Topics: AGL solar plant, renewable energy policy, Broken Hill heritage listing
Minister, good morning.
And good morning, it's a beautiful hot day out at Nyngan and we've just launched the plant, which is 1.36 million panels.
So it is an unbelievable site – that here just on the edge of town you've got the largest solar plant in the Southern Hemisphere.
Minister would it be fair to say under the former Prime Minister Tony Abbott that the embrace of renewables wasn't that great, but since Malcolm Turnbull's ascended to the role that the Federal Government's more receptive of renewable energy?
Look I think what we've done is go to the next level and obviously Malcolm Turnbull has a very strong view on this.
My view has always been deeply supportive of renewables – I've maintained that through all different governments and all different regimes.
It's been about finding a way to make it work in a cost efficient mechanism – and this plant is fabulous.
It's already led to many other proposals in the next big round of Federal Government solar funding, and they're coming in at a lower cost precisely because of Nyngan and Broken Hill.
With the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA, which was set up by the Government to make renewable energy technologies more affordable and also increase the supply of renewable energy in Australia, is that something you'd like then now to see expand in the future whether it be solar or wind?
Look we'll consider that carefully. I won't make any sort of pronouncements or decisions today.
My job right now is to focus that agency on solar in particular, which is what we're doing.
We've got projects such as this, and then the new hundred million dollar round, and they've also been talking about a further equivalent round, simply because the uptake of demand is enormous.
So in other words serious firms are interested in serious projects.
And when you see the photographs of an enormous area, comparable to some of the world's great solar projects, you realise that Australia has just the most potential of almost any country in the world.
Minister, have AGL had discussions with you about whether there's opportunities for more solar plants in New South Wales, or whether there's an opportunity to expand Broken Hill or Nyngan?
Ah look I think that they would ideally like to do more.
They haven't specifically raised anything with me, but I've been speaking with the CEO about the Renewable Energy Target just today. And he knows, and he's very supportive of building that out.
This is 100 megawatts in Nyngan, and 50 megawatts in Broken Hill, all up under the new Renewable Energy Target arrangements we're going to have to build about 6000.
So every state and territory, and all the major companies are simply going to have to be involved under the law, and I think that's a tremendous thing.
Minister I just want to take you back 12 months, it was 12 months ago today you were in Broken Hill to make the announcement of the heritage listing of Broken Hill as a city, the first one in Australia.
Twelve months down the track we understand there's been some discussions between local council and BHP – something – you promised on the day you’d put them together.
Have you been kept abreast with what's happened here since you made that announcement in terms of where the city's heading with this listing?
Well I've actually spoken with the CEO of BHP and he was very receptive.
I won't pre-empt any announcement from BHP, but let's put it this way – it's been some of the most productive and satisfying discussions that I've ever had in relation to heritage.
So we made the pledge, as you say, a year ago to take it up with BHP, and Sussan Ley has been working very closely with me.
And I'll just put it in these terms because there may be something in the near future – they have been extremely responsible and responsive, and I'm just quietly hopeful that we'll get a very good announcement in the coming months.
Minister would you think that a company such as them – the big Australian that was formed – that was born here, it was created here, they had their start here – do you think it's really encumbered on them to put something back?
Because they've been extremely reluctant to do so since they walked out the gate.
Well I said a year ago in Broken Hill, standing with Sussan Ley, that I thought that BHP did have a role, and that I would raise it.
I have raised it, and I would put it this way – I would be quietly surprised if we don't see some very significant fruit from those discussions in the coming months if not earlier.
And Minister just before I let you go…
In other words it's going well.
It's going well. Alright.
And Mr Hunt before I do let you go, we ran a package this morning – there's a mosque in Broken Hill, it was the first mosque in New South Wales, the second one in Australia – it's in a total state of disrepair.
Is there any avenue through your Department where they can seek some sort of funding to restore this iconic landmark in Broken Hill?
Right. Now I have to apologise, I'm not aware of the details.
But if somebody could write to me I will look for opportunities.
They tend to be that heritage buildings are mostly the responsibility of States, but having said that if somebody could write to me I will look around the country, whether it's Federal, State, or local to see what opportunities there are.
Minister Hunt we appreciate your time this morning in that windy paddock outside Nyngan.
Yeah I apologise for the wind, but it's dry, it's dusty, it's windy, but most importantly it's just pure sun.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thanks a lot, cheers.