THE HON DAVID LITTLEPROUD MP
LEADER OF THE NATIONALS
DR ANNE WEBSTER
FEDERAL MEMBER FOR MALLEE
13 JUNE 2023
PRESS CONFERENCE ON TRANSMISSION LINES IN MALLEE
Well, thanks for coming, ladies and gentlemen, the men and women that stand behind me are the human toll of the reckless race that the Albanese government is undertaking on their target of 82 per cent renewables by 2023. They are forcing renewables down the throats of these men and women who produce your food and fibre. Not only are they destroying prime agricultural land, they’re tearing up remnant vegetation. Chris Bowe’s reckless race to 82 per cent renewables is losing renewable social licence.
The 28,000 kilometres of new transmission lines will impact the very people here standing behind me, in Victoria. And these are the men and women that put their heart and soul in producing your food environment. This goes to our nation’s food security and cost of living, but it also goes to what the government’s trying to protect, is protecting the environment. They’re actually destroying the environment on this ideological bend of renewables.
And we’re not against renewables. We think there’s a place for renewables. The habitat for renewables should be on rooftops and wind towers, it should be offshore, away from the Great Barrier Reef. That’s common sense. That provides the opportunity for us to use the renewable energy where the concentration of use is required in capital cities. That’s common sense, and that takes away the necessity of the 28,000 kilometres of transmission lines. What we are saying is it is time to pause, to plan better, and to make sure that the unintended consequences of this reckless race is taken into account.
But the livelihoods and the future of the men and women and children that stand behind me are taken into account. That is all The Nationals are asking for, is that we start a process, a national conversation of planning for renewables in a better way, a better way that doesn’t impact the livelihoods of the men and women behind me, but also destroy natural habitat.
So we’re saying to the government today, this is a way to start that national conversation. The first thing I did when I became the leader of The Nationals was write to the Prime Minister and ask for a National Energy Summit. And this is where the planning should take place. So we’re saying there’s a place for renewables, but unfortunately the Labor government is losing their social licence to operate in this country, and it’s time that we planned better. And so I hand over to Dr Anne Webster, who has fought this with the people in her electorate. And I was in Charlton not long ago, hearing from those destroyed farmers who are being railroaded without any consultation, any consultation whatsoever.
So just to understand, if you’re living in a capital city today, where AEMO might just roll in and roll over your property with an 80 meter tower, or with a new renewables project without any consultation and effectively telling you to suck it up, these are the men and women that deserve to be heard, and it’s time that this government listens to them.
DR ANNE WEBSTER
Thanks David. I’m the very proud member for Mallee and behind me stand women and men whose livelihoods depend on prime agricultural land, being able to produce crops, be able to, feed and tend to sheep and cattle. And this government is forcing it, and I single out Chris Bowen, in this railroading of this community to take on the first leg of 28,000 kilometres of transmission wires.
Now, we’ve heard from experts such as Professor Bruce Mountain or Professor Simon Bartlett, who are independent energy experts who say this is a monumental mistake. It’s not a little mistake, it’s a monumental mistake. $3.2 billion for this first. In the last couple of weeks, the route for the VNI West Interconnector has suddenly switched path. And we’re now onto option five A. Why is that? Well, we don’t have any transparency about this.
So the consultation process, as David has said, has been incredibly poor at best. And the only thing that this government is investing in railway in Mallee is to railroad farmers from being able to produce what they need to produce for Australia and for the world. I want to introduce to you two farmers, Glenden Watts first and then Bill Baldwin, who are both young farmers who work in Mallee and who see their future being in farming.
But is that actually going to be possible?
Thanks, Anne. It’s been a difficult time. The projects going ahead as Anne and David have clearly pointed out that we have been railroaded. We weren’t aware of this. The Labor government continues to fast track it as they can with little consultation, if any have, organized meetings to attend the local communities, which we’ve all attended. And AEMO don’t turn up because there’s too many people there. They’re trying to single us out, cut us off from the herd, trying to get meet with one and two where they can dictate and, you know, try and control us. So it’s been terrible. You know, we are here to feed the world, to feed Australia and these transmission lines are gonna, we haven’t really been told, but they’re going to impact our farms.
They want to put easements across our property. They want to stop us from operating near them. They won’t tell us how close we can get to them, aircraft to be part of what we do in terms of application of chemicals and also just general health and wellbeing. You know, we’re very remote, so, we need aircraft come to help get people to hospital. Well, the transmission towers are going to affect that. But AEMO haven’t been good enough to give us any sort of respect or decency to come and discuss this with us and give us the, you know, the facts around it. They’re hiding. They, as Anne’s pointed out, they continually change the route.
We’re up to their eighth option, all of which are the best option at the time, but they just change it as soon as the drop of a hat, the route changes. And then the state government push, push, push past the Minister or ministerial orders through, to fast track this.
