14 December 2021





SUBJECTS: University of Wollongong Innovation Campus; Rebuilding Australia Fund; Renewable energy jobs opportunities in Illawarra; Net zero emissions target; Offshore wind farming; Hydrogen, Green steel; Labor’s 2030 emissions target; Fiona Phillips; Labor’s candidate for Cunningham.

I just wanted to take the opportunity this morning to firstly acknowledge the original inhabitants of the land on which we meet, this amazing innovation campus, in the local story of learning, developing and growing is a very important one in terms of our local indigenous community. And I know that, that what we learn from them, in many issues, and most recently discussed around things like bushfire management is so important. And so I want to pay my respects to our First Nations people in this area. Stephen and I are really pleased to host our wonderful friend Chris Bowen. Chris is no stranger to the Illawarra. But we particularly want to take the opportunity on the back of two significant policy announcements that Labor has made. One is our energy commitments and the importance for a region like ours, where we have both the traditional manufacturing sectors that need to see new energy sources developed. And we've seen already some of our major manufacturers talk about their interest in a more renewable future. 

And secondly, on the skills and education side, of matching Australians getting them the training and the education they need to take up those emerging jobs so that we've actually got a benefit for local people. So we've been here today talking to the University, not just about the amazing research, teaching, and development of new products and services that they are doing, but the partnerships they have with industry, and with TAFE in developing new skills and new trades, so a really great opportunity for our local area. I really want to thank the University of Wollongong for hosting us and sharing with us some of this amazing work that they're doing. And thanks, Chris, for coming along and seeing how the Illawarra can be part of the future. So over to you Chris.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE AND ENERGY:  Thanks so much Sharon and thanks to you and to Stephen for inviting me down here today. The world's climate emergency is Australia's jobs opportunity and nowhere is that more the case than in regional Australia and areas like the Illawarra are a showpiece for that opportunity. The areas that have powered Australia for so long, that have built so much of Australia's infrastructure like the Illawarra will be front and centre of our transformation to renewable economy. Areas like the Illawarra are vital to this transformation, under our plans to reduce bills, reduce emissions and create jobs. We will create 600,000 jobs across the country and five out of six of those will be in areas like the Illawarra in regional Australia. And areas like the Illawarra have a massive advantage, a competitive advantage. That is the skills in the area, the infrastructure in the area, but importantly, the universities and none more so than here at the University of Wollongong. And I've been very impressed, blown away by what I've seen today, innovations to improve storage, energy storage, renewable energy storage, innovations to improve energy efficiency in our homes, both our older homes, retrofitting our homes and building new ones. And the work that's been done by the researchers here at the University of Wollongong is world leading and Wollongong and the Illawarra can be very proud of the work that's being done by our researchers, by our students and young people and by this university. And this university is something that the Illawarra more broadly can be proud of, but in no area more than leading the revolution, ensuring that Australia takes advantage of the world's climate emergency, deals with the challenge of the climate emergency but the jobs opportunity that is there for regional Australia. And as I said, the Illawarra is well placed, well served by this university, of course well served by its federal representatives, as well. And so thank you again to Sharon and Stephen for inviting me down. I'll invite Stephen to say a couple of words and then take any questions you have.

STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks very much. Thanks very much, Chris and Sharon. Well, what we know is if we stand still, we're going to go backwards, we'll go backwards in energy generation, backwards in our local economy, backwards in our ability to meet the challenge of climate change. What we're doing here at the university is absolutely leading the nation in battery storage, in transforming the way energy is used on mining sites, in industry, in housing. Our challenge is to ensure we take this great knowledge off the campus and get it into our community, get it into our factories, get it into our mines, so Wollongong can really lead the world. Labor's $16 billion Rebuild Australia Fund is purpose built for ensuring the great work done here at the Wollongong University Innovation Campus can escape the campus and transform our economy. An Albanese Labor Government will be creating a jobs boon for the Illawarra, but also a research and commercialization boon for the Wollongong University Innovation Campus. Thanks very much. 

