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Hydrogen-Powered Public Transport: Minister Ben Carroll

Ben Carroll, Victoria's Minister for Public Transport, Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Minister for Industry Support and Recovery and Minister for Business Precincts, joined the Centre for Optimism and a panel moderated by Victor Perton with Madam Wheels Jacquie HayesAdam Fletcher, Program Manager of the Hycel Technology Hub at Deakin University's Warrnambool campus: Yarra Valley Water's General Manager, Service Futures Glenn Wilson and Brett Millington, Chief Executive Officer of Mildura Regional Development.


Victor Perton: Minister, what makes you optimistic?

Ben Carroll:  Doing this forum makes me optimistic, Victor.

To add to that, I will tell a quick story. I was elected in 2012, and soon after that, I attended a round table in Canberra. I'd then flown home from Canberra to Melbourne, and without knowing, I had left my driver's license at Melbourne Airport. And this lovely man knocked on my door later that night, and who should it be but Victor Perton? We were both at the same function in Canberra, and Victor had found my licence on the counter and knocked on my door with it. And I think it's a mark of the man, and they say first impressions last. So it was one of Victor's first impressions on me, and it's lasted.

Talking about Hydrogen, what we're about to talk about, the future, and tackling transport emissions, makes me very optimistic about being part of this worldwide movement from Melbourne, Victoria, joining North America, Europe, and Asia. 

Everything we need to do to get our heavy vehicles powered by Hydrogen makes me optimistic for the future.

Victor Perton: Minister, please tell us more about your Hydrogen Public Transport project starting with buses.

Ben Carroll:  A couple of things, Victor: We are doing a very important bus trial where we need to roll out all the infrastructure. 

And to be honest, when I became the public transport minister only two years ago, we only had one zero-emissions bus. 

We've now said that by 2025, every new bus the government purchases will have to be a zero-emissions bus. 

But more than that, we must be agnostic about the zero-emissions power source. I'm on a panel of experts we're going to hear from; we can't put all our eggs in the battery basket. 

We have to look at other types of alternatives. And when you've got the most abundant element in the universe in Hydrogen, and you think of the 1.2 billion vehicles on our planet, not all of those vehicles will be powered by battery.

Some of those vehicles will need a different source, and that is where Hydrogen comes in, particularly for our long vehicle type arrangements where everyone, whether it's buses or other heavy vehicles above 15 tons. So there is a unique place for Hydrogen, particularly for Victoria, with its natural resources to tap and make it a real growth industry. So I'm really excited about it. 

The panel we have here today is an excellent one, and I think I'm so excited for the future.

Victor Perton:  So Jacquie Hayes, you're seeing lots of stuff happening in the automotive industry all over. So what's your perception, and what do you think the Minister should be looking at, given he is the Transport Minster and the Public Transport Minister?

Jacquie Hayes: Well, I guess I'm going to speak to you from the perspective of the day-to-day motorists because there's a lot of interest in zero net emissions but a slow takeup in the Australian electric car market. People think it's a little bit too early and it's a little bit of an untested future. 

You seem to be making a significant commitment to Hydrogen going forward. Should we be looking at that in the automotive industry generally, or is Hydrogen the way of the future? Is the Hydrogen economy what we will see going forward, and will that be reflected in the commercial car market?

Ben Carroll: There's no doubt that it's both, in my opinion, a Hydrogen future and an electric future. When it comes to Hydrogen, we need to be part of it. You look at what Volvo is doing in Sweden. You look at the legislation that Joe Biden has just passed in Washington, DC. We need to do everything we can to make Victoria a powerhouse for Hydrogen. And then we also need to get very smart on how we look at doing it, how we look at separating the elements, where we can bring in wind power and other elements to help us in that production process.

So there's no doubt if you look at how the different fuel cell companies around the world are moving in this direction; a country like Australia, with our land mass, enormous distances, Hydrogen, our trucking industry, just has to be part of it. 

And as a politician, as a minister, I must be out there talking about it and working to pass enabling legislation, working with the treasurer, because apart from wearing public transport and roads, I'm the industry minister as well. 

And that means there's an industry here for us to tap. 

There's a real opportunity here. And to then have the work we're doing with Deakin University, to have the expertise right here in Victoria, powering this industry along, has enormous potential.

