Michael Bailey: Well, when we talked about hydrogen and that’s been talked about for the last 8 to 10 years. Everyone thought it was a pipe dream. But hang on a second, it’s moving pretty fast. We may actually see it in our lifetime, which is fantastic. Of course, Minister Simon Birmingham, he’s got some big announcements to be made. Good morning to you, Simon. How are you?
Simon Birmingham: Good night, Michael. I’m well. It’s really good to be with you today.
Michael Bailey: Yeah, look, it is true, isn’t it? Hydrogen was just a pipe dream, and now it’s becoming a reality. And it looks like the Liberal National Party are pushing ahead and getting the money ready for the big export drive.
Simon Birmingham: Absolutely, Michael. This is about making sure that Australia is ready for all contingencies in the future. You know, our traditional resources in terms of what Australia sends out to the world in thermal coal, in metallurgical coal, in liquid natural gas, they’re all crucially important exports for Australia and wealth generators that help to provide the revenue to support our hospitals, our schools, our defence force and all of that. But we know that that countries around the world are also moving to change some of their energy mix. And that’s why we want to make sure that we’re at the cutting edge of new resources and new energy projects, be it the type of critical minerals and rare earths that go into high technology batteries and the like. Which Australia can not only dig up and and get the ore bodies here, but we can do more in terms of processing those too. But also in this field of hydrogen, where countries like Japan and Korea, big export markets for us traditionally are wanting to see hydrogen come along with a new fuel source. And that’s why Scott Morrison’s today announcing some $275 million of support for energy development in Queensland, centred in particular around two new hydrogen hubs, one in Townsville and the other in Gladstone, which are about giving, giving the industry that lift to be able to meet the needs and demands of those export markets in the future.
Michael Bailey: But coal is still going to be around for the next 30 to 50 years, though, isn’t it? Because a lot of countries still need that coal to get their power to their people.
Simon Birmingham: That’s just it, Michael, we’re not looking to say we’re shutting anything down. What we are doing here is investing in the options for the future, seeing that countries like Japan, Korea or others like Singapore are all looking to see how these new technologies can provide growth opportunities for their industries. And because Australia has been such a long term partner providing reliable, affordable energy to these countries, sending our coal, our gas and so on into nations like Japan and Korea, they want us to be their partner of choice on hydrogen too. And so we should want that because it’s about giving ourselves opportunities in those new areas of the economy. But it doesn’t mean that we force down any jobs anywhere else. We’re completely committed to continuing to support those other industries that have served us so well, continue to serve us so well, and will still be in demand into the future.
Michael Bailey: And we really have to pull our finger out because this hydrogen people are starting to take orders and wanting commitments within five years. So even Forest, he’s saying, yep, we can do it within five years. Pretty ambitious stuff, isn’t it?
Simon Birmingham: Look, it is ambitious. But, you know, we’ve as a country been working already with partners such as Kawasaki in Japan, who have worked closely with us in a hydrogen energy supply chain project that we’ve had running as like a pilot model for a number of years. Where it hasn’t just been about how we produce the hydrogen, but it’s also been looking at how we go through the processes of exporting it because they’re not dissimilar to what you do with LNG, a liquefaction type process that happens, you’ve got to ship it there, but also at their end they’ve got to build the demand. And so they have been looking clearly at how they can splice hydrogen into their electricity markets, how else they can use it more in manufacturing. And so it’s a real partnership model. But as I say, it’s crucially, it’s just leveraging where Australia has been and is, you know, it’s a testament to regions like central Queensland that have been so effectively providing power and energy through coal and other resources, not just for Australia but for these other countries. And their preference is because of our reliability, because we do it so well for us to also be the partner of choice in these new areas, too.
Michael Bailey: It’s going to be fascinating to watch. Simon, thanks very much for having a chat on 994 RO and best of luck. Okay.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Michael. My pleasure.