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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Senator the The Hon Penny Wong
Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water

Green precincts fund, G8 and major economies forum, financing, Uluru board of management draft management plan

E&OE Transcript
Interview - Sydney Theatre Company
12 July 2009

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JOURNALIST: Can you describe for us exactly what the plan will involve, basically the pieces to be installed and what they will do?

ANDREW UPTON: Well I'm not an engineer or anything but as far as I know we're putting in about 2000 pluto cells, 2000 of those panels on our roof in a very heritage conscious way so a lot of it, as you can see up here, a lot of it is not even visible...

Yes, unfortunately, they can point to it, there's that battery -The Sydney Theatre Company. That's for the solar end of things, fairly simple. An ingenious water capture device which is a pipe about this thick which runs the length of the wharf just above high tide and captures all of the water, you know captures the water, harvests the water and it's stored in the pipe, just sort of running along the bottom of the wharf, which is a beautiful piece of engineering as far as I can tell.

JOURNALIST: Is this the theatre company's idea? Who came up with the concept to start this green project here?

UPTON: That was an idea that Cate and I brought to the board when we did our job interview, so a long time ago, and Rob and Sally particularly have run with it and it's just run.

CATE BLANCHETT: It is a testament to the power of the idea that Peter was also alluding to earlier is that it's really gripped the company as a whole and already it has begun to shift not only us creating best practice within the company and doing what everyone really is doing ,we have a green committee and we're making changes small and large. But it has begun to infiltrate the way we think creatively .

UPTON: That's the big hope that it starts to affect set design and the way we start to think and talk about what we do.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask one of the Ministers, you spoke about the need to use iconic buildings with this project, can you speak specifically why the wharf?

GARRETT: Applications for the Green Precincts Fund we're seeking to have those who applied demonstrate that they were able to put in place good energy efficiency technologies and that they would be able to additionally leverage the installation of those technologies in a way which interacted with the community and provide a good educative and public information capacities. And this location clearly is one which has got high public traffic, it's a place of considerable cultural activity but it's also a place of some tourism activity as well so it fulfilled the criteria. There were significant assessments done of all the applicants and we had an independent assessor go over the final decisions that were made but Sydney Theatre Company came up trumps.

JOURNALIST: You we're saying it's infiltrating the whole thinking of the theatre, can you give as a practical example (inaudible)?

BLANCHETT: Just on a prosaic level, we are analysing the timbers that we use. If you go down into a workshop and think of every flat that's used when you construct a set, it's about using recycled timbers, recycling all of our materials, and also giving a brief to our designers to think in a way of going back to the basics, what do they need, what do they absolutely require to reduce, in a sense - I don't know what theatre company in the world can - any sort of bloat. Because personally I know creatively, that when you're given a set of things which may initially look like compromises, they're actually opportunities. And for me that's the power of the opportunity that's in climate change, is the ability to re-think and re-examine ways that we thought we needed to behave in. I mean if you look at the way its already affected industrial design, interior design, it's very -we hope it will have similar impacts on the way we work here. And we would love to look towards doing a season of plays that are as far possible off the grid, so offering to a lighting designer, you have two candles and a torch [laughs] get back to us in a couple of weeks and see what you can do. That's taking it to an extreme, but that's the way we're trying to think. It's been incredibly creative.

JOURNALIST: Penny Wong can I ask you given the Prime Minister's comments he's not confident of a deal going ahead in Copenhagen, doesn't it show there's no rush for Australian legislation?

WONG: Well I think there is a rush to actually start action on climate change; we only have to look at what is already occurring. How often do we have to hear what the scientists have to tell us before we act? That's my question to Mr Turnbull, how long do you want to wait? But can I say this, we have been very clear since we were elected that this agreement at Copenhagen will be hard, it will be hard to get an agreement. But Australians don't run away from things that are hard, and we particularly don't do that when we know it is the right thing to do and this is the right thing to do. We have seen this week Kevin alongside leaders such as President Obama, Gordon Brown, Angela Merkel, all of whom are focused on actually taking action on climate change, on responding to the challenge and the risk that we face now, and which faces future generations. So what I would say to Mr Turnbull, who's latched onto this as yet another excuse not to act, yet another reason to delay, that this is about Australia doing what is in our national interest. We know we're exposed as a nation to the effects of climate change, and we need to act, we should act, and if you look at what the G8 has said, we see the leading economies of the world are saying the same thing.

JOURNALIST: Is it a gaffe though by the Prime Minister though, should he have kept that close to his chest?

