Monday, 11 September 2023
Private Members' Business
I rise to speak against the motion put forward by the member for Grey and confess to being profoundly disappointed that this is the subject of debate in this House. This is a desperate attempt by those opposite to delay the rollout of renewable energy from a party who for 10 years fought tooth and nail against even recognition that there was an emergency arising out of climate change—head in the sand, denying climate change was even happening. They are grasping at straws today. The opposition claim to be worried about energy security. Well, my friend the member for Solomon pointed out some of the fallacies in their argument. They claim to be concerned about the use of energy assets manufactured overseas, yet they stand in the parliament and vote against the National Reconstruction Fund, the very measure that would enable more manufacturing in Australia. That fund is our government's commitment to $15 billion as a first step towards rebuilding Australia's industrial base. The Albanese Labor government wants Australia to be a country that makes things again, and that includes renewable and low-emissions technologies. The National Reconstruction Fund has earmarked $3 billion for these assets to be manufactured right here in Australia.
My electorate of Newcastle is poised to take full advantage of the enormous opportunities that come with renewable energy. We have a highly skilled workforce, world-class researchers, abundant resources and industrial expertise in the critical rail and port infrastructure that is needed to be a renewable energy superpower. That is where we see ourselves going forward. The University of Newcastle has in fact has developed an amazing printed solar cell technology that is ultra lightweight, ultra flexible, totally recyclable and cheap to manufacture. It is similar in thickness to just a chip packet, although a lot more recyclable, and it is manufactured using conventional printers. It could change the way that we use solar away from the typically cumbersome, large, nonrecyclable solar panels. I don't hear members opposite jumping up to be champions of that kind of technology.
I have returned from Denmark and Scotland recently, where I went to understand more about the offshore wind industry and how technology can be adapted for here in Australia. It is a trip that I paid for myself because I want to get better informed about an industry that is going to be part—a big part—of Newcastle's future. I suggest members opposite might want to get better informed too. We know offshore is going to play a vital role in the future of our nation's energy mix, and we want to be able to manufacture the components of those wind turbines. In cities like Newcastle, we want to be able to service that new energy industry. It's all an important part of this nation's future.
This is the sort of innovation that the Albanese Labor government wants to invest in—supporting local jobs, supporting local manufacturing and supporting local innovation. Overwhelmingly, when I was in Denmark, people told me just how relieved they were to have Australia sitting back at the table in all the international forums. They said how critical it was that we were focusing again on the need to decarbonise and that climate change was no longer a dirty word in our nation. They said how reassured they felt that Australia was now investing in renewables and low-emissions technologies to deliver on Australia's commitment to reach our target of net zero emissions by 2050. That's what people overseas are saying. They would be beside themselves to hear of this debate here this morning.
I want to assure the member for Grey that, as well as working to manufacture renewable technologies in Australia, this government feels that national security is an issue that is critically important. The Department of Home Affairs is actively addressing Australia's technology security policy settings. This includes managing the risk associated with vendors who could be compelled by foreign governments to act against Australia's interests. We're also working closely with the Australian Energy Market Operator on required updates to the Australian Energy Sector Cyber Security Framework, and we recently declared another 87 critical infrastructure assets as 'systems of national significance'. This means we can apply a robust set of enhanced cybersecurity obligations on the owners and the operators. We relentlessly focus on safeguarding our country against significant cyberattacks and are working with industries, states and territories, and other stakeholders to manage those emerging risks. It's time the opposition got on board.