Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Matters of Public Importance
What we need to see in energy policy is two things: we need energy security and we need energy affordability. It is not that much to ask. It is what the people of Australia expect to achieve. I come from a state which has endured four blackouts in five months. One of those blackouts went for as long as 24 hours in some places. They were statewide, not in small segments of the community. I could spend some time talking about energy security, but I do not think I need to.
What I would like to talk about is energy affordability—and this is the real smokey here right now. Do you know that last Wednesday in Victoria the member for Dunkley's constituents purchased energy at $135.80 per megawatt hour, while the member for Boothby and I have constituents who, on the same day, over the course of a 24-hour period, paid—wait for it—$2,099 for the very same product at the very same time? The member for Dunkley and I are good friends, but we are also rivals. There is a strong rivalry between South Australia and Victoria. We are 'frenemies', though I am pretty sure the member for Port Adelaide would not want Port Adelaide giving Melbourne a 10-goal head start leading into a grand final. He would not want that, but that is what we are doing with energy.
Let's talk about the South Australian experience. Let's talk about the South Australian experiment. Let's talk about this failed experiment. It is little wonder that South Australia leads the nation in terms of unemployment. It has the highest rate of unemployment in the nation. I am not proud to be here as a South Australian talking about that, but after almost 15 years of SA Labor that is what you get. South Australia also suffers from another ill, and that is that we have the shallowest rate of inward investment of any state or territory in the nation. Do you know why? If you are an investor and you have got a footloose investment that would like to place somewhere, you are not going to place it in South Australia, because you will pay an electricity rate that sometimes is 40 times what a Victorian pays.
Do not take my word for it. Ian McDonnell runs a successful sawmill in Mt Gambier. He said recently in the local paper: 'It presents another challenge for business. It's a serious impediment for existing companies and anyone looking to move their businesses to our state. It's certainly concerning for South Australia.' There is a South Australian businessman telling you what the issue is. I could sit here and talk about South Australian irrigators who cannot lift water from the river. I told the party room about six months ago that the Central Irrigation Trust have renegotiated their contract and that this year it is $1.3 million more than it was last year. They have told their irrigators, 'We'll deal with the increase this year, but next year you will be facing a price increase of between 15 and 30 per cent.'
But it is not just businesses. I posted recently on Facebook about this, and a constituent in my electorate, who is not known to me, wrote the following, 'I nearly die when I read my electricity bill. Despite being super careful, I pay more than $1,100 a quarter. Sometimes I pay up to $1,400 a quarter, and I am a single person living in a household alone. This is beyond reasonable. No wonder poverty is normal.' Well, poverty is normal in South Australia, because these prices, as we heard, are beyond reasonable.
Now, if those opposite do not think this is having an effect on jobs, recently in my electorate there was an article titled, 'Power bill pressure'. John Forster, the operations manager of a business in my electorate, South East Pine, a mill, said:
… the business had suffered due to "massive" electricity price rises and had been forced to make cutbacks.
"The price we pay for megawatts per hour has tripled in the past two years," Mr Forster said.
He said that they had been forced to make cutbacks and to find savings elsewhere because they need electricity to operate. He said, 'We have lost two wages as a result of that.'
That means two people in my electorate had to go home to their families and tell them, 'I've been laid off today. I've been laid off today because the mill I work for can't afford the electricity bill.' If those opposite genuinely cared about Australian workers, they would work with us to resolve this. The intermittency of renewables has wrecked this system, and that is what is killing South Australians and their employment prospects.