WONG: I think people seem to be forgetting both the Prime Minister and I and other Ministers have been saying for some time, Copenhagen will be difficult. This is an agreement that will be hard to build but if all nations do as Mr Turnbull wants us to do, which is sit on the sidelines and carp, then we know we won't get an agreement, we know climate change will accelerate, and we know we will expose not only our economies but our children to higher risks.

JOURNALIST: Senator Wong in terms of practical solutions, when will Australia outline its position on providing financial assistance to developing countries to tackle climate change and will you back Gordon Brown's push for a $100 billion fund?

WONG: We were one of the nations who welcomed Prime Minister Brown's contribution. I think it was a very important contribution to the debate, for someone to actually put a figure on the table for people to discuss. We know as a nation that financing is an important part of what is being negotiated, it's currently part of the negotiations, and there are a whole range of things, it's not simply an issue of what money needs to be given. It's also how do we leverage the carbon market, how do we get private finance flowing to developing countries. One of the ideas that Australia has put forward for example in the negotiations is a forest carbon mechanism that is to actually provide a financial incentive with the poorer nations of the world to preserve their forests rather than to cut them down. These are the sorts of financial flows which we need to construct. There is a long way to go on this, there is a lot more work that needs to be done in the negotiations about the structure of how financing would flow, and Australia will continue to participate in that.

JOURNALIST: But does the Government in principle support the idea of such a fund?

WONG: We have always said in principle we recognise that financing will be part of any global agreement...

JOURNALIST: Will the Government hand out money for this?

WONG: As I've said we've always recognised that, those decisions are decisions which will be made when the final form of the financing arrangements are resolved. Those are still matters which are being discussed in the international arena.

JOURNALIST: When are we likely to see that?

WONG: Well I think I've answered that question. These are issues that are being negotiated in the lead up to Copenhagen, and financing will be a part of that and the Government's position on that is obviously going to be informed by those negotiations.

JOURNALIST: Cate, you spoke recently to world business leaders about the need to come to an agreement on climate change, how do you feel about the recent progress?

BLANCHETT: I'm feeling very positive, because I feel that there is moves to increase targets which have perhaps fallen behind everyone's hopes and expectations and that's sort of happened in the last three or four months. And I really do feel there's a pressure on the public to become active in the debate, and for the public to become proactive, like we're trying to become proactive as a company in making changes and embracing the opportunities, certainly in the lead up to Copenhagen. Because, you speak to any climate scientist and they say this is that last port of call, so it's an incredibly important moment. So you have to approach it realistically, which I think is what Senator Wong was probably referring to, but also optimistically because we do need to set very hard and realistic targets if we want to continue.

JOURNALIST: Back on this project can I ask the boring but inevitable dollars question, it's a very expensive project, price of $4 million, obviously ticks a lot of green boxes, but how cost effective is it?

BLANCHETT: For us, it's incredibly cost effective, I think the actual figures of what we'll save over the next 25 years have been calculated, which I don't have on hand, it is incredibly significant. In terms of what we draw from the grid, we reduce that immediately by 70%, and as we've referred to our carbon emissions which are of course vitally important, and go beyond the dollar value, and that is over 550 billion tonnes per year, which is like taking anywhere from between 120 and 150 cars off the road per annum, so those things are very quantifiable. But it's also, we have over 300,000 audience members, captive audience members who come for a good time, and when you have a good time and you realise that you're making very little impact on the planet, and actually having some positive benefits on the planet, then you cannot measure in dollar terms the value that has in terms of disseminating the positive aspects of taking proactive steps to combat climate change.

JOURNALIST: Mr Garrett , on another issue, what is your response to Kevin Rudd pouring cold water on the plan to close the Uluru climb?

GARRETT: Look the draft management plan that is out for comment is exactly that, the draft management plan that is out for comment, and I expect there to be some pretty healthy discussion around the country about that. We will listen to all the stakeholder views; the board itself is the body that is responsible for developing that draft management plan. They're canvassing the closure of the climb, they're doing it for reasons that they've identified and it will now be a case of having a good healthy discussion about it. And as we have that discussion, the board can take onboard the views that they've heard and then we'll make a decision subsequently.

JOURNALIST: But don't you think the PM was reckless? I mean he's not just anybody from the public expressing his views?

GARRETT: Look, everybody in this country has the opportunity to express a view about matters, from the Prime Minister all the way down to the theatre goers that come to the Sydney Theatre company and start watching performances that are powered by solar energy and I think that is a good and healthy thing.

ENDS

Commonwealth of Australia