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Interview with 774 ABC Radio Melbourne

29 March 2017

Raf Epstein

Subject: Tropical Cyclone Debbie; Hazelwood power station; coal-fired power stations; carbon pricing


RAF EPSTEIN: Part of Malcolm Turnbull's Federal Coalition Government is Senator Matt Canavan. He is the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. Good afternoon.

MINISTER CANAVAN: Hi Raf, how are you?

RAF EPSTEIN: I'm OK. What are you hearing from Queensland?

MINISTER CANAVAN: Yeah it's been downgraded fortunately to a category 3, but it did make landfall at category 4 and winds of over 250 kilometres reported on Hamilton Island. So there will be some major devastation once we see things clearly. But look, fortunately I'm not hearing any reports of fatalities or major injuries at this stage. So that's all we've just got to keep praying for. It is slow moving, so it's still over the coast, but weakening as we speak.

RAF EPSTEIN: Do you think things like climate change have an impact on, or do you think something like climate change has an impact on cyclones?

MINISTER CANAVAN: Well look, first of all, I absolutely accept that increases in greenhouse gas emissions warm the atmosphere. I think that's clear. The last IPCC report didn't make firm conclusions about the incidence of cyclones. The Bureau of Meteorology, they did report that the number of cyclones in Queensland that are hitting, making landfall in Australia has been reduced over the past 20 or 30 years. It's a bit hard to be definitive about natural disaster events, because they're so rare.

RAF EPSTEIN: The latest reports I saw from people like the Climate Council was that cyclones, there's expected to be fewer of them, but they're expected to be stronger because of climate change. What do you make of that?

MINISTER CANAVAN: That's even harder to specify because there's so few cyclones that actually hit our coast. So it's just hard to make conclusions. But obviously we've got to do what we can to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint. The Government has got a strong commitment to do so by 2030, to reduce our carbon emissions by 26 to 28 per cent. And that's some of the highest in the world, particularly on a per capita basis.

RAF EPSTEIN: On Hazelwood, let's talk Victoria. The former Prime Minister Tony Abbott reckons somehow the Government should get involved and do something to keep that open. Are you in favour of that?

MINISTER CANAVAN: Well look I think we need to do a better job of planning for our energy network. Obviously the decision to close Hazelwood has been a commercial one, and it's been one that the Government hasn't directly been involved in. But I think given what the closure of Hazelwood has thrown up in terms of its impact on our electricity supply, we need to think carefully about how this happens in the future. I do think it's been unfortunate that the Victorian Government increased royalties on the mine at Hazelwood recently. And they haven't exactly themselves done much to fight for those jobs in the Latrobe Valley, and that's having a really bad impact. I know the local member Darren Chester and talk to him regularly. They face some dire circumstances in Latrobe, and I get frustrated that the Victorian Government there at the moment has no real agenda to secure the energy future for Victorians. You've traditionally had cheap energy, low costs, a strong manufacturing sector, but if you don't develop energy resources you're going to lose some of those benefits.

RAF EPSTEIN: The industry says one of, if not the most significant reason for Hazelwood's closure is everyone expects a carbon price, but no one knows what it is going to be in the electricity sector yet. So it makes Hazelwood an expensive proposition nonetheless, but it's an uncertain one. Do you accept that criticism because we don't have a carbon price?

MINISTER CANAVAN: I'm really sorry to do this Raf, but I'm going to have to go in about 30 seconds. There's a division here that's been called, not by ourselves. It normally wouldn't happen this time of day.

RAF EPSTEIN: You're killing me.

MINISTER CANAVAN: Penalty rates have been brought on. But what I would just say quickly Raf on that is: we have gone three elections in a row where the Australian people have rejected a carbon tax. Julia Gillard went to the 2010 election saying there would be no carbon tax. I think we've got to get over this obsession. The Australian people have spoken.

RAF EPSTEIN: Just so many people in the industry say it's needed.

MINISTER CANAVAN: We can reduce emissions in other ways. But we should listen to the Australian people. And I respect those views, but I do think ultimately that the views of the Australian people count the most. There are other ways to reduce carbon emissions. The carbon price schemes that have been introduced in countries in Europe have not been great successes, and many other countries are looking at more direct ways to reduce their carbon footprint. And we're doing so successfully too. But I'm probably going to have to go. I'm really sorry Raf. But I hope we can do this another time.

RAF EPSTEIN: Another time indeed. That's okay. Thanks a lot.

MINISTER CANAVAN: Ok, have a good evening. Thanks mate. Bye.

RAF EPSTEIN: Senator Matt Canavan, Minister for Resources and Northern Australia. When they gotta go, they gotta go.