Senior public servants avoid answering questions relating to why a federal minister rejected a loan for a wind farm in Queensland
Australian Officials Avoid Minister’s Wind Farm Veto
RAVENSHOE, Australia — It remains unclear whether the energy department advised Australia’s resources minister to veto a loan for a wind farm in far north Queensland.
Senior officials from the Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources are on May 25 appearing at Senate estimates, facing questions about government spending and decisions.
The officials spent the morning answering broad questions about the government’s recent AU$600 million ($465 million) cheque for a gas-fired power station in New South Wales but avoided answering questions about a Queensland wind farm.
Resources Minister Keith Pitt used his ministerial veto power to stop an AU$280 million ($217 million) loan to the Kaban green power hub, which comprises a 157-megawatt wind farm and 100-megawatt battery.
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) recommended the project receive a loan.
Pitt claimed that the loan was against government policy.
Labor senator Nita Green has attempted to find out if senior officials told him so.
“Did the department actually provide advice to minister Pitt about the inconsistency with the government’s energy policy and that project?” she said.
“The officials here have a lot of knowledge about reliability, about the energy policy, you’re the owners of the so-called energy policy.
“And I’d like to know if these department officials – not the ones that will appear later – have given advice to that minister about this project.”
But department boss David Fredericks claims it was not the time to answer.
“The question you’re asking is of the department, not of the officials. That is a question which respectfully we will answer next week.”
He denied it was a convoluted reason.
Pitt has to legally provide parliament with a statement of reasons for his decision, which he has not done yet.
Because of his decision, the Queensland government will instead help support the wind farm.
Queensland Energy, Renewables, and Hydrogen Minister Mick de Brenni claim that the state will invest AU$40 million ($31 million) in upgrading transmission lines to support the Kaban project.
The investment will help provide certainty because the federal government is “hopelessly conflicted” on renewable energy.
“The Morrison government turned their back on this project — rejecting the 250 jobs it will create for workers,” Brenni said on May 21.
“Federal Minister for Northern Australia Keith Pitt personally vetoed the NAIF loan in an attempt to block more renewable energy in Queensland.”
“The Morrison government is hopelessly conflicted on renewable energy, even going so far as to ignore large-scale storage in the region to veto Kaban under the guises of dispatchability.”
“Federal minister Keith Pitt’s veto announcement just doesn’t stack up.”
(Edited by Vaibhav Vishwanath Pawar and Pallavi Mehra. Map by Urvashi Makwana)