Topics: Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water, Heritage, Cities, China ETS announcement
Thanks very much to Sarah, to all of the Mayors, and CEOs, the community representatives right across the five municipalities.
There was a great phrase from T. E. Lawrence – who might be known to many of you as Lawrence of Arabia – and he wrote that ‘the dreamers of the night may dream their dreams, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men and women, for with open eyes they look to shape and mould the world to come.’
And in the nicest possible way, I see many dangerous men and women. People who are imagining that which could be for this region.
I look down and see Gary Lyons – on that topic – and he is in a sense the Boris Johnson of the south – but with bigger hair and better abs.
And he has helped shape this region in terms of a sense of possibility – as have the other Mayors and all of you involved in the work of crafting a broad future for Geelong, the five municipalities and most importantly the people of the region.
And Sarah who – it’s always dangerous to come down. You never leave without having your pocket picked in a major way.
And she was – along with Elaine and so many of you – one of the great advocates for the Great Ocean Road upgrade. And there were doubters and there were those who said it couldn’t happen, or it shouldn’t happen.
And she was an unstinting advocate for it, and took it to Canberra. And already the work is underway.
And that will help in bringing, and attracting, and most importantly I think, maintaining people in this area. So the day trip becomes an overnight trip or a two day trip.
And similarly she’s in there fighting for the Land 400 project, she’s fighting to insure that things such as the Backwell IXL, solar manufacturing occur – w hat an outcome for this region.
So you’ve had your challenges. I absolutely understand that. But then there is a very real opportunity going forwards.
Let me just give four example from today, and then I’d like to talk about the structure that we have that might provide you deep opportunities going forward.
We just came from a Green Army team in Anglesea. Green Army is a team of, on average ten young people – a supervisor and nine drawn from the community.
One of the ones, Preethi, had been in Australia for three months – a young Indian woman. She didn’t know what to do.
I don’t know how – what it was that brought her here, whether it was family or other things. But she was unemployed and she said she heard about this. She joined the Green Army and she found a social support network and was doing work that really mattered.
Another one, Nathan, had been in Engineering and he had dropped out of Engineering. So he was obviously an incredibly capable guy, but it wasn’t for him.
He’d become one of the natural team leaders, and he was planting salt bush, removing pittosporum, removing invasive species, helping to assist with Hooded Plover protection.
And here was a young guy who had been in a dark place, who was now part of a team and who had an immense sense of satisfaction and pride from his work. And that story covered all of those who were involved.
And so it was a really great example of young people being given an opportunity, and then helping to improve their community and their environment.
They were actually clearing away invasive species, they were planting, they were covered in dirt and dust, and they were loving it.
They were loving being active. They weren’t looking for the easy road, they were looking for hard work and satisfaction.
And perhaps most significantly, one of the young people said that ‘I’ve just been recruited and I’m just going to start in the next couple of weeks with a revegetation and landscaping firm, and it came from this project.’
Similarly we were out there supporting the volunteer groups. And yes there was a grant of $500,000 which should see perhaps 50 local projects in the environment to assist volunteer groups.
But that’s a small contribution compared to the volunteer hours. But there’s now a programme that’s open right here within the Corangamite CMA. And so that is about assisting people to get on and do their best.
Similarly with the Solar Towns project, which Sarah identified. Twenty local community organisations being supported to reduce their electricity bills, but also to reduce their emissions.
And we were at the Torquay CFA, but there are another six CFAs and another 19 community groups and sporting clubs across the Surf Coast. So they’re the sorts of things, and then the last of the projects was one that was really close to my heart.
Sarah does come from one of the two prettiest electorates in the country. The other one is across the pond here, at the Mornington Peninsula, where I represent. And we have Hooded Plovers as well – a very fragile bird, vulnerable species – two and a half thousand of them in Australia.
The Surf Coast and this area within G21 is one of the great conservation capitals of the country. Your volunteers are out there creating safe spaces, providing public education, providing the fencing.
