Topics: Carbon neutral cities, election timing, Wonthaggi desalination plant, HMAS Cerberus
Mr Hunt, good afternoon.
And good afternoon, Tom.
Now, I read today in The Australian newspaper that you are about to launch– launch a push for a carbon neutral city. What is that and which city are we talking about?
Sure, so I'm in Adelaide, which is where we launched it today, and the City of Adelaide says it wants to be carbon neutral.
What does it mean? It means that they don't put up any net emissions across the city.
Now, it's a big challenge for an individual city, but we've said right well we're happy to certify you with that if you can prove that.
And that means that essentially the City of Adelaide makes sure that there's a reduction in emissions, but also if there's still a gap they have to offset it with more trees, with improved carbon in soils, with practical things that will actually reduce emissions.
And it's an opportunity, but it's not an obligation.
Okay, I have relatives who live in Adelaide, and I was there last year.
Now, there are still lots of cars that drive around Adelaide, I saw planes taking off and landing, the electric lights were being switched on and off. All these things, I believe, are still powered largely by coal.
Now, does that mean you're going to, what, buy or plant a tree every time someone starts up their car? Is that what this means?
Well, it means that if the city voluntarily chooses to be part of it, that they have to prove that at the end of the day the net volume of emissions is equal to what's created, so their net volume of emissions is zero.
But that'll cost them a fortune.
It's nothing that is obligatory – it's something that individual cities can choose to do.
And what we're doing is saying, well we'll be the independent umpire and provide the accounting system – it's up to you as a council, as a city, as a precinct, to look at the sorts of things you're doing.
We're supporting the change to LED lights, which are now these days probably a tenth of the emissions of the old incandescent lights…
Okay, but seriously Mr Hunt, do you honestly believe that – I don't know, what is Adelaide these days, one and a half, one and three quarter million people or thereabouts?
Well they could do it just the official city, which like the City of Melbourne is a much smaller part of the whole greater city.
So it's only the inner part of Adelaide?
At this stage, the City of Adelaide – as in the official, small CBD and surrounding areas. That's what they want to do.
Okay, but does it include though every time someone makes a car journey through the centre of Adelaide – does that count towards the official City of Adelaide's emissions?
Yeah it does, it's meant to cover the whole of the emissions. Now it’s a big – it's a high hurdle, there's nobody that has got there yet, but you can also do smaller precincts.
And it's not something that the Commonwealth is imposing – it's entirely something that is a case of, here's Adelaide, they've made a big statement and we're happy to provide the accounting and test the proof and to give them the recognition if they can achieve it.
Well good luck.
If they can be more energy efficient, good luck to them.
I remember in the late '80s Adelaide was going to build a thing called the Multifunction Polis on the outside of the city, and I must say, I have driven past where it was supposed to be and I see no sign of whatever that thing was.
Well I am in Adelaide, and I was looking but I couldn't see it today.
Okay, now another thing, a couple of days ago here in Melbourne the State Government decided to make the first ever order of fresh water from the desal plant in Wonthaggi – 50 gigalitres.
It'll add around $12 to the average household's water bill over the next 12 months.
Was this the right decision by the Andrews Government, in your capacity as Federal Environment Minister?
Look, in my view they have done it for a political reason. They've spent billions and billions on a desal plant and finally they'll make use of it.
It's incredibly high cost water, and they have to go and justify it, but I think pretty much everyone in Melbourne knows the desal plant – it's been there for a number of years now and it hasn't produced a drop.
Now they're doing it, but at a time when the dams have still got a very significant volume of water, and it will come at a very high cost.
I think it's a political statement, not a water management issue.
Well let's say we don't do that – let's say Daniel Andrews has done the wrong thing and we shouldn't switch on the desal plant.
Should we move to water restrictions instead, as we've done in the past?
Well look, there are certain triggers for levels, and when you get to those levels, which have long been set out, that's when you go to a new level of restrictions.
But Melburnians these days are very good with their water; they've made some really significant changes over the recent decade or so.
We're at about 63.6 per cent, I think, is about where we're at today, so that's about 1150 billion litres in the dams.
You don't want to be complacent, but this looks as if it's a political decision rather than a water-based decision.
Okay. The rumours in Canberra are that you are inching towards an early poll – July 2nd is the date being bandied about, and I said today that the latest Newspoll results put both your team, the Coalition, and the Labor Party neck and neck at 50-50 on a two party preferred basis.
Are you getting worried that your popularity is sliding? And is that providing the impetus to have an early election?
Look, the focus is on running full-term. That's genuinely the preference. The issue of what any one day's results are is genuinely neither here nor there.
Do I think that the public want to go and put Bill Shorten in as Prime Minister? I suspect there's a very high resistance to that.
What we're working to do now is to roll out a series of plans across the economy, community, the environment, national security – where you've seen the Defence White Paper and that incredible boom for Victoria with regards to HMAS Cerberus – and infrastructure.
So to put those five big things in place between now and the election, so people can see, here's a set of five fully-worked through plans, without slugging people for higher electricity prices, without destroying the value of their investments in housing through attacking their long-standing negative gearing arrangements.
Now finally, you've mentioned HMAS Cerberus, which is a Navy base in your electorate. I know it well – I've been on a tour there. I understand that the latest Defence White Paper guarantees its future?
Yeah, it does. So this is really exciting. It's something we've been fighting for and working for, for a long while.
So the Defence White Paper includes a half a billion dollar commitment for HMAS Cerberus. So Cerberus is where every young recruit in the Navy passes through.
And the funding will be used for some really basic services, in terms of undergrounding pipes and electricity, but perhaps most interestingly, for core war fighting and Defence capability – training these young recruits and building a new combat survival centre for on-ship activities, to practice fire and flooding emergencies, then to build a new in-water survival centre for those that fall into the sea, they'll simulate wild conditions, all sorts of things so that they can do this.
And you develop absolutely the best sailors in the world who are the most adept to deal with the hardest conditions.
That means that at the end of the day they're better equipped to protect Australia, and they're safer. And so it’s really serious investment.
For Victoria, it means that, in my view, Cerberus will be there for the next 50 years and beyond that I think the next 100 years.
Greg Hunt, thank you for your time.