TRANSCRIPT: Hunter wind zone; Port of Newcastle as a clean energy hub


Look, I also, there are some other very, very distinguished guests here today that I really want to acknowledge, and that is each and every one of you who are now critical partners in this most exciting of new projects for our region.

There are some of you have travelled from Korea and Japan today to be here. You know, we are very, very grateful and honoured by your presence here today. Signing up as partners here is really just indicative of the very, very bright future that stands before Newcastle and The Hunter region now.

So I don't need to tell any Novocastrian that we are used to having done a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to generating power, not just for our region and State, but internationally as well.

We want to continue to play a critical role in leading and shaping the future of new forms of energy and power in this region, and you are all really important partners in that. Today, obviously, we are celebrating   there's a lot of good news for Newcastle and our region today, and I'll leave it to the Minister to talk to the detail of that, but the port, we have   we committed a few months ago, we came up here and we affirmed our commitment of $100 million into the Port of Newcastle from the Albanese Labor Government.

And today is really a celebration of the next stage of that, with the signing on of these very important partnership agreements to ensure that we are the premier lead hydrogen project in this State.

This is a really, really critical role for Newcastle, for the Port of Newcastle to play. I really do pay tribute to Craig Carmody. Under his leadership, this port has continued to play a leadership role in shaping the future, not just of the industries associated with the port here, but our region and the potential and opportunities that are before us, and I know you are all working with Craig on a regular basis as people that are excited by the development of a clean energy precinct here in Newcastle.

But I want to thank you for sharing in a bold vision, in a bold vision, one that is going to see this region continue to play a leadership role in the generation, distribution and storage of clean energies right into the future.

On that note, I get the great honour to introduce Craig Carmody, the CEO of the Port of Newcastle, no stranger to any of us here, and then he will lead on and go to introduce the Minister as well. But thank you very much for being here today.

The one other job that I wanted to do upfront and didn't, was to also acknowledge that we're gathering on the traditional land and waters of the Awakabal and Worimi peoples, you know, the continued benefit that we all have from these really treasured lands and waters does not go unnoticed. There is a great debt we owe to First Nations People in Australia. And you're all going to be asked to think about a really critical question in a few months time about how we recognise that in the Australian Constitution.

I'm going to leave it at that, and hand across to the magnificent CEO, Craig Carmody.

CRAIG CARMODY: Well, after that, I was going to say thank you for your strong continued advocacy, but yeah, Sharon is one of our biggest champions in Canberra.

Good afternoon. Welcome everyone. A special welcome to Minister Bowen, it's great having you here, and distinguished guests.

Sitting here behind me are some wind turbines. The Port of Newcastle on this site has 85 per cent of all the wind turbines that come into New South Wales, and they're growing in number. These ones that you see around us are going to Yass, Goulburn and Gunnedah, so we are now supporting projects all the way down into the ACT.

This has all been part of what we've been working on for the last four-and-a-half years. So in early 2019 when I became the CEO, we made a bold statement that the world's largest coal port was going to diversify, and that by 2030, 50 per cent of our revenue would come from non coal related activities.

One of the key components of achieving that is through clean energy, through the clean energy precinct. With $100 million from the Federal Government's support, which we sought out for seed funding, we have been pushing ahead with that, and today is a realisation of that.

We have 30 partners gathered with us today. We have the Minister, and we have the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Local Member from Dobell. The policy frameworks of the Albanese Government.

The policy framework that the Albanese Government has now given us that have now been created is allowing final certainty of investment in these sorts of projects, and that is going to be so critical, right? We are the world's largest coal port. We sit at the end of the largest exporting coal region in the world. This diversification, these changes are not a "nice to do" to us, this is a "must do". We will be left stranded; our economy will be left stranded without this change. And so the $2 billion head start the government recently announced is just as important, and with that blatant plug for some money, I will now hand over to the Minister.

