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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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21 June 2024

SUBJECTS: Opposition’s energy policy  

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: To our debate about nuclear, which continues to be a lively one this morning. Let's go to the Defence Minister Richard Marles. Minister, good to see you. Thanks for your time, as always, this morning. So, Ziggy Switkowski has weighed in today. He, of course, advised the Howard government on nuclear claims, so that intervention might not surprise people. But he says, yes, nuclear is expensive, but in the long run, it represents value for money. Does he have a point?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, he has a point that nuclear is expensive. I mean, CSIRO have made clear that it's eight times the cost of renewable energy. This is the point here. It is the most expensive form of energy that you could put into the power grid at a time when we are doing everything we can to try and bring down power prices. That's why we'll be giving $300 in rebates to everyone in terms of their power bills come July. That's because we understand the pressure that power bills represent in terms of people's household budgets. And it's in this context that the Opposition are going forward and announcing that they're going to walk down the path of the single most expensive form of energy that you can find. And they are not able to tell you the cost, they're not able to tell you when it's going to happen. They're not even able to tell you what power it will actually produce. I mean, this is an extraordinary contribution, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised because this comes from the party which gave us 22 different energy policies over the course of their time in government. And this one, frankly, is a lemon.

STEFANOVIC: So, what's the cost of the total renewables rollout?

MARLES: Well, what we are. What we're seeing with renewables is, and this is the big difference today compared to where we were at a decade or 15 years ago, is that the cheapest form of energy in the system is renewable energy. And that is. And we are seeing an uptake in renewable energy, which is really significant since we've come to power, there are 25% more renewables in the grid, and that has seen a significant reduction.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, but what's the total cost, energy price?

MARLES: Well, the answer to the question around price is that we've seen a dramatic drop in the wholesale energy price as a result of seeing more renewables into the grid. 

STEFANOVIC: Is it over a trillion? Is it over a trillion dollars?

MARLES: Well, I mean, you can pick out figures over particular periods of time. The cost that matter to households is that the wholesale electricity price today is actually a fraction of what it was when we came into Government. And in the same period of time, we've seen a massive uptake in renewable energy, 25% more renewables in the grid. But we've also seen something like 330,000 households over the last year alone install solar. And all of that is reducing power prices for Australia.

STEFANOVIC: But you don't know the total cost?

MARLES: Well, what we know is that energy prices, wholesale energy prices, are going down by virtue of renewables being in the grid. And what we also know, but what we also know, Pete, is that the CSIRO, when they looked at this, found nuclear energy to be eight times the cost. Not a marginal increase, but eight times the cost of what renewables.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, the reason I ask, right, and when we're comparing the costs, let's say the cost of the nuclear rollout is 140 billion. That's roughly 20 billion per reactor. Now, as Ziggy Switkowski says, that's spread out over 100 years and it represents value for money. So, when you break all of that down, that's a pinch compared to the renewables, is it not? Which has been priced at over a trillion dollars.

MARLES: So, to be safe, to follow that line of thinking, Pete, you're taking a bet on a technology over a century like that. That's what that costing is. I mean, how meaningful is that? I mean, that's the most ridiculous thing I've heard. You've got a costing which is talking about seeking to return the price over a century. Well, I mean, what power were we using a century ago?

STEFANOVIC: But are we doing that with the AUKUS nuclear subs?

MARLES: So, what we are seeing with AUKUS nuclear subs is, firstly, getting the first Australian flagged vessel in the water in the early 2030s. So, that is definitely not what we are doing in the sense that we are getting a technology, a military technology, that we need into service quickly, and that that's. That's a full ten years earlier than what we inherited when we came to Government. I mean, that is dealing with our circumstances now and getting capability into play right now. That is not what you're talking about with the, the nuclear power proposition, which is a hundred year bet. I mean, and it is it is a ridiculous proposition. 

STEFANOVIC: Sorry, sorry, sorry, Minister. Why not at least explore the possibility, though? Rather than, you know, bomb social media with a scare campaign featuring three eyed fish, why not be serious about something that the Opposition Leader is at least proposing?

MARLES: Well, firstly, we're not going to take lectures about scare campaigns from Peter Dutton and the Liberals. I mean, they are the masters of that art when we're talking about scare campaigns. But the CSIRO looking at this is not a scare campaign that is bringing to bear science to what is being proposed here. And when they look at it, what is clear is that it's eight times as expensive as renewables like in the here and now, not 100 years down the track in the here and now, in terms of trying to do something around reducing energy prices whilst at the same time reducing our emissions and moving to a more modern economy, it is absolutely clear that the cheapest form of energy that we can bring to bear is through renewable energy and that what the Leader of the Opposition has done has come up with a proposition where he can't tell us how much power is going to be produced, when it will be produced or how much it will cost. And that just doesn't pass muster. I mean, in what world does that represent proper policy for Australians to consider? It simply doesn't. And, you know, they are the ones who walk down the path of scare campaigns. We are simply making the point that he has not answered the most basic questions that you would expect someone to answer in relation to an energy policy.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, Defence Minister Richard Marles, thanks as always, for your time. We'll talk to you again soon. 


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