2CC Canberra Live with Leon Delaney

28 March 2022

MONDAY, 28 MARCH 2022 

SUBJECTS: Community battery announcements for Canberra; Queanbeyan veteran wellbeing centre: Budget 2022; Costs of living; Housing affordability; Childcare; Australian Institute of Sport; AIS Arena; Increasing threats to politicians and political staff.

LEON DELANEY, HOST: There's all sorts of things been revealed about the budget already. But equally on the other side of politics. The Labor opposition has also been making a series of announcements of how they will spend our hard earned money should they be elected to office. Among those promises, community batteries across Canberra's suburbs, announced today. Joining me now local Member for Canberra, Alicia Payne. Good afternoon.


DELANEY: Thanks for joining us. These community batteries. What will they do? Where will they go? And why are they a good thing?

PAYNE: Well, they're an excellent thing, Leon. And it was great to have Chris Bowen here to announce this today and have Andrew Barr, Chief Minister join us as well. with my colleagues, Andrew Leigh and David Smith. We've announced there'll be three community batteries for Canberra. One is Casey, one is in Fadden, and one is in Dickson, in my electorate of Canberra. And why these are so important is that here in Canberra, people have really been investing in renewable energy. And we've got more than one in four households have rooftop solar. But they can't actually utilise all the power from that because batteries, most households don't have their own batteries  because they're quite expensive. So what a community battery allows them to do is for households to connect to that and actually store the energy so that it can be used at night as well. And also to take some of the pressure off the grid, because the grid can't actually keep up at the moment, can't store all that energy and use it. So this will actually reduce power bills and it will obviously reduce emissions. And another great thing about it is it allows people who can't have their own rooftop solar, who might be renting or living in an apartment, to be part of this battery scheme and actually be part of that transition to renewable energy.

DELANEY: So if I've got rooftop solar panels, and I don't have a battery at home, I'll be able to put my electricity in the community battery, and then I'll be able to get my electricity back again, when I need it. Is that how it works? Or do I have to pay for it? Is it like putting it back into the grid? And then you have to buy it back again?

PAYNE: No, you don't have to buy it back again. But what it does is it stores it so that it can go back into the grid and it reduces the power bills for the households that are connected to it. And each battery can power up to 100 households.

DELANEY: Okay, so there's three batteries, that's 300 houses across Canberra. How many houses are there in Canberra?

PAYNE: Oh, I don't actually know that off the top of my head, Leon but this is part of ... 

DELANEY: There's about 400,000 thousand people, so maybe at least 100,000 houses. So it's not that many houses are actually going to benefit from this is it?

PAYNE: It benefits, as I say like it enables us to store a lot of that power and it all feeds back into the grid. But also part of the announcement today was working with, that a federal Labor government would work closely with a with our ACT government to deliver broader storage solutions, battery storage across the ACT. So the ACT government is committed to delivering at least 250 megawatts of battery storage across the ACT, including these community scale battery storage solutions. So this is just one part of a bigger move towards better utilising that investment in renewable energy.

DELANEY: Okay, not the same electorate. But Labor today is also announced that they will provide funding in Queanbeyan for a veteran well-being centre. $5 million is a fairly substantial piece of funding for such a centre. What will that provide?

PAYNE: This is a great announcement as well, Leon This is about supporting veterans in a way that is designed by veterans. And obviously, we've seen in recent years a lot of coverage around the suffering of veterans and the poor mental health of veterans, and even veterans facing issues like homelessness. And I've met with a group, Soldier On, which is a veteran support organisation, and heard firsthand about how important these hubs are. And we obviously have a large population of veterans here in Canberra and the Queanbeyan region. So this hub will be in Queanbeyan and that's great news for Canberra as well as veterans will be able to access that. And if we have a Labor government, it's great news that that will be established.

DELANEY: Soldier On have got their office just up the road from us so we're quite well aware of who they are and the work that they do. There's been obviously a lot of speculation about what might or might not be in the budget tomorrow night. And, of course we've got an election coming along in the next couple of months, possibly even sooner, who knows? So what would you like to see in the budget to benefit Canberra? The city of Canberra, not the not the capital, the city of Canberra tomorrow night? And, more broadly, what do you think will be the election issues that ACT voters will be thinking about?