And as David’s clearly pointed out, we’re not against a renewable energy. Sustainability is us. We’re farmers, we’re fifth six generation farmers. So we’re all about sustainability and ensuring that we are there for the long duration, but they’re going to, they’re going to make it difficult for us to do that. And there’s alternatives for the solar to be on roofs for the wind to be offshore away from the Great Barrier Reef. There’s alternatives out there. And as Anne pointed out, Professor Bartlett and Professor Mountain have itemized this and explained that this is not necessary and that they need to slow down and to do their homework properly.
So we can only hope that, that they listen and they stop and think because it’s impacting us, it’s going to impact you as consumers at the register. Your cost of food is going to go through the roof. The cost of power is going to go through the roof, all of which can be preventive. If we just slow down, do the process properly. If there’s nothing to hide, there should be no hurry to get it done. So I ask that the Labor government stops, thinks and plans this properly with other options in mind. Thanks.
Yeah. Bill Baldwin here, six generation farmer from central Victoria. I’m here today to represent the people behind me, the hard working people behind me that put all their effort into growing food for the country and clothing the country. I’d just like to say I can’t stress this enough. We’re not against green energy, but we are against the way this is government is pushing through and it’s ruining our farms and the food that we are trying to produce for everyone. It’s just going to put prices up for power and all that.
I just, I can’t believe the government are letting this sort of stuff happen to the people that are trying to feed the nation. Thanks.
Any questions for farmers?
I just, sorry, I didn’t catch your name, but you said that the price of food would go up because of these transmission lines. Can you just explain that?
Yeah, for sure. So obviously, our production is obviously supply and demand, the cost of everything in life and our farms are going to be impacted. There’s going to be easements placed across our properties. We can’t access it. You know, limitations. So, you know, we might have thousands of acres now that gets halved. Less, less crops, less beef, less land, less to sell, demands still where it is low available, bang up it goes.
And is this right? You’re saying that you have no idea how big the easements will be or how much land will be affected?
No, no AEMO haven’t consulted with the community. They haven’t told us, we don’t know where the corridor is going to be other than a blurry map on a line which is, you know, 20 kilometres wide, 50 kilometres wide. We don’t know where it’s going to be. They haven’t had the decency to come and talk and discuss with us. All we know is that we’re going to have these 80 metre towers somewhere in that corridor. It might be through your backyard, 300 meters within your house. You have it, it could be across the corner of your paddock, it could be across the neighbour’s pad. But regardless it’s going to affect our production. It’s going to impact our ability to produce naturally, it’s going to impact what’s available for us to eat, etcetera.
So the cost of food will in undoubtedly go up. And it’s not just the Mallee, it goes 28,000 kilometres across Australia. So there’s a lot of country that is going to be affected.
And just on that, what about people who say you are just complaining because you don’t want it in your backyard?
They might say that, but it’s not true. We’re not against renewable energy and everyone here is the same. We’re all renewable people. We’re farmers. We’ve been there forever and there’s a place for renewable energy and I’m a hundred per cent for that, you know, agriculture environment. That’s our life. That’s what we do. We’re there to care, maintain, we want it done properly. That’s where we are hanging on. It’s not that it’s in our backyard, it’s the process that’s been undergone. That is probably the most frustrating thing, that they continually change their routes and the professionals come out and say, well hey hold on, why are you doing this? They need to spend that, you know, $3.2 billion on this project, you know, utilize what you’ve got existing infrastructure, make it cheaper.
So isn’t that renewable in itself that we can utilize, upgrade existing infrastructure as opposed to knocking down more land environment, you know, cause of areas that people have locked up to ensure that there’s that native pasture and stuff. Why ruin that? And that’s what we’re about. We’re all about renewable a hundred percent. We are, yes, that’s the way of the future, but do it properly.
Is this an issue of lack of information or an issue of lack of compensation?
No, not about the compensation for me, not about it for anyone. That’s the information continually not shown, not demonstrated. The ability to come and talk to discuss with us the landholders. And it’s, you know, it’s a bit of a blindside as Anne pointed out, it has changed again just two weeks ago sort of thing. It was meant to be the end of the conclusion report and the next thing the group’s just done a whole different jump, different spin, different direction. So how can that be properly analysed if they continually change it to route eight? I think it is AEMO’s preferred route. You know, they keep changing and then if Professor Mountain, Professor Bartlett came up, come here and analysed the data and go, well hey on this doesn’t make sense ammo or not, they’re fudging numbers here to make that route look like dumb route.
So that’s what, you know, I think frustrates us the most. The lack of communication and the the numbers are being fudged to drive what the government wants it to be.
