The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Peter Costello

Peter Costello

Treasurer

11 March 1996 - 3 December 2007

Transcript of 25/10/06

Interview with Gillian Bradford
ABC AM Programme

Wednesday, 25 October 2006
8.05 am

SUBJECTS: Solar power, Iraq

TREASURER:

The projects that we are announcing today really are groundbreaking.  These are projects to use technology for lower emissions and in particular we are announcing a project today which is going to build solar power up near Mildura.  The project aims to build the biggest photovoltaic project in the world and this is by using mirrors which concentrate the sun’s rays on a power plant.  It has no emissions and the power that can come from this plant can go onto the national grid.  And the company that has done this has already developed solar system generation for remote area communities.  It is one of the world leaders and it is going to come into Victoria in a very, very sunny spot in Victoria and it is going to build what will be the largest power plant in the world.

BRADFORD:

But there is no new money in these projects.  The Prime Minister announced the pool of $500 million a couple of years ago.  It looks like a drop in the ocean.

TREASURER:

No it is absolutely new money.  We announced that we would allocate new money and we are allocating the new money.  This is totally new money that is being allocated. 

BRADFORD:

But is the size of it a drop in the ocean?  Fifty million dollars for the brown coal cleaning up and $75 million for the solar, does that look like a drop in the ocean when the problem of climate change is obviously so huge?

TREASURER:

Well $75 million to build a $280 million, zero-emission, 154 megawatt solar concentrated power plant.  If you can leverage $75 million, which is a not insignificant sum by the way, for a plant which will have no emissions and be the largest photovoltaic project in the world, you are really starting to get breakthroughs here.  This is exciting stuff.  And when you come back to the brown coal industry, brown coal has always been a problem because it is a high emission energy.  Now, you can either close it down or you can change the technology to reduce emissions and that is what we will be announcing today, projects to change the technology, to reduce the emissions.  This will make a major contribution to emission reduction in Australia and it just shows practical, considered financially viable, workable technologies which will help us on our way to reduce global warming. 

BRADFORD:

To get really serious about climate change though, shouldn’t your government be considering expanding the mandatory renewable target?  It is only at 2 per cent at the moment.  Shouldn’t you get a bigger target and have some sort of on-going way of funding these projects instead of just announcing them in an ad-hoc way?

TREASURER:

Well if you can get the technology right then these technologies will be adopted much more widely. 

BRADFORD:

So you could go above that 2 per cent target?

TREASURER:

No, let me go, you have got patents on these plants and if the technology is proven and if it is commercial, then you will see the benefits of this go right through our industry.  And by the way, not just Australia.  I think if this solar system concentrated power plant is proven to be successful at the scale we are proposing here, this will be exported around the world.

BRADFORD:

But you are wanting to leave it up to the market to decide if it is viable?

TREASURER:

Well with this help, with this grant, the market has decided it is viable and if it is proven in Australia, then international generators will also want it.

BRADFORD:

I just want to pass by you now some comments of one of your own Liberal Senators, Queensland Senator Russell Trood, he said there is some danger we might end up in a long war of attrition in Iraq that could intensify divisions in that society, sap America’s strategic energy and not lead to a resolution that will stabilise Iraq.  That is not a ringing endorsement of what the Government has done.

TREASURER:

Well, Russell is somebody who has got a lot of experience in foreign affairs and he is entitled to make a contribution.  The contribution that he has made, to say that the long term aim is to stabilise Iraq and to have the Iraqis managing a stable and democratic country.  That is the long term aim.  Now that is the aim to which we are all working and it is the aim I think that the Iraqi Government itself is increasingly being prepared to take responsibility for. 

BRADFORD:

Do you think he has got a point though, what he said?

TREASURER:

Well the point he is making is that nobody wants a long term war in Iraq, of course nobody does.  But what is the best mechanism?  To ensure that Iraq is stable, safe and democratic.  Well the best way is to help the Iraqi forces as the Coalition are now doing to train them and to get them ready, ultimately for that long term task. 

BRADFORD:

He also says we have got to get key regional players involved to solve the Iraq crisis, like Syria and Iran.  Do you see that coming?

TREASURER:

No I don’t.  I unfortunately don’t believe that Syria and Iran have been forces for good in the Middle East.  In fact, Syria and Iran have been forces for destabilisation and unfortunately Iraq doesn’t get much assistance from its neighbours.  None of the countries in the Middle East get the assistance that I think would help them, particularly out of Syria and Iran.  I look forward to a day when that might change but I can’t see it happening in the near future.