CHRIS BOWEN: Thank you very much, Craig, thank you, Sharon, thank you everyone for coming. Thank you, Madam Mayor, thank you all of you for coming, and such big numbers on a great day, a great day for The Hunter, a great day for Newcastle. And The Hunter has been at the centre of Australia's energy for generations for more than 100 years and will always be at the centre of Australia's energy generation. And the Port of Newcastle in particular will be centre of Australia's future as a renewable energy powerhouse and a renewable energy superpower when it comes to [indistinct].

The Hunter and the Port of Newcastle is where it will happen, together with other regions across Australia. It won't happen in the capital cities, it will happen in regions just like this, and today is a big step forward.

I want to congratulate the Port of Newcastle for putting the $100 million from the Albanese Government to such good use, and you see around you, you see around you the renewable energy future of Australia, and the vision that Craig and his team have recognising that the world is changing, the world is decarbonising, but there is a future for ports like Newcastle, and regions like The Hunter at the absolute centre of that revolution. And that's what we're doing here today.

And as well as coming to see the progress in the Port of Newcastle, to again congratulate the Port of Newcastle and the $100 million worth of progress, to congratulate the Port of Newcastle and other friends and partners, and the MOUs that have been signed today with friends from Japan and Korea who have travelled so far, who recognise that Australia has always been a key energy partner and will always be one; will always be one, particularly when it comes to renewable energy.

As well as that, I'm announcing the next stage in The Hunter's future as a renewable energy powerhouse, and that's offshore wind.

Now, I came to Newcastle a few months ago and announced the beginning of the consultation. I said that we wanted to hear the views of the community about Newcastle's future, The Hunter area's future when it comes to offshore wind.

We know Australia's the world's largest island, but we have no offshore wind. That is craziness, and we're fixing it. And so today I'm declaring The Hunter as Australia's second offshore wind zone. I declared Gippsland a little while ago, today I'm officially declaring and have signed the declaration to say The Hunter is now open for business when it comes to offshore wind.

I want to thank the community for their feedback. I want to thank the local members, particularly Emma McBride on her role in expressing the view of her community that while supporting The Hunter's future, it needs to be done right.

And so today the zone that I've declared is a little different to the one we began consultation on, and that's how consultation should work, listening to people, taking into account views. The area that I've declared today will generate a little more than five gigawatts of power. Five gigawatts, for those of you who don't work in energy, is a lot of gigawatts. That's a lot of power that will come from offshore wind.

It will generate a lot of jobs, both in construction and in ongoing activity. It's very windy off The Hunter. Those wind turbines are going to be working fast and hard. They're going to need a lot of maintenance, they're going to need workers, they're going to need ships to take those workers out to those wind turbines. They will be Newcastle jobs, Hunter jobs, servicing and supporting those wind farms in the offshore wind zone.

So as I said, this has been a very important process, a collaborative consultative process. The zone that I've declared today takes into account environmental concerns, I've given a little bit more room around Cabbage Tree Island to allow Gould’s petrel plenty of room to fly and grow. I've put the area out from Norah Head and Port Stephens based on community feedback, again thank you to Emma, thank you to Meryl Swanson for representing her community's views that, again, The Hunter will be a renewable energy superpower, but we'll do it right; we'll do it with the community, we'll bring the community with us on this journey.

So I declare Hunter officially an offshore wind zone, and I say just as importantly Hunter's future is very strong, in energy, in jobs and in the future. And that feature will be shared by all of you; by executives from Japan and Korea, by workers from the various unions here today and the various sites across The Hunter who will be the people who make this happen. These are the people who will make it happen and whose kids and grandkids will be the workers of the Hunter in the future, and will have the chance to stay in the Hunter and get good, well paying jobs in renewable energy with offshore wind, with onshore renewables, with the Port of Newcastle at the centre of Australia's renewable energy future. Today is a great day. Thank you for coming.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, questions.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the AMWU has called for guarantee of local content in the production of the wind farm infrastructure. Can you offer any kind of a guarantee like that?

