing we're talking about today, when people are having less of a carbon footprint as they get to work. I hope this is just the first of many public or more public service jobs that come to the heart of Gungahlin.
JOURNALIST: Sorry about the question over the phone here. It's Molly Hogan from Seven News. Just like to ask the question of Chris Bowen about the upcoming budget tomorrow. The federal Government has announced more than $77 million for a business case to investigate stage two of the Western Sydney Metro airport line. Is that enough to ease people's concerns in that area that they may not be able to easily access that airport?
BOWEN: Well it’ll be the first business case I've ever seen, which actually moves somebody from A to B. I mean, that's what, we're now nine years into the Government and we're having a business case. I mean, that's welcome. But this Government's very good at announcing things, very good at the spin. But as the people of Western Sydney would be the first to attest as congestion is a big issue. I mean, don't talk to us about congestion busting from a Government which promised four car parks for Josh Frydenberg and is now saying the Western Sydney can have a business case.
JOURNALIST: Is that something that if Labor does take Government that you guys would consider pouring money into to get that stage through?
BOWEN: We've already made a series of announcements about Western Sydney infrastructure and I'm sure Anthony Albanese, and Catherine King will be having more to say, but that's not mine to announce today.
JOURNALIST: Just another question for the Chief Minister. Do you think there'll be a change of Government in May?
BARR: Look, I'm cautiously optimistic that there will be. It’s tough for Federal Labor. It has been for over a century, winning from Opposition is challenging but it would certainly seem there is a strong mood for change. Very clear in the ACT, there's a very strong mood for change. We've got a live contest for the Senate for the first time in many, many elections. So you can sense the momentum and I’m optimistic.
JOURNALIST: More optimistic than you were this time in 2019?
BARR: Yes, having pored over the data, and the public opinion polls, and we have been assured by those who conduct them that they're corrected for some of the errors that have occurred previously, there's cause for optimism, but it ain't done until it's done. And there's weeks and weeks of hard work ahead. Millions of conversations with voters right across the country. But I'm very confident in how the ACT is going to vote and the feedback that we're getting is overwhelming that the Prime Minister is on the nose and we need a change of Government.
JOURNALIST: Just do you think the vibe around the national Cabinet table would be different with Albanese chairing, Peter Malinauskus in South Australia, with greater representation of Labor?
BARR: Sure. Well, I think so my views on the longevity of the national cabinet arrangements as they as they currently are, have already been expressed in a fairly they'll need to be some changes that was a crisis management arrangement. And we are going to see reforming the Federation and we need to build a structure that would actually deliver that. But yes, I have no doubt. I mean, there is clearly a shift. There has been a national civics lesson on the Federation and our Constitution the last couple of years. And it's absolutely essential that the levels of Government are able to talk to each other and work well together, which is why announcements like today are really, really important. They demonstrate a capacity for the ACT context, the two levels of Government to work together on a community priority to deliver a practical outcome for 1000s of households. And that I think is the sort of thing that Australians would want to see more of, and not just here in the ACT, but right across the country. So that leads to a more constructive Federation. I think that's a good thing for Australia.
JOURNALIST: Have you been pushing for the Commonwealth funding to finish the duplication of Athllon Drive?
DAVID SMITH, MEMBER FOR BEAN: Look, as someone who lives very close to Athllon Drive it's something that is close to my heart and it's something that we've been able to have good conversations with the ACT Government for a number of years so far. So it is actually welcome news, but it's still overdue. And as the Chief Minister said, it's funding but it's still small in the biggest scheme of things.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra