2GB Radio Interview with Minister Tanya Plibersek 23/05/24

23 May 2024



SUBJECTS: Social media impacts on children, nuclear power, Eraring Power Station.

CHRIS O'KEEFE, HOST: Well, Tanya Plibersek, she's had strong views on social media for a long, long time and she's been beating this drum for ages now. And finally, it looks like it's getting to the point where change may well come to pass. I'm pleased to say that the Federal Environment Minister and Labor frontbencher Tanya Plibersek’s on the line. Minister, thanks for your time.


O'KEEFE: Illegal for kids under 16, is that something that you'd like to see?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Look, I think we have to take the advice of experts in child development about the appropriate age. I don't want to just pick a figure out of the air, but I truly believe the longer they wait, the better. And I'm really sorry we don't see more kids playing out in the street after school, running around, kicking the ball around like we used to when we were kids. I think that's much better for them than sitting in their rooms online. And what we've really found, I mean, you forget how. How a short time this stuff's been around, really, like the first iPhone 2007, social media really kind of taking off 2009. It's not that long ago. In that time, we've seen really dramatically bad results for kids’ mental health and well-being. We really are seeing numbers skyrocketing. Now, I can't say one exactly causes the other, but there's certainly a link there, and it was there even before COVID. A lot of people are saying kids are isolated because of COVID but this was already apparent before COVID And the thing that concerns me most, Chris, is that it's teaching boys in particular, really negative views about human relationships, particularly relationships with girls. And we're doing so much to try and reduce rates of family and domestic violence and sexual violence in our community, but this is really insidiously, kind of pushing back against that. That's actually robbing us of the progress that we should be making as a society, I think.


O'KEEFE: Especially if some of these young boys and young men just spend their lives on social media, and that is their reality, or their reality is online. I was only – And I think you have made a really good point there, Minister. I was only speaking about this to a few of the people that work with us here at 2GB, the younger people. And they said to me that, oh, yeah, no, in the schoolyard, when they left school sort of five or six years ago, it'd be lunchtime and everyone would just be sitting on their phones and I thought, I didn't leave school that long ago. My experience was completely different.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: And I think teachers and kids will tell you that where phones have been banned in recent times, in the school playground. In fact, they're getting back to - it's like the sun started shining again on these, talking to each other. You know, they're interacting, they're playing games and so on. And I think that's a real sign that we went too far in the one direction, and we need to correct, and we need to do it soon, because the next big frontier here is artificial intelligence. And we're already seeing really destructive, negative things coming from AI for kids, like deep fake imagery that is used to bully and harass kids and, you know, really very serious graphic stuff that you really wouldn't want your kids exposed to.


O'KEEFE: Let's talk about nuclear energy. You're the Minister for the Environment. Peter Dutton says he'll reveal the locations of up to seven proposed nuclear power stations in the next few weeks. What do you think of all this?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, Peter Dutton says that people have got problems with their energy bills, and his solution is ‘I'll build you a nuclear reactor somewhere in a decade and a half’. Like the most recent information we had from the CSIRO is that a big reactor would take 15 years to build, and it would obviously be hugely expensive. The cost of power from the small nuclear reactors that people have talked about is nearly five times more expensive than from renewables. And the cost of the large-scale nuclear reactors, well, that's a bit cheaper. It's only three times more expensive than renewables. We've got a plan in our most recent Budget to make sure every person with an electricity bill gets a $300 rebate. Every small business gets a $325 rebate. We're building renewables as quickly as we can. In fact, I've already ticked off on 47 renewable energy projects since we came to government. That's enough to power 3 million homes. We are on track to get to 82 per cent renewable energy. That's the cheaper, cleaner future for Australia.


O'KEEFE: If your plan was so good, why are you paying us $300 to get some money off our power bills?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, to help out. We know people are doing it tough.