And so these are examples of how the community can operate if we support them and sponsor them in some small way with assistance and a grant – that’s nothing compared with what they do and you do.
So then let me step back, to talk about the opportunities for the region against that within my portfolio.
But the broad national perspective – and I know from discussions just yesterday with Malcolm Turnbull, we had an hour talking about the direction of environment policy – the broad picture, the broad national goal is around these themes of opportunity, of innovation and compassion.
And within that, we are really looking at five national plans.
A national economic and innovation plan.
A community development plan, which is all about working on how we can provide our local hospitals and schools with the opportunity to do more on their terms.
And a cleaner environment plan, which is my responsibility, and which ill just address in a second.
A national security plan.
And then lastly a national infrastructure plan.
And so all of this for me comes together under the environment plan. And there are really five great pillars to what we are doing, and these are the opportunities that I want to discuss with you, in terms of – Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water, Heritage, and I think very significantly for the G21 region, Better Cities.
So under Clean Air, there is a National Clean Air Agreement, which was set to be completed by the 1st of July 2016. I am hopeful that in fact that we will be able to achieve it this year, in December. The work with the States has been very productive.
One of the things that will come out of that is the opportunity through innovation through funds such as the Growth Fund – both the advanced manufacturing and the broader $155 million fund which Sarah referred to – for cleaner engine technology development. Geelong is a natural home for that sort of activity, as is the broader region.
Similarly there is the Emissions Reduction Fund and the programme there. We’ve brought together the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and ARENA. We’re already seeing the work you’re doing with solar manufacturing but there is much more to be done.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, ARENA – they will now support the Renewable Energy Target and the Emission Reduction Fund.
Under the Renewable Energy Target, there’s got to be doubling of large scale renewables between now and 2020.
That is a significant ask. It’s achievable but the opportunities in this area are real and significant.
There has to be a doubling of small scale solar between now and 2020. So that is another opportunity, and as you move into this space, the job creation possibilities are very significant.
Then we move from there to the Emissions Reduction Fund – and the Emissions Reduction Fund is a $2.55 billion fund for round one.
Round two will run out $200 million a year to 2030. We see that in the first auction, 47million tonnes of emissions reduction were contracted – $660 million. Regional Australia was the major winner.
And so I’ve spoken with Darren and the other Mayors previously. I would encourage the G21, Elaine, to put together a full emissions reduction bid, and we’re happy to work with you.
Let’s say for example you came with a million tonnes a year of emission reduction over ten years. Just to use the price from the last auction, let’s say it was – let’s call it $14.
If you did ten years, a million tonnes a year, ten million tonnes, $14 a tonne, I’m hopeful the price would be more competitive but the market – the auction – will determine that, that’s $140 million.
So there are very significant opportunities to reduce emissions and to bring funds into the area. It’s providing abatement emission reduction at about 1 per cent, about 1 per cent, of the cost per tonne of abatement of the previous Government’s carbon tax, and with lower electricity costs.
Because when you talk with Alcoa, when you talk with the car manufacturing companies, one of the things they say is that high electricity prices help make them uncompetitive.
And so for manufacturing we have got to have the lowest possible emissions but the lowest possible electricity prices.
So the opportunity and that invitation is there, and Sarah is keen to work with you, and I’d be delighted to work with you.
We then move from the opportunities in Clean Air to Clean Land. And really there are three pillars in what we are doing under Clean Land.
In Clean Land there is the Green Army, and we’ve already identified and announced seven teams in this area. But we would like you to come forward with a Corangamite Green Army plan for years three, four and five.
And if that means putting together twenty teams with consistency, that could be from Colac to the Bellarine, to Geelong to the Surf Coast – and to have that long term plan over a three year period – could be ten teams, could be 15, could be 20.
You’ll have the certainty of what will occur which means that groups such as Community Volunteers Australia will come in and work with you.
And then the young people are getting the training, doing the work, the communities and the local environment are better. So we invite you to do that.