Victor Perton:  On a personal note, I got an email from John Brumby a couple of weeks ago to say he remembered I was the first person to talk to him about Hydrogen Power. I had a draft policy in 2002, but it was a bit early then. It's one of those things when you get there too early.

So one of the questions from the audience, Ben, is "when?" 

So how and when will the transition to Hydrogen powered public transport be integrated into the state government contract framework?

Ben Carroll: So we're very much looking, I think, around that 2030 mark but earlier as practicable. 

So we're already rolling out, in partnership with other major players, by 2026, Hydrogen refuelling stations on the Hume Highway, the Pacific Highway, and the Newell Highway. 

We want to ensure that it is a widespread opportunity for people to tap into. We're already using taxpayers' dollars to make multimillion-dollar investments in Hydrogen, whether it's in my portfolio or the Hume Hydrogen Highway. 

I like to think, with Anthony Albanese, a former transport infrastructure minister in the Lodge, a bit as we called him, Amtrak Joe in the White House. Having that really strong leadership in Canberra, having people like Chris Bowen and Catherine King are also real go-getters. And then I, Treasurer Tim Pallas, also trying to power us along. 

I'm very much around getting things done by that 2030 mark, which is only around the corner, and I have many more milestones leading into that as well.

Victor Perton: That's brilliant. What I love about the Prime Minister is he's an overt optimist. On the Friday night, before he was elected, he said, "The only messages I want from my government are hope and optimism." So along with you and me and Jacquie, he's a relentless optimist.

So look, there is a question from Chris Moore on that question, which is, with the new federal 2030 targets that will now affect the state-based roadmaps, the risk is that we witness an acceleration towards electric that could hinder the uptake of Hydrogen. Is that a fair point?

Ben Carroll:  I do agree in part with Chris. You're probably aware we've got the road user charge in Victoria, which in some respects you could argue has hindered a little bit or significantly, depending on which way you want to look at it, the uptake of electric vehicles. 

We still don't have enough incentives for people to use electric vehicles. We've got a little bit out there. But we're far behind other countries, and there's a real opportunity.

I think to be trying to walk and chew gum at the same time by pursuing both Hydrogen and battery-electric. But, also, bringing the community on the journey with us, on how you get Hydrogen, how you pressurise it, how you separate the elements, to have them think the hydrogen resource that we have here can't be just put to one side.

And then you can look at some of the work that people like Twiggy Forrest are doing and what they want to do on Green Hydrogen; the work of Deakin University. So we've just got to make sure we keep putting political will behind it and budget dollars as well because there's one thing that's a barbecue stopper at the moment, and it's climate change. And the transport sector, as much as any other sector, needs to be front and centre.

Victor Perton: Spot on. That allows me to bring in Adam Fletcher from Deakin University has a superb hub they're developing in Warrnambool, around hydrogen fuel, around hydrogen-powered heavy vehicles. So Adam Fletcher, who runs that project for Deakin, welcome. Do you want to tell us what you're up to and how that integrates with the Minister's vision?

Adam Fletcher: Thanks for the opportunity to share a little about the Hycel story. Our Hycel program, from Deakin's perspective, is in response to the National Hydrogen Strategy, and from there, our focus within the program again is on Hydrogen technology applications. And now that's quite broad, but our focus area with that application theme is heavy vehicle mobility. Trucks and buses are the first step there. But also, in addition, and alongside the technology and the engineering that is vehicles themselves, we also have a strong focus on education and training and social license. And touching on the Minister's last comment about awareness and an understanding of how this energy can be used as a fuel source and its application, we feel it's very important to have that in parallel to the development and the rollout of the technology, so that they can complement each other, I guess, to a large extent.

That's the overarching goal of our program, to identify transition pathways for the emerging Hydrogen economy and Deakin, positioned as a research and education institute, is very strongly positioned to really develop some of those outputs and products to support across the industry the transition that is happening. You're right, it's real, it's happening globally, and very, very exciting and very optimistic, Victor, to be part of that locally in Victoria.

How that program links in to the public transport focus, one of our industry partners for the Hycel program is Warrnambool Bus Lines. We've been working with the team at Warrnambool Bus Lines for almost since inception of Hycel two years ago, to support their project, which is older than Hycel is, on understanding what it will take to transition the Warrnambool fleet, one of their fleets they operate, from diesel to Hydrogen, to true zero emission vehicles.

