Tuesday, 23 March 2021
Matters of Public Importance
It is hard to believe that a third-term, eight-year-old government cannot manage to settle a national energy policy. That would be extraordinary at any time in our history. It is extraordinarily harmful to be in that position at the time when Australia and the rest of the world are going through an energy transformation. We're going through that transformation in order to combat dangerous climate change and in order to set the foundation for a 21st century economy based on clean and affordable energy and based on new energy investment, innovation and jobs.
We are blessed in this country with the highest-quality natural resources, when it comes to clean energy innovation, and the highest-quality human resources. We are lucky to be in that position. We should be a renewable energy superpower and, in time to come, we should be a renewable energy exporter. It's inevitable that the world will go down that path and Australia actually has a lot to gain from leading the way internationally and in our region. But we're not on that track because we have a government that cannot settle a national energy policy.
If you ask people out in the community what a national energy policy would mean to them, they would say, 'It's the kind of basic administrative competence and leadership I expect of my government in order to deliver cheap and affordable energy and in order to lower emissions and combat climate change.' For those opposite, settling a national energy policy is a euphemism for having some almighty ding-dong battle that results in the demise of the latest Prime Minister. Every single time they have had even half enough courage to approach that task, that has been the result.
If upon coming into government they had simply left the settings, programs and policies that Labor had put in place we would be in a lot better position than we are now. Unfortunately, it hasn't even been as good as that; it hasn't even been as good as them hopping in the vehicle and leaving the satnav set as it was. Instead, they have actively undermined the progress that was made under the previous Labor government. They have attempted to defund the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and they have attempted to distort and pervert the Clean Energy Finance Corporation at every opportunity. That's something that is in train in this parliament at the moment: they have extreme members of the coalition backbench hoping to pin amendments onto that bill so that it becomes capable of funding coal-fired power and even nuclear energy, which is just utterly ridiculous. They've abandoned the Renewable Energy Target, but they talk about the progress that has been made in relation to renewable energy, which has been achieved entirely by the trailing value of Labor's reforms—the CFC, ARENA and the Renewable Energy Target, which, unfortunately, was allowed to run out last year. They've done nothing yet to address grid stability and transmission capability and investment. They currently have some discussion paper after eight years, three prime ministers, 21 aborted policies and God knows how many ministers.
They have no electric vehicle policy. When it comes to liquid fuel security in this country, our liquid fuel demand is higher than in almost every other comparable OECD country. Our mining and agricultural sectors are 90 per cent reliant on diesel fuel and our transport sector as a whole is 99 per cent reliant on liquid fuels, yet we have an uptake of electric vehicles that is one-seventh the rate of countries like Canada and the United States. Our energy security is at risk, not least because of the policy failures and inaction of this government.
When it comes at the end of the day to the absolutely critical area of energy policy and the national management of our energy transformation, the only conclusion the Australian people can reach, sadly, is that the government has been worse than useless. If it had done nothing and left the settings it inherited as they were, we would be in a better position than we are now. This government has gone out of its way to cut support, to gut programs, to play games and to indulge in ridiculous scare campaigns around electric vehicles. It has subjected Australia to an energy policy blackout. It has been a stinking, pestilent wet blanket on energy policy in this country. What does that mean in the end? It means higher prices, higher emissions, no innovation and fewer jobs.