After the prime minister said in a speech on Tuesday the government would back the construction of a new gas-fired power station in the Hunter Valley if the energy company AGL failed to replace Liddell, Cannon-Brookes told Guardian Australia the prime minister needed to be clear about what the government was proposing and then let the market sort out the optimal replacement.
“Would I seriously have a look at this? Yeah, why not,” the tech billionaire said.
“Let people come and bid – don’t force the solution and declare the outcome. What I’m saying is declare the rules and put it out to the market and that will get the best outcome for consumers.
“Be clear about how much money you are going to put up – don’t say if it’s a gas plant I’ll put up $500m but renewables don’t need any [subsidy] – that’s literally what [Morrison] said, renewables don’t need the subsidies, but gas does.
“I mean, what? Giant fossil fuel companies need subsidies to extract gas and export it? No they don’t, that is bullshit. So declare the rules of the game. That’s the way to get assets built.
“If those rules existed, would I, potentially, with friends, be interested in looking at them seriously and potentially putting in a bid? Absolutely. Give us the rules, let’s start by putting the rules together.”
Cannon-Brookes said Morrison had put a confusing proposition into the public domain when he outlined the next steps in the Coalition’s gas-led recovery from Covid-19. Morrison had argued his government was “technology agnostic but we are going to go and build a gas plant – that doesn’t make sense”.
“The engineers, the scientists, the economists, nobody is asking for that thing, so just be clear,” Cannon-Brookes said. “If you are going to say I am building a gas plant, just say I’m building a gas plant, don’t smoke it with ‘lower prices’ – this will result in higher prices.”