Sep 11, 2018

Matters of Public Importance – Energy – Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:34): They just had an opportunity for the new minister for energy to outline what the coalition’s energy policy is, and what did we get? Nothing. ‘Lower prices’, he said. What’s their policy to fix the drought—’More rain’? These people just cannot be taken seriously over an issue which is serious. We know what their policy was, because the now Treasurer said this just a couple of months ago:

… if you believe in lower power prices, if you want to see Australian households $550 a year better off, if you want to see the wholesale price down by 20 per cent, if you want to be side by side with the big employers across the country, you get behind the National Energy Guarantee …

That’s what they were saying when parliament last sat, but now they’ve ripped it up. This is a new minister who doesn’t know the difference between a coal-fired power station and an aluminium smelter in the Hunter Valley. This is a minister who, when he was the minister for cities, was known as a walking wind farm. There was lots of movement and lots of air around, but not much actually happened as he ran around the country.

Of course the tragedy of this is that, like in other areas of infrastructure development, what you need here for business to drive investment is certainty. But what do we have from this government? What we have when it comes to transport is that those opposite have moved away from the Infrastructure Australia model. They’ve taken money off projects that were ready to go and given it to projects that never, ever happened, and therefore we’ve seen a drop in investment. What we’ve seen on water is the National Water Initiative trashed by this mob. We’ve seen all sorts of water siphoned off to mates, with various corruption inquiries in New South Wales, and South Australia suffering at the end of the system. What we’ve seen on communications is the National Broadband Network abandoned, with a system now based on copper rather than fibre.

What we’ve seen on energy is perhaps the worst of all of the infrastructure modes. In 2007, in this parliament, both sides supported a price on carbon, an emissions trading scheme and ratifying the Kyoto protocol, but in December 2009 those opposite combined with the Greens political party to destroy that price on carbon. What we saw then was that, despite that, against the odds, we did legislate for an emissions trading scheme with a fixed price in the initial stage. But those opposite walked away from that. They trashed that, and we saw a doubling of wholesale power prices. Then we saw an EIS, an emissions intensity scheme, which they walked away from. Then there was the clean energy target. We were prepared to talk about that, but they walked away from that. The National Energy Guarantee in its various forms—they walked away that. What we’ve seen from this ATM government over here, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, is: insert some policy, but nothing coming out. Nothing constructive comes out at all, and it is Australians who are paying the price through higher prices.

If you are going to get that certainty, you have to know what you stand for and you have to be prepared to take people with you. You have to be able to work collaboratively. For the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, who’s now in New York, even obscurity is better than trying to work with this mob opposite. And, if you know Malcolm Turnbull, that’s really saying something. But for this minister to be given responsibility for this portfolio shows just how bereft those opposite are. We on this side of the House know that the future is renewables. We on this side of the House know that by driving down emissions you drive down prices. Supply and demand—when you increase the amount of supply in the energy sector through growth of renewables, you drive down prices. Those opposite talk about business. The fact is business wants certainty; business wants what those opposite have refused to give them. (Time expired)