CHRIS BOWEN: We'll certainly be working closely not only with the AMWU but with all unions and workers, and the State Government on procurement. Today's the day we declare the zone. I can also say that expressions of interest will open in August and be open till November for actual licence applications. The licence applications are where we consider things like local content, as well as other factors. There are wind turbines where Australia plays a role in making them as well as importing them.

I was in Portland a couple of weeks ago, you know, you've got the wind turbine industry around that area as well. Again, we want to say not just more renewable energy made in Australia, we want to see the things that make renewable energy in Australia. That's wind turbines, that's solar panels, that's transformers, that's everything in the supply chain.

So yes, we will be   we do want to see that in the future, that's why our National Reconstruction Fund is important, co investing up to $3 billion out of the $15 billion in the National Reconstruction Fund for renewable energy-related manufacturing, all the other policies and plans we have, whether it be Minister Husic's battery precinct, et cetera, are all important in feeding into Australia making not just renewable energy but the things that make renewable energy.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you've announced a reduction in the footprint for the offshore wind. That's come after some strong community opposition. Do you expect to see that again from Newcastle and Swansea?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, I think what we've got is the balance right, we've got the balance right. In many instances the offshore wind is some distance now from the shore, you know, it would be very difficult to see some of the offshore wind, you certainly won't hear it. Again, this is how consultation works. We put out a map to say to the community, "What do you think?" We hold sessions, community information sessions, we hold feedback, I read the submissions, I strike a balanced view.

If people say they don't believe in renewable energy and they don't believe in offshore wind, sure, they're not going to be happy, but if people say, "We get it, we know the renewable energy transformation has to happen, but we would like to see our community brought with us and our views considered," their views certainly have been considered.

JOURNALIST: Some people I've spoken to in the community have expressed concern that there was no independent study carried out on the impacts this will have on whale migration, sea life and reduction in swell size. Why wasn't an independent study done, and also, can you maybe address those concerns? What impact will this wind farm have?

CHRIS BOWEN: Certainly. On whale migration, whales co exist with wind farms around the world, offshore wind farms around the world. Whales are smart animals. They can navigate around oil rigs, gas rigs, cargo ships, cruise ships, offshore wind turbines. So around the world you see that happening, and we always take that into account as well, as well as all impacts on marine life and bird life. As I said, I made a change around Cabbage Tree Island because of the bird life impacts.

Having said that, even taking into account all those concerns, the individual proponents will still need to go through the environmental approvals process, the EPBC Act, and various approvals. They'll need to do the bird studies and the marine life studies, and that will also come into play. So there are multiple avenues for those things to be considered. The declaration is an important area where I take them into account, then there's environmental approvals where Minister Plibersek takes it into account, there's State processes. We get this fast, but we get it right.

JOURNALIST: The Defence Department's been talking with you specifically around Williamtown. So have they sorted it out, or are the proponents still going to have to wait for another couple of decades before they can get started?

CHRIS BOWEN: They certainly won't need to wait decades. We expect and hope for first energy by 2030. That might sound like a long way away, but actually it's pretty fast when it comes to developing a new industry from scratch.

In relation to Defence, there's no secret here. I said when I came a couple of months ago and began the process, we'd already consulted with Defence, there's a very large Defence presence in The Hunter, one I know that you are rightly very proud of in terms of Australia's air defences, and that has been taken into account in the initial zone that I put out for consultation. It is further away from the Newcastle shore than it might have been because of Defence's needs. No secret, worked up collaboratively with Defence and Defence has supported the development of the offshore wind zone. Because we've taken those concerns into account, we also have height limits for aviation. So again, Australia will always have, you know, in The Hunter will always have a Defence industry that it will be proud of, but it will co exist with offshore wind.

JOURNALIST: Will the zone's distance from shore and its smaller size discourage investment?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, I mean, no, because there's still plenty of room for five gigawatts, more than 5 gigawatts. As I said, I understand some people might have liked the zone bigger, some people might have liked it smaller. We've struck the right balance. The system is that until I've declared a zone, it's not open for business. People can consider their options and invest in potential plans, but they know, the wind industry knows the rules. They know that until the Federal Minister has declared the zone it is not one where offshore wind can be relied on. From today, I declared the zone this morning, from today it is one that the industry can work with and can invest in and grow.

