House debates

Monday, 19 June 2017

Questions without Notice

Energy

2:00 pm

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. On 1 July Energy Australia electricity prices for the average household in New South Wales will rise by nearly 20 per cent or about $320 per year. Energy Australia has explained:

Doing nothing means higher prices and less reliable energy for all customers.

Will the Prime Minister now commit to work with Labor in the national interest to end the policy paralysis which continues to mean higher electricity prices for all Australians?

2:01 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition imagines that he and his party have a great deal to contribute to bringing electricity prices down, because, after all—

Photo of Mark DreyfusMark Dreyfus (Isaacs, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Attorney General) Share this | | Hansard source

We do.

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

They do, says the member for Isaacs. Well, when they were in government, they doubled. That was their contribution.

Mr Dreyfus interjecting

So they have a great track record. Perhaps they think that, because they know how to double electricity prices, they have an insight into how to bring them down.

The reality is that the challenges we face in terms of electricity prices are overwhelmingly the consequence of policy failures by the Labor Party, allowing energy and climate policy to be determined by ideology and politics, not by engineering and economics. There was the setting of massive renewable targets without any regard to the storage and the backup power that was so obviously necessary. There was no regard given to that at all. Therein lies the foundation of South Australia's problems.

But, right now, the single biggest element pressuring wholesale prices for electricity is the price of gas. Why have gas prices gone up so much? Well, it could have a bit to do with the Victorian Labor government banning exploration and development. It could have a bit to do with that. What about the decision of the previous federal Labor government and the Queensland Labor government to allow a massive level of investment in exporting gas as LNG from Curtis Island without having any regard to the consequences for domestic supply? And yet they were warned. They were warned in their own energy white paper and warned by AEMO. They knew it was a risk and they took it. And my government has had to take the strong and unprecedented step of putting restrictions on exports in order to protect tens of thousands of Australian jobs.

Opposition members interjecting

Labor's track record on energy is consistent. The one thing you know about the Labor Party is that energy and electricity will always be more expensive.

2:04 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the steps the government is taking to put downward pressure on electricity prices and improve the reliability of the energy network for households and businesses?

Ms Butler interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Griffith is now warned.

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. The honourable member's electorate has a large number of manufacturing industries, including those at the most innovative edge, and they need reliable and affordable energy to thrive and prosper.

Ms Catherine King interjecting

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

It is critical for jobs in the honourable member's electorate and in the electorates of all honourable members. It is critical for investment, which is critical for the wellbeing of communities. All honourable members should be well aware that we have seen increasing pressure on energy prices. It is putting real pressure on household budgets. It is putting real pressure on businesses as they see the price of electricity and, even more so, the price of gas increasing at a rapid rate. These are very troubling developments, and we are taking action to deal with them. We are taking action to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. This is not an experiment or an issue to be solved by ideology or politics. The keys to answering and addressing this problem are economics and engineering.

In my previous answer I talked about what we are doing to ensure that there is adequate gas supply for the domestic market. That is a vitally important source of energy for electricity and thermal heat and of feedstock for the petrochemical and other industries. This is a vital part of our economy, and prices have gone up dramatically because of a scarcity of supply, which is driven by the consequence of foolish and ill-thought-out decisions by previous governments—both of them Labor, as it happens—to allow exports from Curtis Island without any regard to ring fencing or protecting gas supplies for the domestic market.

Moreover, we are examining the way in which we can increase the efficiency of gas pipelines, another big part of the cost of gas. We are working on reforms there. The ACCC is ensuring that there will be real transparency in the gas market. More transparency about prices will enable us to monitor and manage that sector better. But, above all, we are committed to the single largest increase in renewable generation in our history: Snowy Hydro 2.0—2,000 megawatts.

Opposition members interjecting

Members opposite scoff. Well, they might talk about a few batteries here and there. Let me tell you, Snowy Hydro 2.0 will be able to generate 2,000 megawatts not for an hour but for 7½ weeks. (Time expired)

2:07 pm

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. In just 12 days time, on 1 July, EnergyAustralia's electricity prices for the average household in New South Wales will go up by nearly 20 per cent, or almost $320 a year. Why is the Prime Minister cutting the $365 energy supplement for pensioners, a cut that will make it even harder for pensioners to keep the heater on this winter? Why is the Prime Minister hurting pensioners while giving millionaires a tax cut? (Time expired)

2:08 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. We have been through this before in this place. The particular supplement that the member for Jagajaga refers to—

Ms Macklin interjecting

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

which is a savings measure of the government, is also a savings measure that they have banked. It is money that they have already spent. But they come up here in yet another fantastic example of double-think and criticise a savings measure that they have banked, saved and spent.

Let's just have a look at how this happened. In fact, the member the Jagajaga described the measure relevant to her question today in a press release as an 'unfair cut that Labor would oppose'. But how do you oppose a savings measure as unfair when, at the 2016 election—

Ms Macklin interjecting

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

you accepted and agreed to the savings measure, banked the savings measure and spent the money? If we go back to Labor's fiscal plan, at page 30, there is an incredibly long and precise list of every single measure that we presented as a savings measure which the members opposite said that they would reverse. They go measure after measure after measure, but one of the measures notably absent is the measure she is now asking a question on, which they agreed to, which they banked and which they spent. But then, as we have noted, opposing and supporting the same measure is now pretty much standard practice for the member for Jagajaga.

Ms Macklin interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Jagajaga will resume her seat. The minister has the call.

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

As we have noted, opposing and supporting the very same measure is now pretty much standard practice for members opposite, particularly for the member for Jagajaga. As we have noted before, the member for Jagajaga opposed changes to the pensions and assets test for months in the lead-up to the March 2016 election while she was also taking signatures on a petition opposing the measures that they were also supporting. Weeks after they had agreed to the pension asset changes, she was still collecting signatures. Labor supported the closing of the carbon tax compensation at the 2016 election but now opposes the same policy today. They support and oppose the same policy at the one time. How is that even possible as a matter of rational, common sense? What they do now is get up here and accuse us of making a savings measure, which they also supported and which they have also banked on.

It might also be noted that this government has just allocated $260 million as a one-off payment to pensioners. They will get $260 million to cope with electricity prices. Do they support or oppose that? Do they support and oppose it at the same time? Or do they oppose it, then support it and then oppose it again? Make no mistake, the thing they now complain about is the very thing they have already banked, saved and spent.