Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Matters of Public Importance
Can I praise the member for Kennedy for his second valuable contribution in this parliament today. And I welcome the contribution he's made on this matter of public importance.
I note his interjection, where he says that he was defending a union leader, but I'm sure that, once he heard the remarks from the Prime Minister about her encouraging lawbreaking, he retracted that proposition.
At the heart of the issue that he has raised in this matter of public importance are important issues about Australia's economic future and security, and they are ones that we are very mindful of. But they are also ones where we don't want to end in a situation where we want to close Australia off to the world. We are an island country. We prosper and thrive in a trading environment, and we do so because we see the economic opportunity to offer our bounty to be able to enhance the wealth of the nation and create the jobs so that we can build the future of the country.
As the member for Kennedy knows, if you have wealth that you generate from primary industries, you can invest it in building the base of your manufacturing sector. Of course, as part of that, there is an important role around affordable energy—something that is perhaps missing sometimes from some of the other crossbenchers, who seem to undervalue its contribution—and banning exports, for example, in certain fuels will only leave Australia a poorer nation and less capable of competing in the manufacturing sector. The member for Kennedy made a remark about $10 billion that he thought was the benefit of his proposals. I look forward to reading the modelling that backs that up.
Fuel security is a big challenge for our country, and nobody should suggest otherwise. We have big challenges around supply chains and security, and it sits at the heart of our economic resilience as a nation. It's at the core of what we understand as a government is central to Australia's sense of security and confidence in the world. If you want to see what happens when you dismiss those challenges, you just need to look at what is happening in Europe right now—and I think that's partly what the member for Kennedy has been alluding to—where they have become dependent on foreign fuels, particularly gas. That has left many countries high and dry, where people are unable to afford energy prices. That has a direct impact on houses, particularly during those difficult and challenging winter months. Also, of course, it means that the wealth of those nations is transacted off to others who can provide them a supply and exploit or take advantage of them. We don't want that for our country.
When Australians think about fuel security, what they think about is the ability to turn the switch on in their house and the light comes on and when they turn on the heater—and as the minister will know—they are able to heat their home for themselves and their family, particularly in the winter months, or turn on the air conditioner during the summer months and cool their home. And, of course, it is critical when they go to the bowser and they put the pump in that they are able to not only get the fuel but also are able to afford it.
It's also a big challenge for industry. We know that, for industry, there is a huge demand from feedstock, gas and electricity to make sure that they are competitive. It doesn't matter what sector you are in—and the member for Kennedy rightly outlined the role of manufacturing. If you are a manufacturer in this country, your electricity prices are a critical part of the input of your competitiveness not just in producing the goods for us domestically but also in being able to export those goods around the world competitively so we can create more wealth for our country. That is the value-add that comes from our natural bounty, which is something we need to understand.
And, of course, fuel security goes to the heart of our national defence. We know how critical that is, because we have big challenges in our regional security, and we want to be part of a solution that not only builds up our domestic security—which is very important—but also helps other sovereign states to be able to stand on their two feet regardless of the risks that may come.