JOURNALIST: This Climate Club that the Prime Minister has signed us up to is explicitly committed to a global climate price. Does this mean the government now supports a global climate price?

CHRIS BOWEN: No, and that's not an accurate, with respect, reflection on the role of the Climate Club. The Climate Club, Australia's decision to join is reflective of us being invited back to the top table of international climate discussion and [indistinct] this government.

It would have been inconceivable under our predecessors that we would have been asked to join the Climate Club. Not only has Australia joined, we were asked to join. Germany particularly, very, very keen for us to join. Now, the Climate Club, I wouldn't overstate it, the Climate Club is not the answer to the world's climate problem, but it has a role to play in sorting out how countries can work together, particularly with industrial decarbonisation.  Now, industrial decarbonisation we have strong policies on, Safeguard Mechanism reforms which you'll see the equivalent of two thirds of the emissions of Australia's cars being taken off the road by our safeguards reforms are the sorts of things together with our consideration and development of a carbon tariff, carbon border adjustment mechanism, as they say in economics, which other countries and the EU is well advanced on, but the Climate Club is an opportunity to collaborate and share notes on those things, and that's what we'll do through the Climate Club, and it's reflective of Australia's leadership, again, back to the top table with the COP in terms of the upcoming COP and the COP that has been, fully engaged. I was talking by WhatsApp with the COP President this morning about the lead up to the COP. Australia is back at the table.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you --

JOURNALIST: Minister, Justin Page from The Hunter Jobs Alliance. We welcome the announcement today, it's very good for The Hunter. One of the issues here is training for people in new industries, new technologies, clean manufacturing. That needs to be a priority. What's your view?

CHRIS BOWEN: Absolutely. Not only did we have the Jobs and Skills Summit last year where that was front and centre, but the National Energy Workforce Plan, which my department and Brendan O'Connor are working very closely on, the states and territories, it's a factor in every single state and territory Energy Ministers meeting that we have, working on plans, investing more in TAFE. We've got the new energy apprentices; 10,000 new energy apprentices are rolling out across the country. I agree; we've got the jobs of the future we're creating; we have to train for the jobs of the future as well, and we are working very hard with states and territories and across portfolios to make that happen.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you announced that it's open today, but have you got any mandates in place for decommissioning so that the residents of The Hunter aren't saddled with a project in 50 years that doesn't work?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, I don't know   I don't understand the point about not working. It's going to work.

JOURNALIST: Well, if there's new technology that comes out, and they don't like the ones they put in in 2030?

CHRIS BOWEN: Offshore wind is going to have a great future, not only in Australia, around the world. It also does around the world. Australia's very late to this party. You know, we've been knocking on the door of the party that's been going several hours asking to be let in. We're catching up fast. We've been let in and now we're partying. So this has been underway around the world. Australia under previous management was not turning up. We are now turning up.

But offshore wind will have a very important and robust future. Decommissioning will be something that gets considered in each expression of interest, the plans that each component has for decommissioning, that they're up to scratch, but this is decades away, you know, an offshore wind farm, because we don't expect to be operating here until 2030, it will operate ahead for many decades, and of course prudently and carefully we'll have decommissioning undertakings from the proponents, including recycling and re use, which despite the myths that some who are against renewable energy propagate there is good progress on, we can and we'll see the last bulk of wind infrastructure reused, recycled, and not see landfill.

JOURNALIST: Can you explain the significance of today's [indistinct] in terms of its agreements [indistinct]?

CHRIS BOWEN: I might get Craig do that, because with all due respect he's the one who's put it together, and he deserves the credit [indistinct]

JOURNALIST: Can you address that question as Minister, though? Can you address that question as Minister though?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, I welcome it very much, and it's very significant, and there's lots of MOUs been signed today, I think [indistinct] across the board. These represent a great future for Newcastle and the Port of Newcastle, but I give credit where it's due, that while Craig is correct to say, if I can be so bold to say, it's the framework of the Albanese Government that's allowed that to happen, it's the Port of Newcastle that's got on with the job to make it happen.