BOWEN: Any questions?

JOURNALIST: So we have a target to reduce emissions, but what will have to be done in the Illawarra to reach this target?

BOWEN: Well, of course, we have a net zero target by 2050. That is now the nation’s policy. It's long been Labor's policy and we have a 43% medium term emissions target. Take BlueScope for example, which is also committed to net zero by 2050, and has recently announced a large investment to ensure that they are front and centre of that renewable revolution. But just looking at some of the opportunities for the Illawarra. Take steel for example, we are going to need more steel, not less. We are going to need steel and wind turbines, solar transformation needs a lot of steel. So the Illawarra is again well placed thanks to the generations of investment and importantly, the generations of skills that have been built up, the skills that go into making steel will be vital and the Illawarra is not just needing to make, needing to make changes to its industrial processes, but has massive opportunities from those changes. And Stephen and Sharon and I previously visited BlueScope and talked about some of those opportunities. As I said, the Illawarra is very well placed in no small part due to the research that's happening here at the University of Wollongong.

JOURNALIST: So we don't want to see things like steel work and coal mining phased out but maybe shifted into a different form of work?

BOWEN: Well, I mean, take those two examples. As I said, we're going to need more steel. So steelworks have a very important role to play. Of course, there's changes to be made. Of course, of course, those are an opportunity, as I said BlueScope’s committed to net zero by 2050. And we will help them, we will help them along the way with that as has been announced last week with our changes to the safeguards mechanism for example, which has been welcomed across the sector by the Business Council, by the Australian Industry Group, by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcoming that certain framework. In relation to coal of course there is metallurgical and thermal coal. Metallurgical coal is for the foreseeable future necessary for steel production. So again, all those things are vital for that transformation.

JOURNALIST: And you mentioned wind farming as well. The AMEO has proposed the Illawarra coastline for wind farming. Is that something that Labor would be supporting and seeing get it up and running?

BOWEN: We were very pleased that in the last sitting week offshore wind became lawful in Australia. We've been calling for that all year, calling for offshore wind to be made lawful in Australia. It beggars belief that you couldn't have offshore wind until last week in Australia. Offshore wind is strong in energy, it’s energy rich and its jobs rich because the wind turbines move fast. They need more maintenance, they need—we need ships to take the workers out. So offshore wind will be good for somewhere like Port Kembla and the ports around Australia. Now, in relation to individual projects, there's environmental approval and other processes they need to go through and proponents do a great job by and large in consulting with the community, ensuring the wind turbines are far enough away not to cause community concerns. We are a big supporter of offshore wind in Australia. It's got huge potential. Each particular project can go through its processes of local consultation, but I would love to see the Illawarra benefit from the opportunities of offshore wind.

JOURNALIST: What are your thoughts on BlueScope and Shell partnering to build a 10 megawatt hydrogen electrolyser for its blast furnace at the Port Kembla Steelworks, testing it out?

BOWEN: Great. Great. Hydrogen is a very important part of the future. Hydrogen is ultimately a way to store renewable energy. That's what it is. The climate change deniers say “oh, the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine”, which is about as sensible as saying the rain doesn't always fall, so we shouldn't drink water. You can store renewable energy and hydrogen, along with batteries and pumped hydro, is an important way of storing renewable energy and using it for those what we call hard-to-abate sectors, heavy industrial sectors, hydrogen will play a big role in the future. We need to invest in its research and development to get it up to scale. I was pleased yesterday in my own electorate to visit Australia's largest hydrogen power station. It's only small at this point. It's only quite small, but it's the largest one we have so far. But here in the Illawarra you'll have ones many, many, many times the size of the small one in Horsley Park in the not too distant future. So I welcome that investment and that collaboration.

JOURNALIST: BlueScope still say we're decades away from producing green steel on a much larger scale. What's Labor's plan for speeding up the delivery of green steel in Australia?

