Partial Transcript of Doorstop Interview
Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems
Australian National University
30 March 2006
The Hon Kim Beazley MP
Leader of the Opposition
Subjects: Sustainable energy
BEAZLEY: Australia has got be the Silicon Valley of solar. This means jobs. It means we take the lead in ensuring that what needs to be done with the world’s energy supply to start to eliminate the threat of extreme climate change is done effectively. We must not let the brilliant Australian inventions, the great Australian in science, be a product of somebody else’s commercialisation.
We’re already seen how good research done in the universities in New South Wales has massively enriched Chinese industry. We have got to make absolutely certain that the good work done here means jobs for Australians as well as affordable, clean energy supplies which deal with carbon emissions problems. The work being done in this lab, the work being done at the Australian National University, in association with Australian companies, massively reduces the cost of solar energy, brings it close to the costs of other similar clean technologies in wind power, in clean coal, that’s coal with gas sequestration taking place associated with its use. This is absolutely essential for affordable, good energy supplies.
We put out a Blueprint on climate change and in that Blueprint we said the Australian Government must look to what it needs to do to assist research and to assist development of good Australian invented technologies. This is absolutely at the cutting edge of what an Australian Government should focus on. So, when we talked about climate change and how Australia should address it, one of the things we said was: the good news is the technologies to deal with the problem are there or thereabouts. It’s not as though we have to invent a whole new array of things, we simply have to properly exploit inventing which has already been done.
You couldn’t get a better example of exploitable activity around something that has already been done than you could get in these labs with the Sliver technology which reduces the cost of the relevant cells by something like 75 per cent.
JOURNALIST: Do you have other examples of where Australian innovation is missing out on market opportunities particularly in energy fields?
BEAZLEY: I think the problem is Australian innovation in the end doesn’t miss out, it becomes somebody else’s innovation. You know, the classic thing is: marvellous work done by Australian scientist here, development takes place in the West Coast of the United States or in China or somewhere else. The thing is any Australian invention with great commercial purpose and great commercial capacity actually does get picked up – the problem is it doesn’t get picked up here. And we have to make certain, and there’s a good start being made on it in relation to this technology that we’re dealing with here, that it will be developed here in this country.
The Australian research and development investment, by commercial companies in particular, and also to a degree by public investment as well, is appalling. It is one of the lowest levels in the OECD and going backwards – shocking. Now, a government that’s concerned about investing in the future of Australia has got to change those figures. Take a look at the tax system; take a look at how we do our research and development; how we invest in and fund the universities. These are the things which are going to ensure Australian survival and success. And they’re a million miles from the agenda of the Howard Government.