CRAIG CARMODY: [Indistinct] to get a new industrial port. The MOUs that were signed today, some of them are just about supporting, because you've got to remember it's an economic matrix, right, we've got mobility, we've got production, we've got fertilizer, multiple different avenues. The key ones signed today; those are the discussions that we now have. We know we've got feasibility; we know we can do 1.6 gigawatts of green hydrogen at the site, it's now a question of what's going to be produced there, who's going to be the off takers, how much will be exported, how much will be used domestically, that's essentially what all these announcements are today. It's no longer just this motherhood statement that says, "Oh, in 2030 we need to be ready." It's now we are starting to put together the pathway that gets us to that 2030 target. And obviously, as these negotiations become more and more real, we'll know what we need to build, how much we need to build, where we need to build it, because remember, this is not just one solution, right? We've got wind, we've got solar, we've got hydrogen, we've got ammonia, there will be a mix. Methanol will also be part of it, because that's the bunkering of future ships. So all that has to be taken into consideration by the port, because we don't get to choose the wind. Our job is to export or import clean energy. And it's whatever the people want, or the businesses want, that's what we've got to be able to facilitate. And that's why, you know, the Minister was right, the framework that the government has created is allowing people to start making those investment decisions which then informs how the port builds the infrastructure to support those facilities.

JOURNALIST: What needs to be done in terms of connecting the precinct with energy transmission and the energy grid?

CRAIG CARMODY: I'll throw it my technical expert at this point.

TECHNICAL EXPERT: So we're working with our partners, Lumea, who are here today, and so we've identified we can bring in 1.5 gigawatts worth of transmission. That's dependent upon the Central West Renewable Energy Zone, and Waratah super battery being connected. It's one of the great strengths that we've touched on already. 70 per cent of the State's power's currently generated here in The Hunter. We have really strong transmission infrastructure which we could repurpose to be part of this clean energy future.

JOURNALIST: Minister, is all this happening fast enough? We've had [indistinct] industry and manufacturing industry especially this week saying that it's going to be a disaster. How do you respond to that?

CHRIS BOWEN: Our plans are ambitious, but they're achievable, and they will be met. You know, some people say our plans aren't ambitious enough. More recently it's become fashionable to say they're ambitious. I'm here to tell you they're the right plans. 43 per cent is ambitious. 43 per cent emissions reduction is underpinned by a commitment to 82 per cent renewable energy.

Now, it's a big lift from where we are today; it is. Around 35 per cent across the grid, renewable energy today, to 82 per cent by 2030 in 78 months or so. You know, that is a big lift. But it's absolutely vital as well, and with the policies in place, the framework, we've got the policies now in place after 10 years, we've got the capital, we've got the technology, now we're getting on with it. And today's an important part of getting on with it.

JOURNALIST: On the wind farm, how many wind turbines will there be?

CHRIS BOWEN: That depends on expressions of interest, but as I said, about five gigawatts. You might assume that's two or three big farms, but we'll have a look at expressions of interest when we come.

JOURNALIST: And also the reason, why are they going to be floating? I think there's a bit of concern that that technology is in its infancy.

CHRIS BOWEN: It is cutting edge technology. Basically you put floating wind turbines where the water's deeper. But I don't have a problem with Australia being at the cutting edge. It's a good thing. And ultimately the proponents will decide whether it's fixed or floating, and then we'll look at their expressions of interest, but there's nothing to fear from floating wind turbines, they are well advanced, and I have   I welcome the fact that Australia will have both types.

JOURNALIST: Minister, you mentioned jobs earlier, how might local businesses benefit?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, there's jobs in construction, there's jobs in maintenance, and when there's thousands of workers working on the maintenance, and you know, Australian firms doing that, that's also thousands of jobs that are created with the flow on effects of people working in Newcastle, buying things in Newcastle, living in Newcastle, bringing up families in Newcastle, the flow on effects for local business are very substantial.