The initial support that we've helped that project with is a project done by our School of IT, which is focused on refueling optimisation, and it's not only the infrastructure for Hydrogen refueling that's complex and complicated and new. When you mix that with timetable obligations for public transport services, it is far from straightforward. So part of our work was to model exactly that. Can these 12 buses operate as zero emission Hydrogen vehicles and maintain full service reliability in accordance with timetable obligations?And increasingly the modeling showed that it most certainly is able to be achieved, which was a great step forward for Warrnambool Bus Lines proposed project, and the service reliability can be retained with zero emission vehicles.

The other element of the work that Hycel is doing that will support the project is social license pillar, one of those humanistic elements that's again, as important as the technology. And some of our team from Deakin School of Business and Law have done some initial benchmarking research in the communities within Warrnambool and Portland in the southwest, to really understand the current knowledge and understanding of Hydrogen as an energy source, particularly in the mobility space. So that work is really feeding a broader program that will compliment the Warrnambool bus project once it comes to fruition, hopefully later next year, 2023, subject to a huge amount of work. And again, the Minister touched on a few of those things. Funding and earlier was referenced as well, how the service contracts with the Department of Transport are reconfigured and changed to allow for this transition to occur.

So certainly a lot of work to go, but at the same time, some really solid progress has been made to understand. Yeah, there's a lot of elements to a transition that are beyond the bus itself. And I won't for a moment declare that the bus element is easy. That is also challenging. But when we think about a transition ecosystem if you like, it really starts with green energy to produce green Hydrogen. It requires skilled operators. It requires good community support and understanding. It requires commercial and financial elements to be understood and addressed, and obviously enough, the bus technology as well.

So we're working hard with industry partners to develop that transition model and we feel very optimistic and very positive that we will meet with success for this project, that the modeling can be shared broadly and hopefully accelerate the uptake of hydrogen fuel in both bus and other transport sectors as well.

Victor Perton: Adam, your vice-chancellor, Ian, is very excited. So you've got support from the top. And when I look at the way Deakin University has transformed Geelong into a modern economy, I think you and Wannon Water and others, Warrnambool becomes a very exciting proposition.

Minister, did you have any questions or comments on the Deakin project?

Ben Carroll:  Look, it's very exciting what the team at Deakin are doing, Victor, and the only other thing, listening to Adam, what I would say as well, is the amenity on how Hydrogen helps. So you think of Deakin as a university, there are universities overseas that have zero emissions buses that are literally coming through their libraries. They are that quiet, they are that part of the local fabric, it's just so exciting.

And we also think, coming out of the pandemic, how more and more people are living, working locally, all of those things, the cafe culture, you think about the amenity that a Hydrogen type bus, a zero-emissions bus offers, in terms of helping local communities, helping people enjoy their coffee without the fumes, without the noise, it's really optimistic.

And that's why it's important to have such a tertiary player like Deakin at the table with the Department of Transport. And then going that bit further with Warrnambool Bus Lines, essentially a regional area that we know are going to be probably more reliant on Hydrogen than some of the city neighbors. Having said that though, the City of London runs a lot of Hydrogen fuel buses right around their network 24/7. So when I think of Hydrogen and I think of Hydrogen transport and Hydrogen buses, I see it very much in the suburban areas as well as the regional areas as well.

Victor Perton:  So if I ask the two of you, when are we going to get a Hydrogen powered train? We've got a question from Guy Rowson, who represents the innovation industry in Albury Wodonga. When are we going to get a Hydrogen train?

Ben Carroll: "I'm happy to go first, Victor, but I certainly won't want to put a time on it. But the Hydrogen trains are in development overseas. I think one of the things we're proud of in Victoria is our rolling stock industry. And when I think of buses, I think of Volgren, the Volvo Grenda family down in Dandenong. But then you think of the work that goes on through that whole rolling stock pipeline. It's something Victoria does very well. And Hydrogen, I will say also battery type trains as well. They've also got to be part of the mix. And you think from a transport infrastructure perspective, when we're thinking about upgrades of the V/Line network, different rail plans that are out there, we need to have the latest technology looking at how we can power it."

