House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:27 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment and Energy) Share this | Hansard source

It's truly bizarre for the federal Labor Party to bring this MPI into the House to attack a candidate at the South Australian state level and then, on the other hand, to say, 'Hang on, we're open to a partnership with him if he ever holds the balance of power.' Labor's inconsistency and hypocrisy are there for all to see. The member for Port Adelaide, a truly nice guy in this place, is in charge of a horrible Labor Party policy when it comes to energy and climate change. He belled the cat when he published a book about the climate wars and he admitted that the Labor Party had sent 'mixed signals' when they were last in office on energy and climate policy and had made mistakes. Their mistakes were any one of the 12 different positions they had at the time. There was the CPRS, the ETS, the dreaded carbon tax, the citizens assembly—that Athenian mode of democracy that was promised by Julia Gillard—as well as Cash for Clunkers and the many other disastrous policies that the Labor Party presided over during their six years in office. But the worst possible aspect of their policies at the time was the fact that electricity prices doubled on their watch. In their own words, in their own policy document, network prices skyrocketed. The gold plating which we are now paying a heavy price for occurred under the then Labor government. And they ignored the warnings about the major export gas industry on the east coast of Australia and the impact it would have on prices and stability in the domestic electricity market and gas market. Then, after denying that they were warned, the member for Port Adelaide finally admitted that that was the case in its energy white paper as well as in an AEMO report, both in 2012. It's that mess that the coalition has been left to clean up.

Our approach to energy and climate change policy is, for the first time, to try to integrate them into one single mechanism—a mechanism which will drive a more affordable and reliable power system, as well as meeting our international commitments to reduce emissions over time. That is taking place with the National Energy Guarantee—a recommendation from independent experts made up of the Energy Security Board, the head of AEMO, the head of the AEMC, the head of the AER, an independent chair, and an independent deputy chair. That recommendation, through the National Energy Guarantee, creates two new obligations on the retailers. One is an obligation to provide a certain amount of dispatchable power, because we have failed to price reliability. We have failed to put a premium on dispatchability. The price for that failure is played out graphically in South Australia, with the huge price volatility and the fact that prices in South Australia are, on average, 20 per cent more than can be found in the rest of the country. We're creating two new obligations on the retailers: one to provide a certain amount of dispatchability, and the other to ensure that the emissions intensity of their portfolio of assets declines over time in a way that is consistent with our Paris commitments.

Our National Energy Guarantee has been independently modelled. The average Australian household will be $300 a year better off than they would be under the Labor Party's plan. At the same time, we will see wholesale prices come down by 23 per cent. So, if you are running a supermarket, that could see you save $400,000 on your power bill. If you're a major chemical manufacturer, you could save $1 million on your energy bill. If you are a paper manufacturer, you could save $10 million on your energy bill. If you are one of the millions of small businesses around Australia struggling with high power bills, you could also save hundreds of dollars, if not more, every year. No wonder the National Energy Guarantee has been so warmly received by both energy users and energy producers alike.

The big employers across Australia—the BHPs, the Rio Tintos, the Dow Chemicals—have come out in favour of the National Energy Guarantee. BlueScope Steel, the largest manufacturer in Australia and a major exporter into the United States, where they have cheaper power than we do here, has said that, for the first time in a decade, it's an opportunity to break that impasse over energy and climate policy. The BCA, the Australian Industry Group, the ACCI—the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry—irrigators and farmers have all come out and strongly supported the National Energy Guarantee, as it's the only game in town. So we say to the Labor Party: put your ideology aside, put aside the fact that you didn't come up with this policy, put aside the fact that your carbon tax was a disaster, put aside the fact that you presided over a doubling of electricity prices when you were last in government and get behind the National Energy Guarantee to deliver lower prices and a more reliable system as we meet our international commitments.

On top of the National Energy Guarantee is the work we've done to abolish the limited merits review process, which allowed the network companies to game the system to the tune of $6½ billion in additional power bills that Australian consumers have had to pay because the Labor Party didn't have the courage and the foresight to abolish the limited merits review, as we did last year. The deal that we've done with the retailers to ensure that they get more information, more comparable information, and information in an easier-to-digest form so that they can compare their energy bills with those being offered to them by other retailers. It's that ability to shop around for a better offer that can save hundreds of dollars a year or, as the Australian Energy Regulator has said, more than $1,000 a year for some customers. Nearly one million Australians have gone to the Australian Energy Regulator website——in order to compare their deals. We're told 50 per cent of Australian households have not moved retailers or contracts in the last five years, despite the benefits of doing so.

What about our intervention in the gas market, that the ACCC has said has already seen up to a 50 per cent fall in the gas price that is paid by some customers? That action we took was only forced upon us by the fact that the Labor Party had ignored the warnings when they were last in office. Gas is increasingly setting the price of electricity, as some of the coal-fired generators have closed.

And, of course,  there is storage and Snowy 2.0. We are putting in place the big batteries, whether they be lithium batteries or with the pumped hydro project s , like the ones we are funding in the member for Grey's electorate, at Cultana in the Upper Spencer Gulf, and near Whyalla with Zen Energy, partnering to use a disused mine. There is the Kidston pumped hydro project in Queensland. These are projects that are helping to deliver a more stable system, and a more stable system means a more affordable system.

In closing, we know what the Turnbull government's plan is: i t is reducing the network costs, it's getting a better deal from the retailers, it's putting in the storage solutions that we need for the 21st century, and it's putting in place the National Energy Guarantee to integrate climate and energy policy. That's the stability that we are offering the Australian people. At the same time, emissions, on a per-capita basis , are at their lowest in 28 years.

On the other hand, we know what the Labor Party stands for: higher prices and a less stable system. That was their record when they were in office, and that is the record we're now seeing in Victoria under a Labor government, where they have tripled the Commonwealth royalties.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Coulton): The member for Shortland!

Mr FRYDENBERG: The Leader of the Opposition will say one thing to the coalminers in the Latrobe Valley, and another thing to the people in Batman. And we've seen it now in South Australia, with not just a 50 p er cent renewable energy target but a reckless 75 per cent renewable energy target. T he Premier, Jay Weatherill, is like a problem gambler doubling-down to chase his losses. That is what Labor will give you when it comes to energy and climate policy.


Tibor Majlath
Posted on 1 Mar 2018 4:48 pm (Report this comment)

The Minister says that Labor "... ignored the warnings about the major export gas industry on the east coast of Australia and the impact it would have on prices and stability in the domestic electricity market and gas market."

Well, so did the Coalition for the first four years in government until it was dragged kicking and screaming to act.

Another claim made by the Minster is that "Our National Energy Guarantee has been independently modelled. The average Australian household will be $300 a year better off than they would be under the Labor Party's plan."

The Coalition's energy plan was touted as likely to save consumers up to $2 per week by 2020! Now the Minister claims that it will save $6 per week compared to Labor's plan?

That imaginary saving has already been eaten up with $8 per week increase in my energy bill according to a letter sent by my supplier.

The Minister says his government is reducing network costs; despite this effort my network charges went up again by 6% with today's bill!

His government is getting a better deal from retailers. We have nothing to do but run around getting better deals which evaporate in six months when retailers put up prices.

Fiddling around the edges must be the finest of political art forms.

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