JOURNALIST: Minister, I just want to talk about the benefits for workers right across our region. Most people would look at renewable energy today being offshore, and that's what the announcement is today. What are the benefits for workers, you know, for jobs, skills, development right up through The Hunter, [indistinct] down to the port?

CHRIS BOWEN: Yeah. Well, as I said, this is just not   the wind turbines are offshore, but the jobs are onshore. Jobs creating in supporting those wind turbines, in the administration, in the maintenance, in managing the energy that comes off those wind turbines, you know, one turn of one offshore wind turbine creates as much energy as the solar panels on your roof do all day. Those solar panels on the roof are working all day to create as much energy as one turn of one turbine, and they turn many times a minute and there's many turbines out there. So there's a lot of energy to be managed; you know, control rooms, technical work, integrating it into the grid. All these will be Newcastle and Hunter based jobs.

JOURNALIST: Minister, on a slightly different topic, but talking about The Hunter Valley, there's a number of producers of things like wine and cheese that are concerned that your government's trade deal will mean that they can't call their products the same thing. What are you doing to sort that out?

CHRIS BOWEN: Minister Farrell's in Brussels, as you know, as we speak. If we can get a trade deal, that will be a good thing, but we won't get a bad deal. Minister Farrell only recommended to the Prime Minister and then the Cabinet to sign it if it's a good deal for Australia.  Now, there will be all sorts of issues that he has to weigh up in that recommendation. I don't know whether we'll get a deal or not. I do know this though. We wouldn't even be in these discussions if it wasn't for Australia's climate policy. Australia's climate policy's got us back to the table when it comes to trade. Europe's made it very clear; they didn't want a Free Trade Agreement with the previous government because our climate policy wasn't up to scratch. This government, they've opened the door. Now, does that lead to a deal or an agreement? I don't know. We'll only agree if it's a good deal for Australia, for Australia's farmers, Australia's producers, across the board in manufacturing and Australia's consumers. Whether we can get there or not, unclear. And it would be irresponsible to say that we'll get a deal at no cost   or at any cost. If we get a deal, it will be a good deal for Australia.

JOURNALIST: Minister, some people have raised the fact that on a clear day you may be able to see these turbines out in the water. What impact do you think that might have?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, because they are 20 to 30 kilometres away, on a clear day, yes, you can see them, but they are not in your face. [Indistinct] the distance has got the balance right. I think people are fair, it's fair enough to put them say five or 10Ks out, pretty close. I hear that, take that into account. 20 to 30Ks out.

Newcastle is a long tradition of being a working port with cargo ships which you can see. You can see cargo ships, and I don't think people by and large object to that, and they know that's part of living in Newcastle. When you live in a wonderful, beautiful area like Newcastle, the industrial powerhouse, yes, you're going to see the making of energy and the export of energy, and that's not something I think that people in Newcastle and The Hunter shy away from.

I think you've had a good go. I'll take one or two more if you've got them.

JOURNALIST: Will it really be [indistinct] the distance though, they're 260 metres tall?

CHRIS BOWEN: Well, as I said, 20 or 30Ks out, you see cargo ships coming and going in that distance. You'll see wind turbines, but they are not, I think, in a way that, you know, it would be in your face that people would find disturbing. One more.

JOURNALIST: Minister, during construction, obviously there will be a little bit of disruption [indistinct]

CHRIS BOWEN: A lot of disruption.

JOURNALIST: existing operations, how much will that be impacted, and what will be [indistinct] for the port?

CHRIS BOWEN: I have absolutely no doubt that the Port of Newcastle can cater for the work in constructing these turbines without impacting in their other work. It's a big port, a lot of opportunities. I haven't heard Craig complaining to me that there's too much work coming to the Port of Newcastle as a result. Craig is not backwards in coming forwards with issues of complaints when he feels like it. He's not complaining to me about we're not generating, that we're generating too much work. That's not been on his list. Thanks guys.