Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Matters of Public Importance
r HAINES () (): I thank the member for Kennedy for bringing this important issue to the House and acknowledge that he's quite right: we do have many different opinions. He and I both represent electorates where people need to drive great distances to work, to live, to socialise and to access health care. So the eye-watering cost of petrol these days is a top-of-mind issue for us both. It's a top-of-mind issue for any family budget. In the year to September, petrol prices have gone up 25 per cent. It's $1.62 in Wangaratta this morning and $1.68 in Wodonga. Unfortunately, prices are projected to remain high. Some analysts say prices could be $2 by the end of the year. When you're driving an hour each way to work or to the weekend footy or to see a GP, that truly hurts. It truly is an issue that regional Australians are concerned about.
Lots of politicians are running around saying they'll bring down petrol prices or, indeed, that the other side might increase petrol prices. But really we need to be honest with people. The reality is that there isn't much any Australian government can do to affect the price of fuel. The reason prices are so high is that the price of crude oil has gone up and that global supply chains are under pressure as the world recovers from COVID-19. Because Australia is almost entirely reliant on imported liquid fuels, there's truly not much we can do about it. In the year before the pandemic struck, Australia imported over 60,000 megalitres of liquid fuel, around two-thirds of our total consumption. Australia imports liquid fuels from countries like China, Japan, Singapore and the UAE. Each year we spend almost $40 billion on importing fuel. Australia has just two domestic oil refineries left, and the government is forking out $2 billion over the next decade to keep these alive. The brutal reality is that Australia does have a fuel security problem. Our entire economy and our national security rest on an unreliable, insecure supply of a polluting, expensive imported product. It would take just one hostile nation disrupting trade routes or one major natural disaster disrupting our supply chains and Australia really would be running on empty.
As we move into a more uncertain world where petrol prices are skyrocketing, we need to make the smart decisions to guarantee sovereign energy security and protect Australians from paying through the nose, and that means renewables. Australia is blessed with the best renewable energy resources in the world, and they're the cheapest form of power available to us. If the government did more to make electric cars more affordable and build the charging infrastructure we need—I acknowledge they're putting some money towards it, but we need a lot more—and to invest in renewable energy, we wouldn't have these problems of expensive and volatile fuel supply. You could power your car with the solar panels on the roof of your house, and you could do it on the cheap. If Australia generated all of our power, it would mean we would be less vulnerable to the whims of other countries and global markets. We could build our energy security on the supply of cheap, clean, locally generated power—power that we can never run out of. Instead of sending $40 billion a year to offshore oil companies, we'd be sending that money into the pockets of regional Australians, because renewable energy will be generated in the regions.
We've seen in the pandemic that global supply chains can be fragile. We've seen that those countries that can manufacture their own vaccines are in a much stronger position than those that cannot. We've seen the behaviour of countries hoarding not only vaccines but PPE, ventilators, oxygen and other essential medical equipment. Yet, on the critical question of our fuel security, the government is leaving us entirely open to an increasingly uncertain world.
Let's make our power here. Let's pay our farmers, not foreign oil companies. Let's rely on cheap fuels, not expensive ones. I call on the government to do more to invest in renewables and get the cost of electric vehicles down so that everyday Australians can pay less at the bowser and have more to spend on the important things of life.