Press conference at Carwarp, Victoria

SENATOR JENNY MCALLISTER, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE & ENERGY: Thank you very much. Vanessa, thank you so much for your welcome to Latji Latji Country. And can I say how lovely it is, actually, to be out here on Country with you and with all these amazing people. It is a big crowd. I was born in Murwillumbah and as my long-suffering staff know, it doesn't take very much to encourage me to a country visit. I pretty much will say yes to almost anyone who asks me to come to country Australia. And it does mean that I have the very great pleasure from time to time of coming to projects like this and just seeing what an impact it can make on a local community, but knowing that it is also a project of immense national significance.

David very graciously ran through the very long list of dignitaries and special guests. So, I'm not going to repeat that. But I do want to acknowledge, John, that this is a special day for you as founder and it's a special day for the company and for your partners, including ARENA. And it's a special day for the local community and I'm really pleased to know that there are some neighbours here and I'm hoping that you might find your way to me from within the crowd when we finish up because I'd be really interested to have a chat with you and understand a little more about the interaction between the project and the community because that matters a lot to us as a government.

And I want to say that it's also a project that has real significance in terms of what's going on globally. When the International Energy Agency modelled what it would take to get the world to net zero by 2050, they said this: “Most of the reductions in CO2 emissions through to 2030 come from technologies that are already on the market today. But in 2050, almost half of the reductions come from technologies that are currently at the demonstration or prototype phase. Major innovation must take place this decade in order to bring the these new technologies to market on time.”

Marcus talked a bit about the scale of innovation that's required for the transformation in Australia, but that's true globally too. We've got a role to play as a country, because the truth is that as innovators, we punch above our weight. It's true for our scientific organisations, but it's also true for our government organisations – organisations like ARENA and the CEFC, which provide institutional support, taking ideas out of the university into the commercial world and bringing them to a point where major investors can engage with them and get ready to take them to scale.

So, ARENA and CEFC are Labor legacies and we are justifiably proud of them. We formed them in 2011 knowing how important innovation would be to Australia and to the world, and we defended them (and this is the only political thing I'll say in the speech) against the Coalition attempts, first to abolish ARENA entirely, then to defund it and then to reshape its mission to divert it away from renewables and away from its core purpose. But they're still here and we are proud to continue to support them and anticipate the contribution that ARENA in particular will make in the coming years. Because it's important to our economy, it's important to our regions and it's important to the globe. And being here today and seeing the fruits of this partnership, here in a living demonstration of it is really fantastic.

I had the chance to speak briefly with Dr Lasich, or John as he I gather he prefers to be called, about his journey. It's a typical journey for an Australian innovator. He studies at Monash, does his PhD at Victoria University, not quite sure how to take his insights at that time forward, and you know, I gather has work experience in a range of big companies in sort of the traditional energy sector, but then comes back to his idea, I gather, with the long suffering indulgence of his wife. But he told me that he had a couple of ideas in mind. One was that he really wanted to keep the technology here. There were opportunities overseas, but he wanted to see the technology succeed here in Australia. The second thing he said was that ARENA was key to that. And you touched on it just now in your remarks, John, but you just said it so powerfully when we talked. You said “they gave me more than money”. And that's what we're really proud of about these organisations – that they bring deep knowledge and expertise about the technology, about the market and about the very specific process of taking innovation out of the lab and into the market.

This is a project that really speaks to that capability and to the kind of partnerships that we're going to need between government and the private sector and the innovation sector if we're going to make it to 2050. So, I'm thrilled to be here to open the plant. I'm also thrilled to be able to announce a new ARENA investment on behalf of the Albanese government. Another $10 million provided to RayGen. And this will be for technology design improvements, the manufacturing scale up that you've spoken about, and also the study of a 300 megawatt solar and 150 megawatt storage deployment to be built in Australia. And this is another important investment by the government in a company that is an innovation story that we ought to be proud of. And this does bring the government's funding, ARENA's funding, to over $38 million across six projects. It's a long and deep partnership and one that we are proud of.

I'll finish up by saying this. We have a long journey to walk together. We are at base camp in getting to net zero. My colleague, Minister Bowen, who I'm really pleased to work with, often describes it as ambitious but achievable. My observation is that it will require unprecedented collaboration between government and the private sector to bring it about. We are going to have to work together closely. And my hope is that through projects such as these and building the capability on the government side and the business side about how we best collaborate together, we can build a broader capability that helps us get there for the benefit of communities like this in our national interests, but also in our global interests.

So, congratulations to the very many people involved in this project. I'm utterly delighted to be here. I'm looking forward to talking with some of you as we move around the site a little bit. Thank you for being here and thank you for giving me the honour of participating in the opening.