House debates

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Matters of Public Importance

Energy

3:52 pm

Photo of Susan LambSusan Lamb (Longman, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It has been years since Australia has had a real energy policy. Not since Labor was last in power has anything really been done. It's costing us. It's costing my community, it's costing our families and our small businesses and it's costing our economy. And the blame for all of this—the damage to our wallets and to our environment—can be laid squarely at the feet of a small band of malicious MPs. 'The reactionary right' you might call them, as the member for Chisholm, of course, described them in her speech yesterday. It may well be just a handful of coalition members and senators who are leading this crusade against scientists, economists and the business community but, aided by their Prime Minister, they are costing every Australian, year after year after year.

That's not to mention what they're doing to our environment. No matter what these reality-refuting rejects of the reactionary right may rasp, climate change is having a huge effect on our country. Just take a look outside today. It's flooding in Sydney, it's hailing in Brisbane, and in regional Queensland emergency services are fighting vicious bushfires that are being further fuelled by huge dust storms. There are children in parliament today who walked out of school in protest against this government's inaction. They are doing more than anyone—anyone!—on the other side of this chamber.

It's not just activists, either, who are taking matters into their own hands. If you were to take a short drive around my community, you'd see household after household who have taken it upon themselves to install solar panels. Private citizens are investing in renewable energy because they know it's cheaper; they know it just makes sense. I remember how, just a couple of years ago, somebody living on Bribie Island excitedly showed me her home's new battery system. I remember going out to her home, and it was pretty breathtaking seeing live, on her mobile phone, just how much energy her panels were capturing, how much her battery was storing and how much money she was saving. At the time it seemed that it was probably beyond the grasp of many to have this piece of technology—and, to an extent, at the time it really was; those things weren't a cheap up-front investment. But prices have fallen, efficiencies have risen and now, for many people, these systems are just within reach.

For many, however, the initial investment comes at too great a cost, which is why a Shorten Labor government will give them a hand, providing a $2,000 rebate for 100,000 households. Not only will this allow consumers, like this woman from Bribie, to focus on lowering their own power bills but it will also reduce demand on the electricity grid in peak times, lowering prices for everyone. It just makes sense, doesn't it?

It's not just homeowners who will win under Labor; we have committed $75 million to a neighbourhood renewables program to ensure that renters and social housing tenants will be able to benefit from cheaper and cleaner energy. Businesses, of course, will be supported by comprehensive and robust policies to increase energy efficiencies and to retain workforces in the new job-creating space of renewable energy—a just transition into renewable energy.

With the Prime Minister announcing yesterday that his government seemingly wants to avoid an election until May next year, Labor is willing to work with them to force down pressure on power prices before we go back to the polls. Labor is willing to accept this government's National Energy Guarantee—a guarantee supported by the Business Council, by AiG, by the Australian Energy Council, by ACCI, by BlueScope, by the Energy Users' Association of Australia, by APIA and, of course, by a government member, the member for Curtin, Julie Bishop. We are willing to accept the National Energy Guarantee, which the Prime Minister lauded time and time again—though, of course, that was before his party room erupted into an all-out civil war. But he did laud it time and time again, that this was the way forward.

It's been years since Australia has had a real energy policy. Let's just get something done! We are more than willing to work with the government to ensure positive outcomes, but let's be very clear: we will not wait for this government.

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