BOWEN: Well its true to say that green steel has some way to go before it is commercial. That is absolutely true. And companies like BlueScope need to and are and will work with Federal Governments who are interested in the jobs opportunities of the future. So yes, that transformation to green steel is a difficult one but I see it as a great opportunity. As I said, steel is going to be absolutely vital to our renewable energy future and if we can make that transformation as soon as possible, but it is a big task, it's not going to happen this year or next year. That is true. It's going to take that big investment. But I'm very confident that when we-- when the time comes to say, green steel is a reality, the Illawarra will be a very important part of that story.

JOURNALIST: Do you agree with the Liberal State Government's intervention to enable the application for South32’s extension of its dendrobium mine, despite the IPC opposing that back in February?

BOWEN: I might invite Stephen to comment on that he's more across the local issues.

JONES: We know that the Dendrobium mine is vital in the supply chain for BlueScope Steel Works. The blast furnaces are calibrated to receive the coking coal that comes from the Dendrobium mine. If the mine doesn't go ahead, BlueScope Steel making is at risk so it's vital. As Chris said, we know we're on a transition, but it's not going to happen by Christmas, it's going to happen gradually. So it's absolutely vital that we have the right sort of approvals with the right sort of safeguards in place for Dendrobium as we make that transition over the next few decades.

JOURNALIST: Obviously carbon dioxide and methane tend to stay in the atmosphere for a very long time. Wouldn't you agree that it's better to look at emissions cumulatively rather than year by year in terms of their amounts? Don't you think that Labor has sort of not considered that in their climate targets?

BOWEN: No, I agree with you, we should look at it cumulatively and we do. Our 2030 target is a cumulative measure as is done under the Paris accounting mechanism around the world. That is our how calculations are done as they need to be under the Paris accounting mechanism. 2030 is just a point in time, what we do is measure these things on a cumulative basis. That's important because net zero by 2050 isn't enough. What determines whether we arrest global warming is the cumulative total of emissions between now and 2050, especially over the next decade, especially over the next decade. And we need to deal with all greenhouse emissions, including methane. Methane, is 80 times worse for the planet than carbon dioxide taken over 20 year period. That's why methane is important, that's why things like investing in the asparagopsis seaweed, which can reduce cattle emissions of methane by up to 80% are so important, as is reflected by the policy we announced last week. So yes, we should do it cumulatively and we do. 

JOURNALIST: I was going to ask you something about the federal election. The Coalition feels pretty confident that it can we win back the seat of Gilmore on the south coast. Are you concerned about Labor losing that seat?

BOWEN: I tell you this; here’s a hot tip. If the Coalition thinks they can easily remove a local Member of the calibre of Fiona Phillips, if they are so arrogant to think that they can just walk in and remove a hardworking, dedicated, connected local Member like Fiona Phillips, that's on them. They are having an internal fight at the moment about who their candidate is, you know, Andrew Constance and some other guy fighting with each other about the local pre-selection. I can tell you here today who the Labor candidate: Fiona Phillips, the sitting member, a hard working one. She's not focused on some internal blue. She's not focused on the factional politics of the Liberal Party. She’s focused on delivering for the people of Gilmore. That's why she has our support and that's why I believe she can and will be re-elected as the Member for Gilmore.

JOURNALIST: Just wondering what the process has been like finding a replacement for the seat of Cunningham.

BIRD: I'm really pleased that subsequent to my announcing that I'll be retiring at the next election that the party has opened a rank and file pre-selection process, will happen in January. I'm very confident that the branch members who I've had the enormous privilege of working with for close to 18 years, dedicated people who really care about the future of the country, care about our local community are going to be really well placed to select the candidate to proceed to the electorate at the next election, whenever that may be. 

JOURNALIST: Mr Bowen, would you like to see a woman in the seat of Cunningham?

BOWEN: Far be it from me to tell the very fine branch members of Cunningham. Sharon is 100% right. We're glad that it is that process and whoever is the candidate for Cunningham will have my full and utter support.

JOURNALIST: Wouldn't it be best if it is a local that sits on that seat?

BOWEN: Sure, sure, but it's ultimately a matter for the branch members.