Radio Interview - 2CC Canberra Breakfast - 1 February 2022

01 February 2022


STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: And he joins us now. Good day, Dave.

DAVID SMITH: Hi. Good morning, Stephen. I was down in Tuggeranong at the electorate office. Any potential plans I might have had to go up to the parliamentary office were probably put off yesterday.

CENATIEMPO: Angus Taylor is with us, too, the Liberal member for Hume, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reductions. Angus, look, some of the claims these people are making are genuine, but as with all of these things, they get hijacked by lunatics and give everybody or take away the credibility from everyone that turns up.

ANGUS TAYLOR: All right, look, Stephen, as you said, I understand the frustrations of some of the truckies. I've got lots in my electorate. It's an electorate full of trucks, including my neighbour, where I'm sitting right now is a truckie. And they've had good reason to have frustration about border controls and ability to move around Australia. It's been extremely difficult for them. Hard decisions have been made throughout this, and they're sensible, as you rightly said in your list of their demands. There's some sensible things that they're suggesting there, but unfortunately, some of those other demands just go to undermine the credibility of the overall package they're asking for. But look, I do understand the frustration. I think we all do. And the important thing now is we get through this recovery we get out of Omicron the signs are good that we're on the downward slope now. Hard decisions had to be made all along, and we work our way back towards a much more normal type of existence in Australia.

CENATIEMPO: Dave, I know that we're in election season, so you're going to want to take every pot shot at the federal government. You can. But a lot of the claims or a lot of the demands of these people are actually the responsibilities of state and territory governments. I've always believed the Australian voters smart enough to know the difference between federal and state issues, but have we lost that ability to discern the difference these days?

DAVID SMITH: It's a fair call, Stephen. I think we have got to be careful, though, because whilst there may appear to have been some reasonable concerns, some of the issues that are raised are quite dangerous and misinformed. We've actually got a really important role your federal or state parliamentarians in terms of not giving credence to those claims that aren't credible. I mean, here's a classic thing, Stephen, you've probably noticed for something that was describing itself as some sort of truckie protest, there weren't many truckies. There might have been some ute's and some four-wheel drives, but there certainly weren't many truckies there.

CENATIEMPO: Yeah, a lot of truckies are too busy. Speaking of trucks, Angus, the government has secured a deal to help boost domestic manufacturing of AdBlue. We've spoken about this in the past. I mean, this has turned out to not appear to be as big a problem as we might have thought it would have been at the beginning.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it could have been, but we moved swiftly on this. I spent a lot of time over Christmas and New Year working on this issue. We've now got Incitec producing three quarters of our requirement for AdBlue locally as of the 23 January, and they're going up from there. They'll move towards full local production in the coming weeks, and that's filled the gap. So, it's meant we've had some local challenges just getting the stock out into individual sites, but we've had more than enough in total because of that ramp up of production. This is a good example of government working closely with Australian manufacturing to solve a problem where we can. Sometimes we have manufacturers who can move quickly to solve these bottlenecks, sometimes we can't. This is one where we could, and it's a real tribute to the workers up there in Brisbane who just ramped up over a very short period of time to solve what could have been a really dire problem.

CENATIEMPO: Dave which leads me into the next topic. The Labor Party policy is to try and ramp up Australian manufacturing across the board. You're now calling for Australia to manufacture things like personal protective equipment and rapid antigen tests and the like. That's all well and good when you say it quickly, but the capacity is not going to be available or not going to be existent by the time we need a lot of these things. Why weren't you calling for this two years ago?

DAVID SMITH: Well, Stephen, we've been talking about improving sovereign capability for the last two to three years, and I think one of the lessons out of AdBlue, but it's the same out of our rapid antigen test as well too, is that for critical goods, we just can't rely on one country to supply it, and particularly where it may be a country where we have particular strategic challenges, and so I think there is actually a real positive about us discussing this last year is that the government has responded. But it's important to note that this is a temporary fix and what we don't want to see going forward is just to have temporary fixes.

So we need to ensure that we make certain future supply and whether that be of Ad Blue, whether that be of a rapid antigen test, it's critical that we take these moments in time and ensure that we don't fall into this same trap again, whether it's with something like the diesel challenge with Ad Blue, or whether it's with our rapid antigen test or some other goods. That's why we've got that national manufacturing fund, it's going to be critical to that. Stephen, if you've been around aged care facilities across our electorate, you'd still know that there are real challenges in terms of getting sufficient PPE and rapid antigen tests and three years into a pandemic, that's not where we should be.

CENATIEMPO: Angus, it's hard to argue with all of that, and particularly in principle and Anthony Albanese has talked about government leading the charge when it comes to purchasing Australian made product or procuring Australian made product. The difficulty I see is that in most cases it's going to be state and territory governments that are going to be signing the final cheque whilst the feds might be funding it. We've seen in the last two years, and I think national cabinet has been largely to blame for this, that state and territory leaders have taken on these delusions of grandeur, and the relationship between the feds and the states will never be the same again.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the Federation has been stretched, there's no doubt about it, and that's the nature of a pandemic. It's always going to stretch the relationships between the different levels of government. But coming back to a couple of points that we just made, Stephen, I mean, what's been missed here is we've committed $1.5 billion of real money to real initiatives in the modern manufacturing strategy, which includes a very strong focus on strengthening our sovereign capability. We've been working hard and making serious significant investments in securing our fuel supplies, for instance, securing up to refineries through to 2030 and making sure that we have those fuel supplies when we need them and now Ad Blue is part of the broader focus on fuel security. So these are the things we have been doing. You have to have the capability, and it can't come from nowhere. An announcement, a political announcement doesn't build capability. It takes time and that's what this modern manufacturing strategy has been about. It's in my remit, and we are continually looking at how we can strengthen that sovereign capability, which is crucial for Australia.

CENATIEMPO: Dave, I've got to take my hat off to the Labor Party. You've changed your view on this Kurri Kurri gas production policy, but that's going to upset your mates in the Greens, isn't it?

DAVID SMITH: Whether it does or not isn't my concern. I think it's actually just a sensible and pragmatic approach and I think certainly we've been saying for some time that there's a place for gas, and particularly in that peaking capacity place over the next decade, and as we see changes right across power supply. But there's an opportunity to be able to transform the site at Kurri Kurri into 100 per cent hydrogen. We have already seen the investments that Twiggy Forrest is willing to put into Port Kemble. I think we can see that this shouldn't be ideological, this should be a pragmatic approach, and this is a way where we can actually ensure that we have power supply, but we can also ensure that we do move away from fossil fuels reliance as quickly as possible. This is something that we're seeing industry get behind.

CENATIEMPO: Angus, you'd support the bipartisan approach that has been announced?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'm delighted that David is supporting this. I've watched Labor trash this project on a near daily basis since it was announced, and then finally do a back flip. Now it's a craven back flip and it shows that Albanese each way Albo's words mean absolutely nothing. It's a complete rejection of the judgement of Chris Bowen, his shadow minister for Energy and in it is all sorts of curiosities. Stephen so on the one hand, they've been briefing out to journalists it's going to be 100% green hydrogen by 2030. On the other hand, the media release is much vaguer on that but let me tell you green hydrogen will be expensive electricity in 2030. The economics of that for the generator and the economics of that for electricity consumers simply won't work. This is a political fix from Labor, not a practical fix. The grid can't be fixed through announcements. It has to be done through real projects and that's what we're focused on.

CENATIEMPO: On that note, Dave Smith, Labor Member for Bean, thanks for your time.