Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Matters of Public Importance
The Labor Party opposite is the party of the on-again, off-again, on-again carbon tax. They're the party who talked about the greatest moral challenges of our time, who then backflipped and walked away from that view; they're the party that delivered a doubling of electricity prices when they were last in office; and they're a party who thinks that the statewide blackouts in South Australia were a 'hiccup' in a 'big experiment' that they really wish they could take nationwide. And here we are today, with that jumble, that unstable, feeble record—they're here trying to talk about stable energy policy—or maybe I'm detecting a little bit more of a South Australian flavour and element to the approach here. Is their polling in South Australia really that bad? Are the people of South Australia about to deliver a statewide blackout to the Labor state government in that state?
The Labor Party are incapable—as they've proven over the last 10 years—of delivering stable policy on almost any topic. But their record of delivery on energy and the environment is especially incompetent. I find it remarkable, even today, that I was the only candidate in the inner-city seat of Brisbane at the last federal election who made local environmental commitments. There was a Labor candidate, there was a Greens candidate and there were others, but it seemed that I was the only candidate who had actually thought deeply about the local environment, who'd considered the environmental priorities and who had successfully lobbied my party and my minister seeking resources to make those sorts of commitments.
On the topic of energy policy, let's consider all of those key planks of this government's energy policy out there right now: Snowy Hydro 2.0, ensuring our domestic gas needs are met; promoting retail competition and choice for consumers; and of course the National Energy Guarantee, designed by independent experts, as the minister outlined. Why didn't Labor do any of those things? Why didn't they touch on any of those ideas or topics when they were in government? They could have, but they didn't. They certainly didn't think anything about pumped hydro, and they've never said anything in their policies about the idea of storage, despite how important it is to make renewables actually work for the grid. Labor caused the issue of domestic gas shortages, despite being officially warned, as we've heard in this place, that the policies they were pursuing would cause that exact gas shortage.
On the topic of policy certainty, Labor would actually do quite well to move aside some of these coincidentally South Australian members of the Labor Party who are all talking here today and to talk to some of their own backbenchers who have recently been doing some work with us on the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy. A few weeks ago, many of us on both sides got up in the Federation Chamber and talked about the report called Powering our future: inquiry into modernising Australia's electricity grid. It was a significant contribution towards this parliament's work, which is supposed to be bipartisan and looking forwards, on this important topic of energy. That report was important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as I said, it was certainly bipartisan. Secondly, as the very first recommendation in that report made clear, the importance of policy certainty is supposed to be a bipartisan feature of the landscape now. Quite frankly, that report went on to make further recommendations that really underscore the importance of so many of the other key planks of this government's energy policies, as the minister outlined earlier—that increased focus on dispatchability and the flexibility of the electricity grid and the need to incentivise stability in both a technical and an economic sense.
That report was obviously focused specifically on the electricity grid, but it's important to understand there are so many other features of our energy system. That's why there are all of these other key planks to the government's energy policy. In the area of generation, in those wholesale markets, as the minister outlined, the government's National Energy Guarantee is the mechanism that will settle the energy trifecta of affordability, reliability and emissions reduction. The reliability guarantee in the national electricity guarantee will help deliver the right level of dispatchable energy when it's needed by customers, while the emissions guarantee will ensure Australia simultaneously meets its environmental commitments.