Um, one for David. So specific, specific step forward from here. Would you like to see a pause on this route? Would you like to see an inquiry, the social licence of renewables to operate overall this project or projects? What’s the specific steps?
We’ve got time. The only international commitment that we have to look up to is net zero by 2050. So let’s take the time to pause, to plan this properly, and to understand the options that are on the table, particularly the place for renewables and the place for renewables is on rooftops. And if you need power where the population is, doesn’t it just make sense that you put it on rooftops where that power is required. And particularly for wind towers, the opportunity put them offshore away from prime agricultural land and taking down remnant vegetation just makes sense.
So this is the opportunity we have, but also the opportunity in understanding that there are new technologies that are emerging with small scale modular nuclear micro grids that can be plugged into where existing power stations are. So you utilize existing power lines because this 28,000 kilometres of power lines you are going to pay for that.
We’re all going to pay for that. Nearly half your bill, already half your bill already is poles and wires. Now Julia Gillard gold-plated them. This mob is going to platinum plate them and there’s no need to do that. If we plan properly, we have sovereignty of all our resources, whether that be renewables or whether that be gas, let’s have a national conversation. And that’s the leadership they’re asking this government and that’s why I wrote to the Prime Minister and said let’s put all the options on the table, but the pace in which they’re going at this, they are losing the social licence of renewables.
And that’ll be a mistake. That’ll be a mistake for our commitment to net zero in doing it properly affordable, in an affordable way. That means that the impact on farmers and on the environment is one that benefits, not actually loses.
So sorry, specifically on, social, social licence to operate. Do you want to see an inquiry?
We tried and I’ve got to say Senator Ross Cadell and Bridget McKenzie have tried a number of times to get a Senate inquiry to make sure that we understand the unintended consequences of this race to 40 to 43 per cent production in our emissions of 82 per cent renewables by 2030. So we need to look at the sensibly and the Senate can look at it not just in isolation. The men and women behind me are the very epicentre in this because they’re the first cab off the rank of about 28,000 kilometres of transmissions.
So it’s important we understand this will be replicated right up and down the east coast. It’s coming to a state near you. And so what we’re saying is let’s have a national approach to this. Let’s have national leadership and if Anthony Albanese doesn’t want to have a national energy summit, then the Senate should have the opportunity to explore this, to explore the other options about the place for renewables and how that can be complimented and affirming energy that’s required to make them work.
And so that they don’t lose their social licence in tearing away our food security and driving up your food costs, but also the environment that they’re destroying along the way. The habitat that they’ve seen along the way. I was in Eungella up near Mackay only three weeks ago where the state government wants to spend over $12 billion to flood habitat for kangaroos, koalas, all in the sake of this renewable race of having a net zero Olympics.
We need to use common sense and we don’t need to use Australian taxpayers money in a blatant way that this is, and we can get our outcomes, we can live up to international commitments and we can return that social license to renew. That’s important.
Suggesting to um, scrap these power runs together?
Well you need to understand, do you really need 20 power kilometres if you put where power is required, where the population is? So would it make sense that the habitat you put that on is rooves? And so the concentration of power is required in capital cities. So why wouldn’t you shift away from tearing down prime agricultural land and vegetation and putting out where it can do nothing. It can do the good that it’s designed to. And when it comes to wind towers, instead of having to put them in, along with the solar panel, you can put them offshore where even the fishing industry are not averse to it.
Because it creates artificial reefs. And so these are the common sense solution. The Nationals are saying we’re not against renewables, we’re not demonizing, we’re just saying they’re losing their social licence because of the unintended consequences of what’s happening to men, women behind. But that’s going to end up right up and down the east coast. So let’s pause. We have time to pause to plan to get this round. And as a smart nation, I would’ve thought with the sovereign of all our resources, that’s a pretty simple thing to do.
This is where you can plan properly. Whether if you put renewables in a place that takes away the need for extra transition lines and minimises the need for extra transition lines, which you’ve all got to pay for, you compliment that with gas, that infrastructure’s already there as well as the emerging technology in zero emissions nuclear technology that can be plugged into existing coal power station. Why build new transmission lines? You don’t have to. And this is where we’re just saying the opportunity is there and we’re saying, here’s your opportunity to make sure that get this right.
We plan properly, we live up to international commitments and we make renewables.
So if the government put forward its own inquiry to social licence for renewables, The Nationals would support that.
Depending on the terms of reference, yes, we want to be constructive in this. That was the first thing, was to write to Anthony Albanese and say, let’s get this right as a nation. Let’s put all the options on the target. Let’s have political leadership at a bipartisan level whereby we can explore the options and take away the costs on the Australian taxpayer. That’s the common sense that The Nationals bring to Canberra. That’s what I’m committed to do. And if it’s a constructive way to do it, then we’ll put our hand up.
Make no mistake. Thanks mate. Thanks.