Beyond the Green Army under Clean Land, is also the National Landcare Programme. We’ve had one round of $500,000 for small grants for community groups announced today, but there will be others in each successive year.
So we want your community groups to be working on the removal of Bitou bush, or removal of pittosporum, of protection for native bird species and native mammal species – really practical things.
And then the third component is the Threatened Species Strategy. And we want to work with you in the eradication of foxes and feral cats.
And I’m going to invite our Threatened Species Commissioner to come down and be hosted by, and work with Sarah on perhaps a round table with the community on how we can direct funding to removal of invasive species such as foxes and in particular feral cats, which have such a devastating impact on native wildlife, not just here, but also throughout Australia.
To Clean Water – what we have on that front is a ‘Healthy Rivers’ plan and a coastal initiative. One of the things that I have raised today is the idea of upgrading our ocean outfalls and our sewerage treatment plants, so we are not dumping primary or secondary effluent, but we have a national goal of tertiary stage effluent and recycling as much as possible.
Recycling is a far preferable thing to creating a desalination plant, which is simply a greenhouse gas factory. And so that is a last resort, not a first resort. And if we can be cleaning up local water and having a lower emissions footprint, I think that would be a tremendous way forward.
From there we go into heritage. And we have a national Heritage Icons Programme and I encourage you to work with Sarah on putting bids into that Heritage Icons Programme.
It’s a way of supporting community groups, maintaining our local heritage, and it’s also particularly strong for Indigenous heritage.
Then the last and the newest of the areas is the Cities focus. Obviously, new Prime Minister, new focus, and for Malcolm Turnbull this has been a lifelong passion.
For me as the son of a Planning and Local Government Minister it’s an inherited, almost genetic, passion.
And what we have done is set a direction where there will be three large elements to what we’re doing.
One – we want our cities to have better long term integrated planning – local, State and Federal, for the first time really, joining in that long-term planning. We won’t own it, but we should be part of it.
The second thing as part of this is that we will be working towards better transport. So urban rail, and indeed rural rail – and Sarah will not let me go without talking about Colac upgrades – is on the agenda again.
Now it’ll all be about the best bang for buck, about ensuring that there is the best outcome in terms of dollars invested for reducing congestion – but the opportunity is there.
And then the third element that we will be looking at and working towards a national package on is a ‘Greener Cities’ campaign. So taking those projects of Solar Towns, of Green Army, of 20 Million Trees and re-greening our cities.
So that’s where we are heading and we want Geelong and the G21 region to be a part of that.
So that’s the vision – you have always, like any city, like any region, challenges. But with those five pillars under the environment – of Clean Air, Clean Land, Clean Water, Heritage and better cities – a real opportunity.
So thank you very much, I’ll be delighted to take one or two questions. Would that be alight?
Thank you. We are actually on time, there you go.
Any questions – up the back?
Hi, just wanted to about news that China is prepared to implement a cap and trade scheme. Do you welcome that, and what does that mean for your Government policy?
Look, China’s emissions are set to soar by up to 150 per cent. Australia’s emissions are coming down by 26-28 per cent. So their emissions are increasing, ours are reducing. So I welcome any activity, anywhere in the world that reduces emissions.
The World Bank has just adopted a scheme very similar to the Emissions Reduction Fund in Australia.
We’ve seen the reverse auctions in Brazil, in South Africa, in the ACT.
And so that approach we’ve adopted here is also going around the world.
For us, we’re not going to have a carbon tax, we’re not going to have higher electricity prices.
The very thing which hurt our manufacturing so much in terms of Alcoa, which hurt our manufacturing so much in terms of our automotive industry, and higher electricity and energy prices, is not the solution for Australia.
The 47million tonnes of emissions reduction from the Emission Reduction Fund is one of the best outcomes in the world.
So I would say this – wherever emissions are reduced, that’s a good thing. But we have one of the most effective emission reduction systems, if not the most effective emission reduction system in the world.
It’s working, it’s reducing emissions, we get lower emissions with lower electricity prices and we are sticking with that.