Adam Fletcher: "We haven't branched further than buses and trucks in this early formation stage, Victor, but we have had an initial discussion with V/Line. Warrnambool campus has its own station on the Geelong Warrnambool line. The train line runs along the northern front of our campus. So I do think, again, once our program really becomes established and our facility is complete at Warrnambool campus, the fuel cell research facility, in about 12 months time, so later in 2023, I think we'll be very well positioned to uptake more discussion and look at potential local opportunities for trials. I think part of Twiggy's focus under Fortescue Future Industries, they're doing some work on locomotives. So we'll keep a close eye on that, definitely, to see if it can be implemented a little closer to home."

Victor Perton: Glenn Wilson has joined us from Yarra Valley Water, and I've got to declare an interest. I'm on the board and a very enthusiastic supporter for Glenn's innovation agenda. They've got a pilot project producing green Hydrogen from waste-to-energy and recycled water. I think that's the ultimate in green Hydrogen.  Glenn, do you want to tell us about the project?

Glenn Wilson: "It's still a concept. We haven't actually got it up and running but hopefully it's not far away. But yeah, you're probably wondering what a water company's doing in on this conversation. But when you look at the science of Hydrogen production, it's nine kilograms of water or nine liters of water for one kilogram of Hydrogen and eight kilograms of oxygen. And I think there's been a lot of work done. It's probably actually more than that. That's the pure scientific split. I think you've got other water use going on. So the long and the short of that is if you look at some of the projects that have been proposed, particularly around these gigawatt scale hubs all around Australia, they consume in the order of 160 gigaliters of water, which to put in perspective, is about 40% of metropolitan Melbourne's annual water consumption. So you're talking about a significant amount of water. And I guess from our perspective, whether we like it or not, we're going to be involved in Hydrogen in some way.

"From our perspective, we've probably got on the front foot a bit, and as you said, Victor, we've got some unique assets that we can combine together to produce Hydrogen, having a wastewater treatment plant out at Wollert that's producing recycled water, so we're not taking drinking water from the environment or that could be used for another use. We've got our waste-to-energy, which is taking a lot of types of organic waste and creating biomethane. And the other thing that's probably unique is we have a use for the oxygen, which is when you split the water molecule into Hydrogen and oxygen, it's normally just vented to the atmosphere. In our case, we can actually take that oxygen back into our wastewater treatment process and almost supercharge the bugs and actually get better quality treatment and use less energy because we're not pumping air into the process. And down the line, if we have to make that plant bigger, we can actually design a completely different plant based on access to that pure oxygen source.

"So from us, it really creates this brilliant circular economy opportunity.  Another thing in our favour is we own a lot of land. We've got these treatment plants on sites with huge buffers. So I guess from a public perception around the safety of Hydrogen production, that takes that issue out of the mix. And I think it was great to hear Ben talk about the Hume Freeway because our site is actually located on the Hume Freeway between two local government areas. So certainly part of our concept into the future would be to have some form of refueling station for both biomethane and Hydrogen when the time's right. And in terms of the hub that I guess we're looking at in that area, probably the key uses where we're thinking about a transport has been talked about, blending back into the grid because we're not far from one of the entry points into that local network.

"And also supplying Hydrogen fuel cells for a range of customers that in a lot of industries operate at night where there's probably no access to solar. They probably don't have wind turbines if they're in a metropolitan built up area. So a Hydrogen fuel cell's a perfect option for some of those businesses to be able to power their sites, offer renewable fuel source when there's no other renewables. And Simon, who's the architect of all of this, I mean my team sorry, just posted something in the chat, and he was talking about it's not a choice between renewable energies. They all have a role to play, and often when one's weak, another's strong. And that's certainly how we view Hydrogen. It's not the answer, it's part of the answer."

(Read More on Yarra Valley's Green Hydrogen Pilot Project)

Victor Perton: So Minister, it ticks a couple of boxes, doesn't it? Very green Hydrogen on the Hume Highway. What do you reckon?

Ben Carroll:  "It sounds good, and Glenn's very much right.  We all want to tackle transport emissions. We know it's fast-growing, and it needs such a spotlight and an investment and a real government policy agenda around it. And when you think of vehicles, they often don't have a unique place. You'd appreciate this, Victor. Like vehicles, for example, trucks, and cars, they don't quite have a unique place in government policy. Who's in charge of them? Is it me as the transport minister, an industry minister, or is it the federal Minister who regulates emissions and what sort of standards of cars come into the country? We've already had a good meeting with Catherine King on this, and we need to get a bit more sharper on it.

