By Tanya Plibersek

24 June 2024


MONDAY, 24 JUNE 2024


TANYA PLIBERSEK, MINISTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER: Well, what these environmental approvals figures show is that the energy transition is real, and it's already happening. We've seen a 25 per cent increase in renewable energy in our energy grid already. And the environment approvals projects that I've ticked off show that there is increasing investment in renewables all the time. On average, under the previous government, they were approving around 13 renewable projects every year, on average, and around 13 coal and gas projects every year, on average. Since coming to government, we've doubled those approvals for renewables. There's around 27 on average, each year. And coal and gas projects have decreased significantly. There's an average of three and a half each year. This shows that business is already making a decision about where investment in energy is going. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: We keep hearing about this bottleneck of renewable projects trying to get environmental regulatory approvals. If the problem doesn't exist at the federal level, is it the states that are going slow on renewables?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, we've seen a real speeding up of renewable energy approvals at the federal level. Three times faster when it comes to onshore wind. We're at around 84 per cent on time approvals across our approvals, and the previous government was at 46 per cent, on average, on time approvals. So, we definitely have speeded up approvals at the federal level without in any way compromising the standards, the scrutiny that we apply to these projects. I think, you know, the average time from approval to energy into the grid, the last figure I heard was about 27 months. So, it is important that we continue to see strong investment in renewables, that approvals are efficient, and that we importantly send a strong signal to investors that if the projects are the right project, built in the right place, in the right way, they'll have a speedy approval process.

JOURNALIST: How do you balance getting renewables into the grid as fast as you can to try and meet the government's renewable energy target without raising concerns of communities around the country about the rapid construction of these projects who might feel like they're not - their concerns aren't being listened to.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: A couple of things I'd say to that. It's not necessary to reduce the [inaudible] what we're approving [inaudible] we've seen faster approvals with no reduction in scrutiny and projects because we've invested $420 million in people and in data, in assessments. The previous government cut 40 per cent of the environment department's budget, and approvals slowed down. No surprise there. We've reinvested. We've got more permanent staff doing assessments. That means you've got more continuity and faster approvals.

I think it's interesting to raise the issue of community consent to new projects, because, of course, communities do have an opportunity of commenting on projects when they're being assessed. But Peter Dutton is now saying that it doesn't matter what communities say about the sites that he’s selected and his nuclear reactors. Perin Davey, first of all, went out and said, "oh, if communities don't want these reactors, they're not going to happen". And David Littleproud went out and slapped down that notion pretty quickly. Peter Dutton saying no compromise on the sites. So, the same communities around these reactors, you know, what say will they have about whether they have both the reactor in their backyard but also the nuclear waste, where will that stay? Will it stay on the site of the nuclear reactor? Will it be moved somewhere else? No detail about any of this from Peter Dutton. No detail on the cost, no detail on where the waste will be stored.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly on that sort of issue. David Littleproud has been saying the push is [inaudible] when it comes to large-scale renewable generation. What do you make of that assertion, and do you think it would be a popular message [inaudible]?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: I think it's important to work with communities to share the benefits of renewable energy projects and to consider where they build, the way they're built. I think the previous government did a terrible job on community consultation. Remembering that a lot of the projects that have been built already or are being built right now were approved under the previous government. I think it’s fair that a lot of those communities say, "we weren't consulted by the Liberals and Nationals on the projects that they approved". Chris Bowen, as Energy Minister, has put an enormous effort into improving community consultation around renewables projects and to making sure that communities that host these projects actually benefit from them. I can tell you there's a lot of farmers in particular that are keen to host renewable energy projects on their land because they know that it is a consistent source of income for the farm. Even in the bad years when the rains aren't falling and crops aren't growing, having wind turbines, for example, on their land or solar farm on their land can provide a consistent source of income in those poorer years. We need to make sure that communities are feeling the benefits of those projects.

JOURNALIST: You said, you mentioned there that renewables -

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: We might make this the last one if that’s alright.

JOURNALIST: You said renewables do have a net positive for people that host them. When it comes to some of the other projects that you're in charge of, or at least oversee in terms of Beetaloo Basin and gas projects, where there are less obvious benefits for the locals, there's been protests. How do you speak to the community consultation there where there has been such severe pushback?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, as I say communities have an opportunity to make comments when there are projects performing for assessment. But you mentioned the Beetaloo Basin, and there isn't actually a project in front of me for assessment in that case. Alright. Thank you all very much.