House debates

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Questions without Notice

Electricity Infrastructure

2:43 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science. I refer the minister to a statement yesterday by Manufacturing Australia that outlines the threat to South Australia and investment from unreliable and high-priced power. Will the minister outline the challenges facing South Australian industry and what action the government is taking to safeguard jobs and investment in the future?

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Grey, whose electorate was badly affected by the recent blackout in South Australia. As the Prime Minister has said, energy is built around the three elements of security, affordability and reducing emissions. In a sense it is like a stool with three legs. Unfortunately, in South Australia at the moment two of those legs are missing. It was Manufacturing Australia yesterday that made that point when they said:

The lack of stability and high power prices in South Australia are threatening both existing and future manufacturing investment in a state already reeling from automotive closures.

In the electorate of Grey alone, we know that the blackout has cost Arrium—at a very difficult time in its history—$30 million. It has cost NearStar $7 million.

Mr Hill interjecting

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Bruce has been warned!

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

But it has also cost small businesses—it cost Possums Store in Port Lincoln $20,000 after their refrigeration was lost, their food was spoiled and their ability to carry on operations was compromised. That is what is actually happening to real jobs and real employment in South Australia.

There are two different approaches to dealing with this problem. On our side, there is a practical approach. We have been supporting Arrium with $49 million for a loan to upgrade their beneficiation plant. We have been supporting Arrium with 1,200 kilometres of rail track through an Australian Rail Track Corporation contract, and the environment minister, working with the Prime Minister, called an emergency meeting of COAG to address the issues of energy security and energy affordability, and to commission an emergency assessment of these issues.

There is, however, also another approach—the Labor Party approach. Yesterday, in the Senate, Senator Waters of the Greens and Senator Dastyari put up a motion saying that they wanted to consider regulated, planned closures of electricity generation and other industrial assets. What that says is that they want to close power stations, steel factories and lead and zinc—what else do they want to close? What do they mean by regulated, planned closures of other industrial assets? That means steel. That means cement. That means aluminium. And that means jobs of workers whose families depend on that income. This is a new moment in Australian industrial history—(Time expired)