Mon, 11 Mar 2024 - 05:59



Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy

Manager of Opposition Business in the House




11 MARCH 2024

RICHARD GLOVER: Thanks for choosing us this afternoon. The Monday political forum rolls in. Daniel Mookhey is the New South Wales treasurer. He's here in the studio.Good afternoon.

DANIEL MOOKEY: Good afternoon Richard. 

RICHARD GLOVER: Treasurer Good afternoon.. Margy Osmond is here CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum

MARGY OSMOND: Good afternoon sir.

RICHARD GLOVER: And there on the line somewhere is Paul Fletcher federal Liberal MP, shadow Minister for Science and the Arts, Government Services and the Digital Economy. Paul, good afternoon.

PAUL FLETCHER: Good to be with you, Richard.

RICHARD GLOVER: Our roads. Now everyone knows. I think that the current system is unfair, but is it really possible to reverse engineer things when so many contracts are in place without either burdening the taxpayer or burdening people who, for instance, happen to use the Eastern Distributor or the harbour Bridge Daniel Mookhey.

But Paul Fletcher, it does seem to be very unequal. Depending on where you live, you pay virtually nothing in tolls to get from your house to your work. And yet the person who has a different route to, work is paying, you know, hundreds of dollars.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, look, I think there's a fair bit of historical revisionism from Daniel Mookhey in what we've just heard there. I mean, let's look, for example, at the Lane Cove Tunnel, which commenced under the labor government before the previous Liberal government. You may remember that was the one where the number of lanes available on the surface road was reduced. As part of the terms of the concession the then Labor government entered into. So, look, I think it's fair to say also that without the toll roads that we have a lot of in Sydney, and certainly we do have a lot of them, but without them it would be much harder to move around Sydney. They are important in reducing congestion. And certainly if we look at, say, NorthConnex which runs through the northern end of my electorate and was funded with $412 million from each of the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments, both Liberal National governments, and then the balance by the proponents. And of course, that's recovered through tolls. But my point is, if it weren't for tolls, taxpayers would have been up for probably 1.5 to 2 billion at each level of government, and it probably never would have been built.

RICHARD GLOVER: So. But why is it so unequal? I suppose is the question. Well, that's right, we need you know, no one's saying closed down the M5 are they. It's obviously important, but how come some people seem to their trip to work is laden with tolls and other people just by almost the chances of history pay no tolls?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, I do think one of the reasons that there was a lot of work by the previous Liberal National government in this space is because of the mess that they had inherited from the previous government. If we go back 20 years ago, it was a much harder to get around Sydney than it was Melbourne because there'd been a lot of building of motorways in Melbourne, very little had been done in Sydney. Notoriously, Bob Carr's answer was to say Sydney is full. That is not a responsible approach to these issues. What you need to do is build the backbone infrastructure that a global city like Sydney needs, and we have made a lot of progress on that thanks to the previous Liberal National government, under Barry O'Farrell and Mike Baird and Gladys Berejiklian and Don Perrottet. Of course, it always makes sense to keep these things under review. Look, I'm not going to comment on the details of what's in the review. I've had a quick look at it. Um, it's important to have a look at these issues, but I would say there doesn't seem to be much observation in the review about this fundamental point that tolls. While none of us particularly like paying them what they have allowed is many more roads to be built than would otherwise have been possible, given all the other claims on the budget of a government.

RICHARD GLOVER:Even if you had to charge a toll, wouldn't it have been better if the government and this criticism, as you say, is directed to the previous Labor government as well as the Liberal? Shouldn't more of them been built by the state? governments can borrow money at a pretty cheap rate because their state governments have a settled democracy called Australia. Why not build them themselves? Take the debt on. And yeah, if you need to charge a toll, as we did with the Harbour Bridge fair enough.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, it's also worth making the point that a number of these projects around Australia and the overwhelming majority of tollways are in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. A number of them have in fact been financial failures. And it's the private sector shareholders who who've lost out now no sympathy, for them. That's the deal. You take the risk. But the notion that this is, you know, a risk free proposition for a government on behalf of taxpayers is not right. And indeed that is one of the reasons why there are a significant number of tollways. And I think it's undoubtedly the case that there are significant, uh, arterial motorways now operating in Sydney, allowing people to move around more quickly and conveniently than would be the case if there had not been a private sector involvement. Now, that's not to say everything is perfect. Does it make sense to keep these things under review? Of course it does. But I did feel on a quick skim of the review that some of those important points seem to be completely glossed over.

RICHARD GLOVER: Yeah, well, listen to Paul Fletcher, Daniel Mookhey, the treasurer, and Margy Osmond are here as well. Just before I go to Margy can I just get you on that subject, Daniel, do you think in the future you'd rather borrow the money and build them yourselves?


RICHARD GLOVER: Very nicely said.  Daniel Mookhey, the treasurer, is with us, uh, Margy Osmond from the Tourism and Transport Forum and Paul Fletcher, who's federal Liberal MP and uh, frontbencher in various things science and the arts, government services and the digital economy.