"But what I was just going to say is we do really need to be as much as possible, a little bit agnostic on this because when you think about it, Anna Chan made a very good comment in the Zoom chat that this is a very good debate to have and a very good discussion.

"We've almost got to put as much focus on how the hydrogen is produced. You've got blue Hydrogen, and green Hydrogen: There are probably some other types out there as well.

"And I know Stanford University has shown that I think blue Hydrogen actually emits, I think, maybe 20% more carbon through its production than anything else. So we've really got to look at how do you really almost have it as a circular economy where our natural resources are very much embedded in the production process of Hydrogen to really try as much as possible, give people that sense of we're doing everything we can and do not feel guilty because your electric vehicle or the bus ride you're having, it's not a perfect world we live in, but we're doing everything we can to cut back on the carbon that comes through transport.

"So I think it's really exciting to be part of it, and we're going to have a few bumps along the way, but as long as I think we live in a realistic, pragmatic world, we'll get there. I mean, a lot of people I talk to, I said well listen, if you really want to be perfect, it's the two wheels on a bicycle, they are probably the purest form of green transportation you can take. And if you really wanted to look at it, probably the bike was made with some sort of energy emitting process as well. But so, we've just got to keep progressing the way we're going and bring the electorate and the community with us, and I think we'll get there."

Victor Perton:  There's a question to you, Glenn, from Leigh Kennedy from Canberra. And Leigh asks, "How do we get other water companies involved?"  Minister Lara Olson from Southeast Water addressed the Nelson Mandela Youth Leadership Summit recently. She said, "Leadership is not perfection." So I think that the two of you are as one.  So Glenn, what other water companies are working on getting into this space?

Glenn Wilson: "Oh, I think almost all water companies. I know our Australian governing body, Water Services Association of Australia is doing a lot of work in this space. They're putting together all sorts of discussion papers, so all the water companies are aware of the opportunity. And I probably know of 10 or 15 separate projects involving water companies, whether they're providing land, whether they're providing water, whether they're the user of the Hydrogen, there's all sorts. So I think the water industry's definitely caught onto the opportunity and I think they're pretty aware as well, of funding opportunities that are available, either through ARENA or state or federal level."

Victor Perton: Brett Millington is head of the Mildura Development Corporation and on the board of the Mildura Hydrogen Hub. Brett, welcome. Tell us, I mean, we know Mildura is a centre for solar. We know you're a huge producer of ag waste, so what are you doing in Hydrogen?

Brett Millington: We were one of the initial technology clusters or the Hydrogen technology cluster for the Mallee that was announced as part of the roadmap, if you will, under the National Energy Resources Australia network of Hydrogen clusters. So my involvement primarily has come about a couple of ways. I've spent 18 years of my life in the water industry before coming into this role, and as Glenn said, we've been working in this space for quite a period of time as water industries. But I guess from an economic perspective, the Mallee and Mildura perspective is now the largest LGA in Australia for agriculture production at $1.14 billion last year. And so there's a lot of agricultural biomass production that goes with that. And there's also a significant amount of solar, and as you'd be aware, the solar farm that was part of the power purchasing agreement initiated by the water corporations across Victoria is actually located in the Mallee, only about an hour from where I am right now.

And I guess part of that role as a cluster is really to help spearhead that connection into all industries across the production of emission-intensive industry agriculture and transport of that agriculture product. There are 800,000 tons of intermodal freight that goes from this region, typically down to the Port of Melbourne, every year. So when we start talking about trains, I get excited because I want to see a Hydrogen train that's not only taking freight from this region down to the Port of Melbourne but also taking green Hydrogen that's been produced with the solar radiation that we have excessive amounts of, the quote is four hours of sunshine than Queensland per year and we're sticking with it, and using that green Hydrogen to help power the rest of the world.