PAYNE: Well, there's so many things that myself and Canberrans would like to see in the budget tomorrow night. Obviously, costs of living are a really key issue and petrol prices at the moment. There's no doubt that there will be some assistance with that in the budget, the government has confirmed that, but we're yet to see the detail of that. And I just want to make the point that, obviously, the petrol prices have increased steeply in recent months, because of the war in Ukraine. But we have had costs of living rising for the whole time that this government has been in power. And one off handouts and things like that, that they're going to do in in tomorrow night's budget, don't make up for nine years of inaction on these issues. We've got an election, will be called, any time, will need to be called anytime in the next couple of weeks. So the whatever they announce tomorrow night will not make up for nine years of not addressing these issues.

DELANEY: There is speculation about cash payments, but they're only quite modest and there's you know, as you say, the government has indicated there'll be something offered on petrol prices. But that will be only a temporary measure. Obviously, we wait and see what the Labor reply to the budget is later in the week. But in terms of election issues, all of Australia's talking about cost of living. But what specifically do you think would be pertinent to ACT voters?

PAYNE: I think housing is a really key issue for Canberrans. And something that people raise with me a lot. And that's something that I know Labor will have more to say about before the next election. We've already announced a $10 billion investment in social and affordable housing, which is part of our focus on that. Another issue that Canberrans raise with me a lot of is the cost of childcare. And we announced our policy on that quite a while ago, actually. And it is a policy that would see 86% of families that use childcare better off under our policy than the government's current policy, which actually started just a couple of weeks ago, their new policy, which they announced in response to ours. Their policy will help families who have two or more children in childcare, which is actually not that common or for not that long. Whereas our policy benefits families for the entire time that they use childcare. And it also benefits families up to quite a high income of family income, because we really see this as an investment both in productivity and enabling families to make, not be held back by the cost of childcare when they make decisions about how much they want to work. But also enabling our youngest Canberrans and Australians to accessing the benefits of early learning.

DELANEY: Okay, so those are a couple of potential election issues that you've identified. But in recent weeks, there's been a lot of talk in the community of Canberra about our serious, and, you know, quite extensive lack of adequate sporting facilities. Both on the large scale and on the community scale. But particularly when it comes to major national sports. Where we have a, you know, an ageing GIO stadium. We have, of course, AIS Arena that's been out of action for about three years now. We've got, it's become a national embarrassment. And obviously, there's a bit of finger pointing going on between the ACT government and the federal government. But there is clearly a role for federal government involvement here, isn't there?

PAYNE: There is and absolutely, I agree that we do need some better facilities because, you know, seeing that, for example, the Canberra Capitals not having an appropriate place to play their finals when they're one of our most successful sporting teams is incredibly disappointing. And it really is in this case, in the case of the AIS, it's under the federal government that that AIS Arena has been able to decline to a point that it's not safe to use for large events. I mean, obviously it's being used as the vaccination hub and that's because you don't have the full capacity. It's an issue around having big crowds in there. And this has been on the liberal federal government's watch. They are responsible for the AIS, the ACT government does not own that facility. And we're yet to know what they're doing with the AIS more generally. And so that's something that federal Labor, you know, our local federal Labor team had been in discussions with our leadership about this, because it is something where the federal government have let the AIS decline like this. And obviously, we're the nation's capital and it'd be good to see our federal government take pride in that. And, obviously, with a smaller population, our government, local government doesn't have the revenue to necessarily have the money we need to fix all these facilities.

DELANEY: Absolutely. Just before I let you go today, your colleague, Andrew Leigh is in the headlines today, because he's been awarded a protection order by the court. After some sort of interaction with a constituent and some sort of threats were made against him, apparently, although it's not clear exactly what they were. But what he has said today, was that the threats directed at him were in fact rather mild, by comparison to what his female colleagues are frequently subjected too. In his words, abuse which would make a pirate blush. Has that been your experience?

PAYNE: Look, it is incredibly disappointing and sad to see that this is the Andrew's had to do this. And I wasn't aware until, you know, this has come out that he was going through that. And I do hear of absolutely shocking things that are said to colleagues, and situations that they're in. We are seeing a sort of different world for MPs and it is quite scary because, you know, perhaps the most important part of your job is being out with your community, letting them know where you're going to be so that you can talk to them. And the fact that there's increasing concerns around MPs safety around Australia and the world is a really worrying thing. And it's a worrying thing for our democracy. So I was really sorry to hear that. I'm sort of a bit hesitant to talk too much about my own experiences. Just to say, yeah, you can feel a bit vulnerable at times. 

DELANEY: Alright well, I'll won't press on that. But thanks very much for chatting today.

PAYNE: Thanks a lot, Leon.

DELANEY: Thank you. Alicia Payne, the federal Member for Canberra