According to a first-hand report of the event at the Publisher’s Hotel on Tuesday night, published by Renew Economy, the Premier had some choice words for critics of South Australia’s electricity system.
Weatherill was speaking at the launch of federal Labor MP Mark Butler’s new book, Climate Wars, which includes an anecdote about the lights going out at singer Adele’s Adelaide Oval concert in March.
According to a report of the speech by PhD student Marc Hudson, “Weatherill admitted that his heart was in his mouth, and joked that treasurer and energy minister Tom Koutsantonis had ‘fainted in the corporate box’ until Adele quickly explained that a roadie had unplugged the wrong cord. The lights were soon back on”.
“That didn’t stop ‘right-wing f***wits” (the writer clarifies elsewhere that these were Weatherill’s words) from seeking to take advantage of the situation. He took particular aim at The Australian commentator Chris Kenny, who had been sending tweets proclaiming another blackout.”
Today, Weatherill’s spokesperson would only say: “The Premier made his lighthearted remarks at a private function.”
Kenny was amused at finding himself the target of the Premier’s ire after suggesting on his Sky News program Heads Up in March that the Adele outage – which he said was probably the result of a “blown fuse or something” – was nonetheless symbolically an “absolute embarrassment for SA and the State Government”.
“If I was Jay Weatherill I wouldn’t get angry about people joking about his power problems,” Kenny told InDaily.
“He should be getting angry about his own incompetence in delivering the world’s most expensive electricity that’s not even reliable.”
.@chriskkenny says a blackout at @Adele's Adelaide concert comes at the worst time for the SA government. #HeadsUP pic.twitter.com/PT4dW0OITv
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 13, 2017
Kenny cut his teeth in Adelaide as a reporter for channels Ten and Nine before moving into the political sphere as an adviser and chief of staff to Liberal premiers John Olsen and Rob Kerin, and later to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
His sister Therese, also a long-term Liberal adviser, is the Liberal Party’s candidate for the state seat of Torrens at the SA election next March.
Weatherill has been aggressive in his defence of South Australia’s energy policies this year, taking on federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg during a live televised press conference.
Today, federal Treasurer Scott Morrison joined the rhetorical battle, ridiculing South Australia’s deal with tech billionaire Elon Musk to supply the world’s biggest battery facility.
He has labelled the deal a “Hollywood solution”, and he doubled down during a visit to Adelaide today.
“By all means, have the world’s biggest battery, have the world’s biggest banana, have the world’s biggest prawn like we have on the roadside along highways around the country but that’s not solving the problem,” he said.
“It is so at the margin it barely is worthy of a mention. 30,000 South Australian households could not get through watching one episode of Australia’s Ninja Warrior with this big battery.”
The battery is designed to help the electricity network respond within milliseconds to disruptions to ensure there isn’t a wider collapse – and is not necessarily intended to power thousands of houses for long periods.
Earlier, Mr Morrison told the Australian Industry Group: “Australians are sick and tired of watching political parties fight over the right energy solution.”
The government’s most important task in the coming year was to push power prices down, he said.
It is considering Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s recommendation to establish a clean energy target to encourage more investment in the sector while reducing emissions.
Morrison said people had to be real about investment in new lower-emissions coal plants, noting if the economics did stack up, they would still take a long time to build and wouldn’t fix the power price problem anytime soon.
“When it comes to coal, the best thing we can do is simply ensure the power stations we currently have … stay open, remain economic and work longer into the future,” he said.
Modelling accompanying the Finkel electricity market review shows adopting a clean energy target is the best way to keep coal generators open as long as possible.
The government has also asked the competition watchdog to investigate power prices.
Chairman Rod Sims says the affordability problem has built over the past decade.
“A whole lot of policy changes have been made and people have really had no regard to the affordability of electricity,” he told ABC radio.
“(State governments) chasing the maximum dollar when they privatised has cost electricity consumers, they’re going to have to pay more money.”
– with AAP
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