So that can head down to Adam at Warrnambool and out through the Port of Portland. But we need to start taking some of those steps. We're looking at trials. We're on the national freight corridor, where intensive movement of freight around Australia, in between Sydney and Adelaide route. So we're looking at mobility trials around transport between Mildura and Adelaide in particular, number of significant businesses in that space. And then I guess understanding also there's some unique opportunities. We have a number of mother and daughter gas networks in our region. So that enables a small unique opportunity to see how much blending we can actually get into a trial for using that Hydrogen.

So we see ourselves as a producer and a source. We also see ourselves as being a key user in that space because of our agricultural production and transport reliance, as number two and three highest emitters in those two industries. And we need to be a part of it, and leading a way for our region to continue to grow and prosper. So I think that pretty much explains why we're sitting here at the top end of the state helping to drive what we believe is the future.

Victor Perton: Minister, we've got three-quarters of the state represented on the panel. There's a question here from Mark Dossaton. Some years ago, there was a discussion about generating Hydrogen from coal in Gippsland. So there are many uses for brown coal as the power stations run down. So what do you reckon, Minister, Gippsland as well?

Ben Carroll: "Yes, certainly the Latrobe Valley, it's something that's very close to a lot of people's hearts in the Victorian cabinet, particularly the treasurer. And I know when we think about export, the opportunity there with Japan, with Toyota, to that question, Victor, that is very much something that is still much on the agenda."

Victor Perton: There's a question here or a comment from Thiago Deiro, "Hi Ben. Volgren also agrees that Hydrogen represents a significant opportunity for public transport, but there are regulation gaps that need to be addressed to permit production, transportation and handling. And I know Adam already reflected on that. Questions are, is the government working on that? When can we expect the legal framework in Australia to be rolled out?"

Ben Carroll: Thanks, Thiago. We've had our first MINCO where the state transport ministers come together with the federal Minister.  Standards and the rollout of all of this are pretty much on the agenda. I don't have a timeline yet, but there is a lot of work that is going into how do we progress this debate. And different states have different mixes, and I don't want to jump too far into the future as well, but we're also very much looking at the whole rollout of autonomous transportation as well, and some of the legalities, some of the ethics, all of those things that need to be considered going forward as well.

Victor Perton: Robert Masters asks a challenging question, "Will we get a national approach, so EV manufacturers have greater incentives to export their vehicles to Australia, and the FCAA 'secret campaign' against the overall moves to ELVs?"

Ben Carroll: "That's a good question. Other panel members may want to touch on that, because to be frank, I confronted that a bit myself, people or some stakeholders very much not wanting you to go full electric or full Hydrogen just yet. Wanting you just to take your time. Whereas we are in a climate emergency, we don't have the luxury of taking our time and we have to get on with it. And I'm fully aware of some of the pressure groups that are out there, but they're certainly not going to hold me back or Minister D'Ambrosio back for that matter or any other colleagues around the country that are very, very committed to moving this way. And to be honest, as legislators we have to play catch up.

"When I get on the car where I sometimes see you, Victor, at the South Melbourne market, I go over the Bolte Bridge and you see the Volvo ad, the ultimate safety test is the climate test. You see the Toyota ad on the Bolte, that climate change is the future. As legislators, if we don't get cracking now, a bit like when Uber came, we will get caught out. So it's something that we're very much monitoring and very much focused on, working with our departments, sharing information and working across borders as well, to get all this right."

Victor Perton: Adam, what are you seeing?

Adam Fletcher: "We don't have a huge knowledge and understanding of the light vehicle space. We're very focused in the heavy vehicle space. And I think perhaps it's one step behind the broad uptake style challenges for domestic users or light vehicles. But most certainly, two of the legislative elements that we're starting to see as another part of the whole challenge to be addressed and resolved, is again the contracts on behalf of the state to the operators need to be assessed and amended to allow for this zero emission transition.

"There's also what's becoming a little bit clearer now, particularly working with other heavy vehicle partners as Hycel is that there's a sensitivity around gross vehicle mass as well. We've got pretty clear limits, axle load limits, et cetera. So that's another challenge that OEMs, heavy vehicles, looking to set up or deliver product to Australia. It could be a bit of an impasse because of our loading limits. So I guess for me, the message is that the legislation is quite broad. It's not centered at all. There's quite a few elements of it that need to be assessed and considered and potentially amended as well."

