Monday, 13 November 2017
Matters of Public Importance
I could be a little cheeky and echo Senator Hanson's words, 'Vote for candidates who will reduce electricity prices in my home state of Queensland,' but I would mean, 'Vote for the LNP candidates,' because that's exactly what they will do.
I want to congratulate One Nation for raising this real matter of urgency. Too many times in this chamber we have urgency debates about ridiculous topics that the Greens and the Labor Party dream up, but I thank One Nation for raising this very important issue. I have to say that the idea of reducing electricity prices to help the competitiveness of Australian industry is a good one but not a new one. I well remember that in Townsville, where I'm based, almost 20 years ago—it may even have been 30 years ago—when there was a Liberal government in power in Canberra, we worked hard to encourage Korea Zinc's subsidiary Sun Metals to set up a zinc refinery, and one of the attractions we proposed to this significant Korean company was cheap power, which Australia had 20 to 30 years ago. They were looking at setting up in Korea or in Queensland. I remember that the Hon. John Moore was the business minister who negotiated this deal. There was cheap power in Queensland, so Sun Metals set up there. The cheap power, of course, was because in Queensland we are blessed with high-quality coal that produces good electricity cheaply, and that's why Korea Zinc came there. Over the years, with Labor Party interaction at both state and federal level, the prices of electricity have gone up and up and up, to the extent that I'm sure that Korea Zinc and Sun Metals now wish they had never heard the word 'Australia', because they are struggling to maintain the 300, 400 or 500 people that work at that plant in Townsville, because of the cost of electricity.
It's not just the renewable cost. The Labor Party in Queensland have actually been gouging the electricity prices to prop up their own budget. How can they gouge the price? Well, that's easy: they're the only ones who own the generators in Queensland. So, if the state budget is a little bit shy in any year, they just whack up the price of electricity. Don't worry about the jobs in Townsville. Don't worry about the jobs elsewhere in Queensland.
Whilst I respect what Senator Hanson says about her party, can I tell you that the LNP in Queensland, of which I'm a member, don't just have promises; they have a track record. They were the ones who, in government, froze household tariff 11 for one year, saving the average household $120 a year. They were the party who, in government, opposed the carbon tax, saving an average Queensland household $170 a year. They were the ones who reduced wasteful expenditure on the network infrastructure, which Senator Hanson mentioned, which would have increased electricity prices by some $7 billion. They were the government that closed Labor's Solar Bonus Scheme, which was expected to cost Queenslanders around $3.4 billion by 2028. They were the ones who maintained the uniform tariff policy to ensure that regional Queenslanders like me don't pay more for electricity than people in the south-east. They also capped prices on obsolete and transitional tariffs at 10 per cent to support Queensland farmers and businesses, and they exposed Labor's secret plans for the government network business to jack up prices, which would have resulted in even higher prices.
I want to say that, whilst I agree with much of what One Nation says, One Nation are not blameless themselves. APPEA have said:
In a miracle of economics, One Nation claims that it will bring gas prices down by banning gas production across most of Queensland.
Perhaps this is an outdated thing, Senator Hanson; perhaps you have a different policy now. But certainly this was your policy on 5 October. You can't reduce prices if you are restricting the flow of gas into the grid and into electricity generation within Queensland and elsewhere in the nation. So One Nation are not blameless in this. But, if that's wrong, Senator Hanson, you or one of your colleagues might clarify that later in this debate.
GetUp! people or union people invaded my office last Friday to give me a petition, this time on Manus. Fortunately when they were there I was in Papua New Guinea doing real work, so I don't know why they were hoping to give me a petition when I was in another country working for Australia. The guy who was arrested there—I've never met him or seen him or heard of him, but he's clearly a GetUp! person or a union man—has a letter in today's paper saying, 'All these renewable energy projects around Townsville will mean the difference, and it's not costing the taxpayer anything; it's all privately funded.' We all know that is absolute rubbish. The subsidies that go into renewable energy are just incredible. Huge subsidies go into renewable energy, which someone has to pay for, and it's the Australian taxpayer.
Unfortunately, former Senator Roberts is not here. I used to like his forensic examination of these issues. He and I keep asking the Greens, 'Okay, so you want renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions from Australia so we'll save the Barrier Reef?' I keep asking the Greens to answer this. None of them ever will. Australia emits less than 1.2 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. So, if it's carbon emissions that are killing the world, only 1.2 per cent of those emissions are from Australia. The Labor Party have promised to reduce our emissions by 50 per cent. Fifty per cent of 1.2 is 0.6. I once asked the Chief Scientist in estimates: 'What impact will it have on the world's climate if we reduce our emissions by 1.2 per cent?' and the Chief Scientist said, 'Virtually none.'
The Greens and the Labor Party, with all of this renewable energy, will destroy Australian industry—and Senator Hanson mentioned that very clearly in her address—and make costs so expensive, not just for manufacturing but also for each household. And what impact will that have on the world's climate change? Absolutely none, according to the Chief Scientist. The Greens are hell-bent on reducing Australia's output of carbon. According to the Parliamentary Library, the number of power plants that Australia has commissioned in recent years is 73 units. At the same time, China have increased their output by 2,107 units, and India by 877 units. I repeat: Australia, 73; China, 2,107; and India, 877. All this rhetoric you get from the Greens to make you feel warm and fuzzy—'Yes, we're going to reduce our carbon emissions'—will make absolutely no difference to the changing climate of the world, but it will destroy jobs. It has destroyed jobs in Australia, and it does make it more expensive for Australians to live.
In the last few seconds remaining to me, I can give the Greens some good news: the Australian Institute of Marine Science and GBRMPA are doing research and are now working on making coral resistant to bleaching—not that any coral bleaching is the fault of Australia; it might be the fault of the world, but it's certainly not the fault of Australia. Our scientists have taken a proactive, positive approach and are developing corals that are resistant and that are continuing to grow.
Thank you for raising this matter, Senator Hanson. The Greens hypocrisy and mistruths are becoming more and more obvious as each day passes. (Time expired)