House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2018; Second Reading

5:48 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

He's impatient for a debate. I hope that the minister at the table accepts the opportunity to have several debates with the member for Port Adelaide during the election campaign. We'll be watching very closely, and the member for Port Adelaide will towel up the Minister for Energy, because the Minister for Energy doesn't have an energy policy apart from this piece of ridiculous, interventionist nonsense. What the member for Port Adelaide will bring to that debate is a well-designed, holistic, comprehensive approach to energy policy. What we will provide to the Australian people and investors is the certainty required for investment. What we will put forward is a plan for proper investment, for engagement with the industry and for certainty to be supplied to investors to get power prices down.

The government are entitled to quibble with elements of the plan if they wish. They can put alternative points of view. They can argue with it. The difference is that we have one. We have a plan. We have a policy to debate. We have policies that we are happy to put out for scrutiny. Apart from this piece of nonsense, which may well be unconstitutional, which clearly is counterproductive and which is being rushed through the parliament in this most reprehensible and shameful fashion, those opposite have nothing. Everything they have tried, everything they have touched, has turned to dirt. Everything they have embraced has failed when it comes to energy policy. Every single thing the government have attempted to do has failed, and they deserve to have their policies condemned by industry, condemned by experts, condemned by lawyers who think it may well be unconstitutional and condemned by consumers who think it will put up the pressure on prices, because that is exactly what it will do.

We on this side of the House stand for good policy. We stand for proper, robust, well-designed policy. We also stand for good processes. Processes in this House are designed for a reason: to stop bad law, to stop bad legislation with unintended consequences and to allow proper scrutiny. If the government had nothing to hide then they would be happy to have this debate in the normal, proper fashion, which would allow scrutiny of their legislation and would allow experts to provide their views on draft legislation and then legislation before the House.

This government is cutting and running from scrutiny and from the normal proper processes of good government. It is a government that should be ashamed of its actions, in all seriousness. This government should be ashamed of itself: throwing out years of Liberal Party legacy, throwing out good and proper policy development, throwing out the previously bipartisan understanding about sovereign risk and throwing out good and proper processes in this House by this shameful stunt today. This Treasurer, this Prime Minister and this energy minister should be ashamed of their roles in this stunt today. This is a stunt. They are using their numbers in government to ram this legislation, which has significant ramifications for Australian consumers, through this House without the normal processes and without the normal scrutiny. They should be ashamed. Liberals around the country would be ashamed of their party tonight. They'll be watching and listening to this and saying: 'This is not what I signed up for. I didn't join this Liberal Party to have these interventionist powers and to be running from the proper processes and scrutiny.' I would understand good, proper and decent Liberals being ashamed of their party this evening.

Mr Butler interjecting

Yes, former long-serving Treasurer Peter Costello would never have done this. He wouldn't have done this, and the Fraser government wouldn't have done this. The government have sold out on everything they ever believed in. They have sold out on everything the Liberal Party ever stood for. They have sold out on everything that this parliament ever stood for when it comes to proper processes. I want to know: when does good government start? What's the date on which good government starts in this country? When are we going to see a decent government with a proper policy approach that is prepared to seek a mandate for what it does, prepared to implement a good policy and prepared to have it debated by this parliament?

The poor excuse for a cabinet that sit opposite us are incapable of delivering for Australia. They have had plenty of opportunities over five years. We've given them plenty of goes. They've had the opportunity to deliver an energy policy. We've been willing to engage each time—on the clean energy target and on the National Energy Guarantee. Every single time we've been willing to engage with those opposite on a bipartisan project, and every single time they have failed. We are not willing to engage on this. We've had enough. We've drawn the line. We're not going to engage with the government. We're not going to parry with this sort of bad policy. We have our limits when it comes to giving in to the demands of those opposite just for the sake of bipartisanship.

We will not provide bipartisanship for this poor policy. We've been prepared to back policies that we haven't designed and we've been prepared to back policies that we think are imperfect but are an improvement on the current situation, but we're not going to back bad policies. We're not going to back policies that are detrimental to the interests of Australian consumers, that throw out years of understanding of what is necessary for investment certainty and that have been condemned by those who know what they're talking about. The Minister for Energy, who is at the table, doesn't know what he's talking about. The government don't know what they're talking about. They're just looking for something—anything—to get them through the next six months.

The problem is that there is a price to be paid. There are ramifications of bad policy, and that price is increased power prices, and it is paid by those who can least afford it. Australian households are doing it tough. Australian industry have dealt with an increase in wholesale power prices on this government's watch, and more increases have been predicted by the market, as this government has failed. The Labor Party stand ready with an alternative policy. We will oppose this legislation every step of the way.


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