Jacquie Hayes: "So I was just going to say again, from a motorist perspective, there's a lot of reticence to take up because there's uncertainty, and I guess there's not a very clear communication around the direction that we're going as a country, and that's what the consumer needs, I suppose, is more understanding. I know there needs to be more alignment on a federal and state level on that front. But people seem to feel that the electric car market's very much flying by the seat of their pants. Do you know what I mean? We've got these deadlines globally for when we are cutting out internal combustion engines from production, and we don't know what to do. I had this conversation today with another motorist. What happens to the batteries in electric? There's this concern about the end use of these things and the production of the power sources at the moment.

"And someone has mentioned on the chat how Hydrogen, even though it's readily available, it's cheap, it's great for batteries because it's quick to power up, five to 10 minutes compared to several hours for the cars. The range is fantastic compared to electric as well. It happens you can get the range in a Hydrogen powered car that you get when with a full fuel tank compared to the varying levels with EVs. So there's excitement around what's ahead but there's uncertainty and I think if there was some more communication from the federal and state levels, and then some unity around exactly what's happening in this country, you'd probably see some more uptake in the Australian market."

Victor Perton: Kay Clancy's got a question for the whole panel, and it's articulated as "what can we learn from China?"  I know Japan's very much advanced on this front, and I understand the Germans are as well. So Ben, when you're looking overseas, which of your minister peers you're looking at, Adam, Brett and Glenn? Who are your inspirations globally?

Ben Carroll: "For me, Victor, I draw a lot of inspiration from Pete Buttigieg in the US, the transport secretary. He's a former local mayor. He's obviously young, but he's very much a forward-thinking progressive. And I also look at Grant Shapps in the UK quite regularly as well, what they're doing. And they're actually talking a lot more about Hydrogen in aviation and things like that. So it's very exciting.

"Just on China, China was a wake-up call to me when I saw how many essentially zero emissions buses were going around Jiangsu province, literally tens of thousands. And at the time I became the Minister, we had one. So there's no doubt China is somewhere we need to keep looking at how we can learn and how we can improve, where we locate different charging infrastructure, whether it's our public transport nodes, our shopping centres and things like that. So I'm always scanning the global news for inspiration.

"Just on Jacquie's points, I think she's a hundred percent right, and I keep coming back sometimes, how do we get this right with zero emissions vehicles? And I sometimes look at the way solar panels is being rolled out. Now potentially we need a government authority that is basically there for zero emissions transportation, where the public can go to, where we can get things like the taxi industry coming to give the public an opportunity to see what electric vehicle does and how it works and get over any nervousness that they may have.

"We've got to think a bit outside the box. So that's something I'm thinking about constantly to try and meet some of those expectations that the community have out there."

Victor Perton: "I love that realistic and optimistic leadership. Adam, who do you look to for inspiration overseas?"

Adam Fletcher: "Pretty much the northern hemisphere, Victor, from a Hydrogen perspective. We've done some early work with Warrnambool's sister city, Mariestad in Sweden. They're a long way ahead of us and one of the very early adopters to use and develop a level of comfort with Hydrogen, use across homes, impairing homes, and then into mobility and also trains as well in that space. So it is a thing overseas, in the northern hemisphere particularly. California's got a pretty extensive network of Hydrogen fueling stations. So there's a lot to learn there. Kenworth Paccar have done trials in the Port of LA, with trucks as well in that space. There's some pretty strong and very well established fuel cell and electrolyser OEMs in the northern hemisphere. Germany as well. So we need more eyes to keep an eye on all this stuff. It's pretty new space for us and there is a lot to learn. So we've got eyes on quite a number of elements I suppose, of the broader cycle in the broader area that is Hydrogen."

Victor Perton: "One of our board members at the Center for Optimism is John Hagel, who ran the Deloitte Center for the Edge, and his latest book is called The Journey Beyond Fear. And the first pillar is the passion of the explorer. The curious person is what we want. And so what I love about the Minister is he's insatiably curious. I'd say that of each of the panellists, and that's what Australia needs, isn't it?

"So Glenn, obviously Yarra Valley Water is one of the most innovative Australian water companies and you've just been awarded a global award for your culture. Who are you looking at in collaborating with overseas on this front?"