Now the Prime Minister has attacked the opposition's push today towards nuclear power, calling it an alibi for inaction on climate change. Can nuclear power really help us pull down emissions, or is it a way to kick the problem down the road? Paul Fletcher Well a number of the countries against which Australia would typically benchmark ourselves make extensive use of nuclear power as part of their plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

PAUL FLETCHER: The UK, United States, Canada, France, Sweden and the province of Ontario, for example, nuclear is about 60% of the electricity grid and the energy bills are about half of what we pay in Australia. So certainly the coalition believes that this is something that's worth exploring as both leader Peter Dutton, our energy, and, uh, spokesman Ted O'Brien have been saying, um, and we have as a nation, a big challenge to achieve net zero by 2050. Uh, and many other nations are using nuclear as part of the way they're achieving net zero. In fact, at cop this year more, uh, cop 28 in Dubai, more than 20 countries, including some of Australia's closest allies, signed a pledge, uh, calling for a tripling of zero emissions nuclear energy So we're certainly not suggesting something that would see Australia out on its own, different from what other countries are doing. Far from it.

RICHARD GLOVER: some people say that small reactors they're talking about don't really exist yet, that there are a gleam in some scientists eye,

PAUL FLETCHER: What we know from the work that we've done and particularly the Ted O'Brien, our spokesman, has done is that we are seeing in a number of countries, uh, a strategy of looking to build, uh, nuclear power stations in places where historically there have been coal fired power stations because they have the transmission lines, which are such a critical and very expensive part of an energy network

So the question of, uh, the particular mix, uh, is one, you know, that we'll have more to say about as we develop our policy. But the, principle of having nuclear as part of the mix. Ted O'Brien's language is an all of the above approach. So there's an important place a very important place for renewables, for wind, for solar, rooftop solar, um, and so on. There's an important place for natural gas as a key transition fuel. They'll continue to be an important place for coal over time. Phasing out. Uh, and it we think makes logical sense to look at whether there is a role for nuclear in that mix.

RICHARD GLOVER:Some people say that in the battle against climate change, the great thing that's prevented Australia for years now is uncertainty. You know, there's investors sometimes say, I don't care what decision you make, mate, but just make a decision and tell me so I can do my sums. And then I'll, invest as necessary. And they say the great, problem of getting investment in this country is there's always continuing uncertainty. Isn't this a moment to take the uncertainty off the table and say, opposition and government? We both think that solar and wind is the way to go. And please investors, you know, go like the billyo.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, clearly what the opposition here is making very clear is that we are developing a detailed policy in relation to how Australia, under a coalition government, would achieve that. commitment we've made as a nation of net zero by 2050. Now the electricity grid is around a third of total emissions. So this is a very, very important part, uh, of the overall national objective and having a detailed plan to get there. So that's precisely what we're talking about. And we'll be laying that out as we release our policy in the time between now and the next election.



RICHARD GLOVER: A final word from you, Paul, on this. And then we'll move on.

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, this is about emissions free baseload power. We are at our principle is all of the above. We want to look at all of the technologies. But the strategy that has been used in a number of countries, uh, is putting nuclear into places where existing power stations come to their end of life and making use of the existing transmission infrastructure. Can I make it very clear nothing will go anywhere without a strong community licence? That's an absolute given But the fact is that the cost of transmission networks is a big part of the future of the economics of energy in Australia, and that is one reason amongst many why we think this is a direction well worth exploring.

RICHARD GLOVER: The Monday political Forum, ABC Radio Sydney I'm Richard Glover, here is Daniel Mookhey, the New South Wales treasurer. Margy Osmond the CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum and Paul Fletcher, Liberal frontbencher and Sydney Liberal MPs, the Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts, Government Services and the Digital Economy. Now the op shops run by the excellent Saint Vincent de Paul have stimulated a bookish controversy today by arranging their paperbacks by colour, they say it stimulates more buyer interest. If you put all the yellow ones together and the red ones together and the blue ones, some people are horrified by this. Other people say, yeah, it looks great. So what's the proper way to arrange books by author, subject, date, country or pub of publication, or the colour of their spines? Uh, Paul, you've written a couple of books and I'm sure you have a collection of a few. How do you arrange them?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, I'll freely admit to being slightly obsessive, so I think you have to start with subjects. You have your politics, you have your Australian politics, your American politics, your British politics, your rest of the world politics. You have your literature, you have your drama. Um, you have your art.

RICHARD GLOVER:Do you get the libs and the labs together, or do you, let John Howard sit together with Hawkey because they were around at the same time? What? Do you separate them?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, my general principle is to be alphabetical within the subject area, but I would freely concede that mine may not be the approach that I would necessarily recommend to others.

RICHARD GLOVER: You got them. You got the full Dewey system operating there Really, Margy How do you do it?


Paul You've got you you've got some novels. Help me against these philistines.

PAUL FLETCHER: Uh,  look, I definitely do have novels. I think there's an important place for novels.

RICHARD GLOVER:And they're all by Gore Vidal. And about American politics, right?

PAUL FLETCHER: They're all broader than that, but, um. Yeah. In fact, if you want to get away from what you do as your day job, there's nothing like a novel.

RICHARD GLOVER: Gotcha. Right. There you go. We are out of time. But thank you to the New South Wales Treasurer, Daniel Mookhey, and to Margy Osmond, CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum With me in the studio and they're on the line. Paul Fletcher. Thanks, Paul.

PAUL FLETCHER: Thanks, Richard.