By Tanya Plibersek

24 June 2024



MONDAY, 24 JUNE 2024


NATALIE BARR: For their take let's bring in Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce.


BARR: A lot of polls around this morning, one of them in particular said basically 62 per cent of Aussies are open or in favour of atomic energy. Is your Government worried about this?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well the same poll says that 71 per cent support renewables and it makes sense that they do because renewables are cheaper and they're here right now. We've already increased the amount of renewable energy in our grid by 25 per cent. I've ticked off a record number of renewable energy projects. This is how we bring power prices down now.


We're also of course in a week's time going to be giving families energy bill relief. You'll remember last time we offered energy bill relief the Liberals and Nationals voted against it.


So we can have cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy right now. We can have energy bill relief right now. Or we can have expensive nuclear energy in 15 or 20 years’ time.


This is the great problem with Peter Dutton's plan; he won't tell Australians what these reactors will cost to build. He said that Australian taxpayers will foot the bill, but he won't tell them what that bill is.


And he also won't say when the power's generated, how much it will it. Because we know that around the world solar and wind power is cheaper, nuclear is more expensive. Solar and wind is getting cheaper all the time, the technology's getting cheaper all the time. Nuclear is getting more expensive all the time. It just makes no sense economically to be embarking on this risky adventure.


The 23rd energy policy from the Liberals and Nationals. They had 22 policies in Government, they didn't land one. They've come up with a new one. Who knows what will happen, and when it will happen, and how much it will cost?

BARR: Okay. So Barnaby, can you guarantee it's going to be cheaper? And even if you get there, there are a lot of hoops to go through. Have you got legal advice on how you're going to get the States to okay it? Because at the moment I think there's legislation specifically outlawing nuclear reactors in every State, and also Federal laws that outlaw it.

BARNABY JOYCE: Well, I don't know where to start with all that came from Tanya. So much is wrong. First of all, yeah, their power legislation went through, but it never worked. And this is like renewables. The current renewable intermittent power lobby is not reducing your power bill. You are seeing what's happened with renewable. Are you happy with your power bill? It's gone through the roof.


Now, the idea will it bring it power down, nuclear. Well, have a look Finland, have a look at France, have a look where they use it. Of course it brings power down and they're examples, working examples.


Now, what we are doing instead is we've got these billionaires, multibillionaires, coming into this building, the independent power lobby, painting the nation with a photovoltaic black, covering our countryside with monuments to future obsolescence, which is your wind towers, covering us with transmission lines, which 40 per cent of your power bill comes from, so what do you think that's going to do, another 28,000 kilometres full of new power bill coming into your life.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: That's not true.

JOYCE: You can come with a nuclear power plant where there was a current coal‑fired power plant and in places such as Muswellbrook, which may be in my new electorate, they actually want it. The majority want it.


Now, what's happening with Australians is they've come into the year 2024 and left the Labor Party behind in 1986. That's basically what's happened. And if you believe it's so uneconomical, Tanya, if the Labor Party believes it's so bad then why have you got Federal prohibitions, why don't you remove them? It's self‑evident. You've said so, it just doesn't stand up. Remove the prohibition ‑‑

BARR: As you said, Barnaby, there are prohibitions.

JOYCE: ‑‑ and stand by your word.

BARR: Barnaby ‑‑

JOYCE: Stand by your word.

BARR: Barnaby, there are prohibitions on this.

JOYCE: And at the State level, I'll answer that ‑‑

BARR: There are Federal prohibitions and there are State prohibitions.

JOYCE: Okay, and I can ‑‑

BARR: So even if it's a great idea can your party get it through?

JOYCE: Okay, I can answer that. I can answer that.

BARR: Yep.

JOYCE: Yes, yes. I tell you, first of all, it's the Federal Parliament that can remove Federal prohibitions, but the Labor Party don't want to because they're scared of the truth. They're scared of the truth.

BARR: So can you get it through?

JOYCE: And the second thing, at State level just like Snowy Mountain, just like Snowy Mountains was built and was ‑ without the cooperation of the States at that time, it was a Federal mechanism within the constitution to basically override the States, we can do that again. It is certainly in our national interests that we have affordable, reliable power.

BARR: So won't you need the House of Reps and the Senate to back it ‑‑

JOYCE: Affordable, reliable ‑‑

BARR: ‑‑ what if you don't control the Senate, will it ever get through?

JOYCE: Well if we go to an election and the majority of the Australian people vote for nuclear power and the senators decide to stand against the will of the Australian power then that's an issue that will have to be dealt with at that time. Now I think the Australian people should be respected in how they vote.

BARR: Okay.

JOYCE: And that says a lot about the respective of senators if they say, "Well our personal views are more important than the election we just had". 

BARR: Okay. Tanya, people want lower bills. They know they're getting some kind of rebate but frankly they're still too high. People are hurting out there. They're seeing this other possibility. A lot of people are open to it.


BARR: It's hard to argue against, isn't it, for your Government?

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: And there's a big reason that Peter Dutton won't tell you what this will cost. Nuclear energy is expensive to build, it's expensive to run. This will only increase peoples power bills, and it's not going to happen ‑‑

JOYCE: No, it won't.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: ‑‑ for 10 or 15 or 20 years, that's the problem.

JOYCE: Okay.

BARR: Okay. Look, we're going to talk ‑‑

JOYCE: Can I just give one example, one example where that's wrong. Their own costing at $8.4 billion for one nuclear reactor is basically less than what Snowy Hydro 2.0, which only provides 2,000 megawatts for 10 days will do. $12 billion it's costing right at the moment ‑‑

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: That's one of your policies as well, Barnaby.

JOYCE: ‑‑ there's your renewables. There's renewables. It's ridiculous.

BARR: Okay, you know what? We've got a lot of weeks to talk about this.

MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Do you remember Malcolm Turnbull started it?

BARR: We'll have more facts and figures as the months go on. Thank you very much, see you next week.