House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business


11:36 am

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'd like to begin by thanking my friend the member for Grey for bringing this important motion to the House and for his long-term advocacy for remote and regional Australia. I'm very proud to join this critical call to action, as we must ensure that our national security is not forgotten in Labor's reckless energy transition.

The Labor party has been very clear about its ambitions to radically transform Australia's energy sector. Australia currently generates between 30 to 35 per cent of its power from renewable sources. The Albanese government has committed to increasing this to a whopping 82 per cent by 2030, which is only seven short years away. This commitment has serious implications for the efficiency and for the reliability of our energy sector, with the Australian Energy Market Operator warning of massive blackouts this summer and in the years ahead. This is on the back of already record-high electricity prices suffered by families and businesses under the Albanese government.

Through this motion, we wish to highlight the serious national security concerns that at present are being ignored by this Labor government. As we know, almost 60 per cent of installed smart inverters are being supplied by Chinese manufacturers, bound by China's national intelligence laws. Such reliance could leave Australia vulnerable to sabotage of our power supplies. As detailed by the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, a coordinated attack could be catastrophic for Australia's electricity markets. Such a targeted attack could result in what's called a 'black-start event', which is where power plants are incapable of restarting without reliance on an auxiliary power source like a generator or a battery. A black-start event could bring down an entire power grid for one week.

In light of the damning research, it is clear that at the moment we are on a path to establishing a network that is vulnerable to foreign attacks. Can you even imagine the chaos, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, which could ensue if the grid was essentially turned off for a week? At the very least, a review should be conducted into the national security implications of Labor's planned transition. I call on the government to follow the CRC recommendations and ensure that cybersecurity impact assessments be completed for all solar inverters being sold in Australia and that mandatory cybersecurity ratings be introduced for solar inverters.

We have previously enjoyed bipartisanship in stamping out foreign influence, and I hope that we can once again do so in this space. I call on the government to have the same courage as we did when we decided to exclude Huawei from Australia's 5G network.

Energy policy under this government has proven to be a complete mess. It's reflected in not just the record high prices following their promise to do the opposite and decrease prices by $275 a year or the increased possibility of blackouts or the added national security concerns but also this government's failure to continue on a credible transition plan. Last month Minister Albanese made a great big announcement about the federal government investing $3 billion in Western Australia's power grid. He promised money to improve the power grid in Geraldton and surrounding Mid West, which is currently not fit for purpose. Only a few short hours later that promise was crab walked backwards. Honestly, the level of uncertainty in the Western Australian power grid in regional WA is off the charts. The hydrogen dream in the Mid West is over if we cannot sort out our grid in the Mid West. I fear that the Mid West community and new industrial users have been sold a complete pup by the Cook and the Albanese governments. If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

I acknowledge that the transition to a lower-emissions economy is one that many Australians want. They are concerned about the long-term impacts emissions are having on the climate and the environment. However, let's not be confused by what they want. They don't want a rushed transition that results in higher prices, less reliability and a system that is vulnerable to foreign attacks. A review into the national security consequences of this transition would outline the need for a balanced mix of technologies to feed the grid. The balance should include gas and zero-emissions nuclear energy. Not only will this make the system more reliable; it will also make it less vulnerable to foreign attacks.


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