House debates

Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Matters of Public Importance


4:01 pm

Photo of Phillip ThompsonPhillip Thompson (Herbert, Liberal National Party) Share this | Hansard source

And WA. This is one of the top five issues raised with me every single day in the electorate. The cost of power is crippling people there.

Ms Wells interjecting

I'm happy to take the interjection from the member for Lilley, who lives in the south-east corner, which has competition to get a lower price. In North Queensland there is only one provider and it is owned by the state Labor government. We need competition in the north. I think that it's reasonable that somewhere like Townsville has competition to let the market decide and dictate power prices, like in Brisbane and in the south-east corner in the member for Lilley's electorate. If there's no competition, there's no opportunity to shop around for a better deal and there's no such thing as the standard offer, which means the federal government is left with very little opportunity to step in and help.

This is something I wrote to the Premier about just weeks after being elected. I asked if we could introduce competition and I was told, flat out, no. It was not, 'Maybe.' It was not: 'Thank you for your correspondence. Let's work together.' It was not, 'How can we do better for the people of North Queensland?' It was just no. I urge those opposite to do the right thing and chat to their Queensland Labor colleagues in Brisbane and ask for competition in the market to drive down the prices in North Queensland. I think we can all agree that people in the north of Queensland and Western Australia deserve to have cheaper power prices.

Because the lousy Labor state government in Queensland doesn't want to play ball we need to be doing what's right and be doing more in this space. We haven't sat by and done nothing. I've mentioned plenty of times in this place that we have backed CopperString 2.0. This is a massive project that starts in the electorate of Herbert and runs all the way out to Mount Isa. It's a major transmission line that will connect the north-west minerals province with the NEM, adding more supply to the market and driving down power prices for locals. We want people to invest in North Queensland. We want businesses to get out of the south-east corner and the capital and go to the regions. If power prices are too high, how do we get them there? CopperString will drive power prices down.

One of the biggest problems we have with the Queensland state government's renewable energy policy is that all this money has been injected into renewable projects but it doesn't seem to worry too much about the infrastructure needed to connect them to the grid. For example, there's a new solar farm in my electorate, which generates a lot of power throughout the day, but the grid can't handle it when it's at full, so a lot of energy is completely wasted. CopperString 2.0 will connect up Mount Isa and Townsville as well as all the generators in between, along the line. We'll put a fair bit of money into it—$11 million—to assist CopperString to work up to their proposal to the point where an investment decision can be made. They've signed deals with two contractors to build the project, thanks to this investment. This is already sparking a bunch of other projects, with new players coming into the market knowing that this one is on the horizon. For example, yesterday it was reported that planning work for a $600 million Vast Solar renewable energy project in Mount Isa will begin soon. So, we're delivering in North Queensland in a very tangible way through CopperString 2.0.

I've always said that we need to have a blended model when it comes to energy. We need to have renewable energy, we need to have coal, we need to have solar, we need to have wind and we need to back them all, because they create not just the energy market but also thousands of thousands of jobs. I also want to highlight that we will not be turning our back on the coal sector. We will be investing in new technologies while these continue to provide opportunities to the existing ones. In 2018 coal made up just over 75 per cent of Queensland's energy generation capacity. We can't just flick the switch off, and we won't just flick the switch off. It brings a lot of revenue, not just into my electorate and not just into the state but into the country. It also creates thousands of thousands of jobs. I know that a lot of people in this place, on both sides, support the mining and resource sector, and we will continue to back the coal and the resources that come with that.


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