O'KEEFE: But if the plan was working, you wouldn't have to do that, right?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: We've been in for two years, right. It takes a while to build a big renewable energy system. And the previous government had 10 years to get on top of this. Don't forget they were told that 24 power stations were closing. They were given the dates of those closures; they did nothing to prepare for that. They had 22 energy policies; they didn't land a single one. We're cleaning up their mess yet again.


O'KEEFE: If nuclear energy is so expensive, as you say, as the CSIRO claims, and it's in the never-never, and it's a fantasy for Australia, nuclear energy. If all of that is true, it will never happen, will it? So, why does it have to be illegal?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, that's the historical situation here in Australia. But, I mean, it's really interesting to listen to Angus Taylor, who's the Shadow Treasurer. He says it shouldn't happen unless it stands on its own two feet. Other Ministers are saying, ‘oh, no, of course, you'd have to subsidise it’. They're very unclear about where they will go, what they will cost -


O'KEEFE: I understand the politics. Sorry to interrupt. I understand the politics, right.  But what I've never understood this and I'm agnostic about the whole thing, but I've never understood this. Because if both arguments are true, so one is, ‘okay, well, we need nuclear power’. Sure. And that's what the Coalition wants to do. And you guys are saying, ‘no, no, no, it's too expensive and it's off in the never-never’. But both sides of politics come to the same conclusion, in my view, is that the moratorium on nuclear power doesn't make any sense. It doesn't necessarily need to be there.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I mean, it's just a historical thing in Australia that we have had that moratorium.


O'KEEFE: But is it logical?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, why would you remove it when nuclear power is the most expensive form of energy available?


O'KEEFE: Because if it is the most expensive form of energy available, then it will never be built, so you don't need it there in the first place.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Who is there out there in the world, in the private sector, saying, if only you would change this law, I would build a nuclear station tomorrow? There's no one. There's no one saying that. No, but not in Australia, because it makes no sense for us.


O'KEEFE: So, you could get rid of the law, and it won't happen anyway. So, it's all good, in your view.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Like it's just a hypothetical discussion, isn't it?


O'KEEFE: Exactly.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: So, no one out there trying to build it, other than Peter Dutton, who won't tell you where or how much it will cost or when it will be ready.


O'KEEFE: On Eraring. Do you agree with Penny Sharpe, your Labor colleague, and the NSW Government in extending the lifespan of Eraring for a couple of years?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, it's really up to the NSW Government to make sure that NSW energy users can get the electricity they need in their homes and businesses. And Penny's got a much closer view of the needs of the NSW energy grid than I do. I'm sure that the NSW Government want to move as quickly as possible to renewables, but if they think a backup is important, then I back their judgement.


O'KEEFE: It's not a backup, though, it's just filling the gap?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah. And it's making sure that we've got electricity available to power our homes and businesses while we make the transition to renewable energy, which is cheaper and cleaner. And honestly, it shouldn't be open a day longer than it has to be, but we shouldn't close it before we're ready. And that we can confidently say to people that their electricity supply won't be interrupted.


O'KEEFE: I think the ladder there, that last part of that comment, is absolutely spot on. Before I let you go, Minister, Apple has just released the greatest 10 musical albums of all time. What's on your list?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I would say the greatest Australian album ever was The Triffids, Born Sandy Devotional,  but I think you were probably in primary school when that came out, I'm sorry to say. It is a fantastic record and some of your older listeners, like me, might be familiar with it. The Triffids are an amazing West Australian band, but I also like, you know, like ABBA, Arrival, and there's, you know, there's plenty of - right across the scale.


O'KEEFE: None of its made the list. This has got to be the worst list of ten I've ever seen in my life.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Anyway, tell me, what's number one on Apple's list?


O'KEEFE: Minister, you're ruining it.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: You can't even bring yourself to say it.


O'KEEFE: You ruin what I'm trying to do for the radio program for the next two and a half hours.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I'll let you keep people in suspense, then.


O'KEEFE: Good idea. That's Tanya Plibersek. I really appreciate you coming on. Have a good afternoon. That is Minister Tanya Plibersek, Federal Environment Minister.