Glenn Wilson: "In the Hydrogen space, I'd say we're looking everywhere and we're looking to people like Deakin and other research bodies because that's certainly an emerging area for us. But I guess from a water perspective, we've got partnerships with people in almost every continent. Singapore's probably the nearest neighbor who's got a really strong background in integrated water management, things like that. But also our European partners around probably regulation's been a little bit further ahead from an environmental perspective over there. So we've been able to learn how they've hit certain targets that we are now facing into. So yeah, but always looking everywhere, there's always gems no matter where we look."

Victor Perton: "And Brett, I know you've got a very global, always love that about Mildura, it's global Mildura. Who are your main collaborators?"

Brett Millington: "That's it, Victor. As Adam alluded to, certainly, Europe is always a vantage point that you look to. But I recall I went and spent some time at Scottish Water eight years ago, and the moment I got there and visited all of their water treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants, they had solar panels everywhere I went. I said, I'm in Scotland, and they've got solar panels, and we can't even get ourselves sorted wherever, back in Australia.

And I take optimism from the fact that we have made that journey somewhat more quickly. It took a lot of time to get there, but then we did so. But I was fortunate enough to also go over and visit Oslo and their wastewater treatment plant, which actually provides all the methane that runs their whole bus network in Oslo. So that's the sort of thing that was going on decades ago. And now we're looking at the ways that we produce our energy and utilise it in different ways.

"I just think there's so much that's transferred in our thinking as Australians in the last few years in particular. I mean, I still remember picking up the Herald Sun and seeing talk about the climate crisis. Am I in Victoria reading the Herald Sun. It was a big change in narrative in a small period of time, and now we've continue to change that. So yes, certainly agreeing with what Kay said about changing their narrative there and what it means going forward."

Victor Perton:  "Minister, Kay Clancy's the head of The Center for Optimism's Transformation Project, which produced a checklist for optimists leading transformation and change projects.  We've also presented to the federal government and the Federal Treasury a blueprint for a positive national narrative. So we're hearing a lot of that optimistic leadership needed to lead change from you, Minister."

"It's not just a story. You're giving us a narrative that takes us to 2030 and beyond. So my final question to you before we start to wind up is, on this call, we've got manufacturers, we've got scientists, we've got universities, we've got Swinburne, all sorts of people, what can we, the people who passionately support you on this, do to help you?"

Ben Carroll: "Thanks Victor, and thanks for having me. Look, it's so important that we essentially carry the community with us on this journey, and there's no doubt that having a conversation about the future as we are now is where politics is essentially at its most elevated. And we need to keep having that conversation.

"So these are the things we need to do, to keep collaborating. We need to keep sharing the stories of what's happening down at Warrnambool, what's happening in Mildura, the work Jacquie's doing, so we can just keep pushing this agenda along.

"And I think it's really exciting, and I thank you, Victor, for bringing us together because this hour's just got me more motivated than ever on how we have the right ideas, we have the knowhow, we've just got to get that willpower to make it happen as well. So yeah, it's been a real pleasure."

Victor Perton: May ask Robert Masters, the chair of the Center for Optimism, to summarise, wind up and thank everyone.

Robert Masters: "Thanks very much, Victor.

"I'd like to extend my thanks to the Minister, and the other panellists and participants.  What you have outlined is a very optimistic future as far as the pathway to zero missions.

"And I was very encouraged to watch the Prime Minister and the Minister discuss how we will transition into this pathway.

"And Hydrogen's an important part.  At the time Victor produced his hydrogen policy 20 years ago, a European car manufacturer that my team was representing at the time brought out a Hydrogen vehicle. We wanted a trial between Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney. And unfortunately, the then government wouldn't move towards that.  It was far too early in the piece. But your proposed hydrogen highways are very important for the future as to exactly how these vehicles can actually fit into the overall system on this pathway to zero emission.

"So I'd encourage you and Victoria itself to participate more and more in the bigger dialogue as far as the nation and the world is concerned. And I would very much hope that Victoria leads the way in it as well.

"So thank you all very much for your contributions this afternoon. It's been a pleasure to be part of it. And thank you, Victor."

Ben Carroll: Thanks, Robert, for your kind words, Victor, Jacquie, Adam, Brett, Glenn and everyone that's been part of it. I have noted that "great leadership is not perfection", and that'll be going up on the board behind me. I'm very grateful to have been able to share this hour with you all."


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