Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Will the minister update the House on what the government is doing to ensure that hardworking Australian families have an affordable and reliable energy supply? How does this compare with alternative approaches that would hurt household budgets?
I thank the member for La Trobe for his question and acknowledge that, in his electorate, he has some of Australia's largest potato and apple processors who need reliable energy and affordable energy. They are some of the 63,000 employees in Victoria who are working in the food manufacturing sector and whose jobs are now under threat as a result of rising electricity prices. Recently I met with a delegation of vegetable and dairy manufacturers from Echuca, Shepparton, regional Victoria, some of whom have seen their electricity prices go up more than 50 per cent in the last year alone. That is why we on this side of the House want to have an 'all of the above' approach—a non-ideological approach—which will see coal and gas continue to play a major role in providing baseload power in Australia as well as we transition to a lower emissions future.
Yesterday we heard from those opposite that they have a range of policies which will only drive electricity prices higher and destabilise the system. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate thinks one of their main policies is a mongrel—a mongrel and a smokescreen—that is what she thinks of one of their own policies. But we know they have a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030, which Bloomberg New Energy Finance has said will require $48 billion of investment, which will inevitably flow on to higher prices for consumers. They also have a policy of wanting the forced closure of coal-fired power stations. The Leader of the Opposition is very excited about putting on a high-viz vest and going and having a photo taken on a worksite, but will the Leader of the Opposition have the courage to go to the member for Shortland's electorate, to Vales Point, and tell the 300 workers there at the coal-fired power station that your policy wants to put them out of work? Will the Leader of the Opposition have the guts to—
Mr Conroy interjecting—
go to the Latrobe Valley after the closure of Hazelwood and say to the 500 workers at Yallourn that you have a policy that will put them out of work? The Leader of the Opposition should heed the words of his former union, the AWU. Ben Davis, the current Victorian secretary, said—
Mr Joyce interjecting—
Mr Conroy interjecting—
This is what the head of the AWU in Victoria has said:
You cannot run heavy industry without reliable, plentiful and cheap electricity.
… … …
… the rush away from coal and gas-fired electricity power stations to renewables is … crucifying hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers.
We say to the Leader of the Opposition: you do not have the guts to drop your policy; you do not have the courage to defend your policy; but do not sacrifice manufacturing workers on the altar of ideology.