Wednesday, 12 February 2020
Environment and Energy Committee; Report
I rise to make my contribution on the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy's report Not without your approval: a way forward for nuclear technology in Australia. I acknowledge the work done by the secretariat and members and thank all those who made contributions to this report.
I think it would be fair to say that I find the recommendations of the report to be disappointing and not a reasonable conclusion in the second decade of the 21st century. I acknowledge and concur with the dissenting report compiled by Labor members and the remarks by the member for Fremantle in this place today. I was privileged to be a member of the House of Representatives environment and energy committee in the 45th Parliament. I note with interest that the expert contributors to this report are still in agreement that it is the uncertainty of energy policy which needs to be addressed by this government. That was the first recommendation of a report by this committee in the 45th Parliament entitled Powering our future: inquiry into modernising Australia's electricity grid. I further note, with disappointment, that three years later the government has still to respond to that report.
The government frequently lectures about its economic credentials, yet it has not taken expert advice that has one clear message: providing energy security, certainty and stability in the grid will in turn drive down prices. Certainly Mr Ian Macfarlane, Chief Executive of the Queensland Resources Council and a former energy minister, agreed in the evidence he gave to the committee for this report. He said:
Until we settle on a single energy policy you'll continue to have the investor uncertainty that is creating all sorts of issues combined with the unreliability of the grid, due to different mixes of energy which don't sustain the frequency and, therefore, are prone to blackouts and shortages of energy at certain peak periods. So it would be, in my opinion, a great outcome to achieve a single national energy policy.
The government is continually hampered by the many contrary views within its ranks. It seems as though the need to ensure the numbers in its party room has this government too paralysed to do anything at all.
Nuclear power does not provide the circuit-breaker the government is looking for. It will not enhance the government's economic credentials. Nuclear is not a cheaper alternative. The committee heard evidence from Dr Ziggy Switkowski—it is in the committee Hansard of 29 August 2019, page 2—that 'there is no coherent business case to finance an Australian nuclear industry'. He further added that 'one of the things that has changed over the last decade or so is that nuclear power has got more expensive rather than less expensive'.