Economic Policy

Transcript | 3AW Drive | 19 June 2024

June 19, 2024

Wednesday 19 June 2024
Interview on 3AW Drive
Subjects: Anti-Semitic attack on Josh Burns MP electorate office, nuclear energy

JACQUI FELGATE: But joining me on the line now is Senator James Paterson the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs And cyber security. Senator, thanks for your time today.

JAMES PATERSON: Great to be with Jacqui.

FELGATE: So first up, the Prime Minister is calling this plan a fantasy. Is that what it is?

PATERSON: Jacqui, can I just briefly say in relation to that other story you were talking about, what happened at Josh Burns electorate office was an absolute disgrace. He deserves better than that. His staff deserve better than that, and the community deserves better than that. And although we're in different political parties, he is a very decent person, and this should not be happening in our country.

FELGATE: No, I agree.

PATERSON: But to come to your question, I mean, the Prime Minister is being a bit hysterical today about this. I mean the truth is - of the G20, they're the largest advanced economies in the world - Every single one of them, other than Australia either uses nuclear energy right now or is moving towards nuclear energy. It's a trusted, reliable, safe, emissions free form of energy that can help get prices down and provide the 24/7 reliable energy that we need in a modern economy. And we don't think you can responsibly transition to zero emissions by 2050 without nuclear being part of the mix.

FELGATE: Can I ask you how it would work from a state perspective? Because our Premier here, Jacinta Allen, has made it really clear that she doesn't support this. And essentially when you go to bring in something like this, it does come down to the premier. You'd have to make significant changes here to overrule her.

PATERSON: State government certainly will have a role to play. And what we're doing right now is seeking a mandate from the Australian people at the next election to move towards this technology, as 32 countries around the world already have and another 50 or seeking to do. And if we earn that mandate from the Australian people, then we think that will be a powerful negotiating position from which to approach the states. The truth is, there are actually many within Labor who do support this. The Australian Workers Union, for example, has been on the record for years in support of it. Peter Malinauskas, the Premier of South Australia, previously expressed support for it before he was kind of hounded into line by the Prime Minister to be loyal to Labor and pretend he opposes it. But in a heartbeat Premiers like him would flip and see the opportunities for their state for this modern, reliable, safe technology.

FELGATE: So what would nuclear energy do for energy prices in this country, particularly when we're looking at the cost of actually building a plant?

PATERSON: We think it will reduce prices in this country, and we're relying on international evidence to say that. In the province of Ontario in Canada, a bit like Australia, they have over 60% of their energy provided by nuclear energy, and they pay about a quarter of what we pay from their electricity. The reason why it can be cheaper is because it's reliable. It's on 24/7. It's proven technology. It's not intermittent like renewables which need backup. And the truth is that for Labor to achieve its renewable targets, they have to reach 82% renewables by 2030. They are nowhere near on track to do that. And they have to overbuild the energy network, because a lot of the time solar panels don't collect energy because the sun isn't shining, and wind farms don't generate energy because the wind isn't blowing. So it needs a lot of backup and a lot of poles and wires. And independent experts say that'll cost between about $1.2 to $1.5 trillion. And that's cost passed on to households.

FELGATE: And has there been any consultation with the communities, for example, here in Victoria in Loy Yang, do they support this, the people that your party has spoken to?

PATERSON: This is the start of the process. We're being really upfront and transparent well out from the next election that we've identified the seven sites around the country, including Loy Yang in Victoria, as potential host sites for a new nuclear energy facility. And that consultation process starts now, and it will continue when we are in government. It'll be a very extensive community consultation process, along with scientific and technical analysis to work out the best way to do this.

FELGATE: Do you think this is the number one issue that will help decide the election?

PATERSON: I think energy and the cost of energy is going to be an incredibly important issue, I mean, households right now are really struggling, and that's before 90% of the baseload energy is going to be torn out from our system by Labor if they get re-elected, over the next ten years, that's predominantly coal exiting the system, with nothing to replace it other than more renewables. We think renewables have a role to play, but they should be part of the mix along with gas and nuclear. That's the only way we're going to make this transition affordably and safely.

FELGATE: Can you understand though the uncertainty in these communities today, particularly what a nuclear plant might do for their housing prices, what it might do for their livelihood? There's a lot of concern amongst these communities that they're going to be slapped with this plant on their back doorstep.

PATERSON: I think it's a really exciting opportunity for these communities, not just to host a multi-billion dollar facility, which will bring great jobs, many of which are transferable from existing coal fired facilities, but also actually provide really attractive opportunities for industry to go and locate and provide high paying, quality jobs in the region. Because one of the advantages of these new nuclear powered facilities is that they will have a industrial zone around them, that will have cheaper power because there'll be no transmission cost to build extra transmission lines. And that means, you know, technologies and the industries of the future, things like heavy industry, a whole range of industries will be able to locate there. And provide great jobs.

FELGATE: So what do you mean by heavy industry?

PATERSON: Well, things like smelting. Smelting requires reliable electricity, cheap electricity, electricity available 24/7. If you don't have that via a modern nuclear power facility or an old coal fired power facility, how are you going to make those industries work?

FELGATE: Is there a great fear still amongst Australians that nuclear power is dirty, dangerous power? Do you think you're going to have to change that mindset amongst many?

PATERSON: I think there might be some people who feel that way, but when you look at the international evidence, this is a reliable, proven technology. And actually, we've had it in our own country since 1958. The Lucas Heights reactor facility in Sydney has operated really safely in suburban Sydney, providing nuclear medicine for a long time. And as part of the AUKUS agreement, we're going to have nuclear powered submarines. They're going to be in ports all around Australia. And the Prime Minister says that's completely safe. I don't know why this would be any different.

FELGATE: Senator James Paterson, appreciate your time today.

PATERSON: Thank you.


Recent News

All Posts