Thursday, 15 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister's answer to the member for Sydney. Is the Prime Minister aware that modelling in the Finkel report concludes that no new coal-fired power stations will be built under a clean energy target, and the Chief Scientist has said about new coal-fired power stations: 'It would be surprising if governments were to endorse a scheme that incentivised them.' Does the Prime Minister agree with Chief Scientist?
I thank the member for Port Adelaide for his question. He knows that Dr Finkel and his expert panel have produced a comprehensive report. In that report their preferences is for the clean energy target over the Labor Party's emissions intensity scheme. The reason for that is that it will lower prices more than an EIS would. He also makes it very clear that when it comes to coal, under the clean energy target it will stay in the system longer, and that by creating a level of regulatory certainty you are more likely, as an existing coal operator, to be able to go to your financiers and get the money to do an upgrade or the maintenance that is required.
The Chief Scientist was asked whether a new coal-fired power station could be built, and he said, 'Absolutely; it is conceivable that it could be built.' And that is the key point: the market will determine these matters. But the Labor Party is in denial about the importance of coal as a form of base load power. It might be surprising to them to know that in South Australia, when the Northern Power Station closed and they lost all the coal-fired power in South Australia, prices went up and the system became less stable, because the Premier of South Australia, Jay Weatherill, was conducting a big experiment. Adelaide Brighton, in the member for Port Adelaide's own electorate, an employer of 450, lost its power for 36 hours. So, what does the member for Port Adelaide say to the 450 workers in his own electorate? He does not want to answer that question. He does not want to take responsibility for his left-wing caucus mate, the Premier of South Australia.
The reality is that under the Prime Minister's leadership we have put storage front and centre of the government's agenda: our announcement around Snowy Hydro 2.0; the work the Australian National University is doing to map out other pumped hydro facilities throughout the country; what we did in Tasmania and the work we are doing there to investigate, again, hydro facilities and expansion in Tasmania, which will be of great help in providing a battery to the mainland; the work we are doing with ARENA in Cultana in South Australia, in the Upper Spencer Gulf; and the work we are doing to create a virtual power plant throughout South Australia—1,000 homes and businesses connected in order to provide battery storage.
That is what the coalition is doing. Our primary objective is the stability of the system so that we do not see a repeat of the madness that occurred under the Labor Party. And our other key objective is affordability, because we on this side of the House care about jobs and investment, unlike the reckless Labor Party.
My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Will the minister update the House on how the government is taking a technology-neutral approach to energy policy that will allow carbon capture and storage to play a bigger role in the transition to a lower-emissions future? Is the minister aware of any obstacles?
I thank the member for Forrest for her question and know that she is very concerned about the future of industry in the south-west of her state. She is concerned about not only the affordability of power but also its sustainability and ensuring that it is low-emissions technology. That is why she and other coalition members on this side of the House welcome our announcement that we are seeking to amend the legislation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to enable it to invest in carbon capture and storage.
Back in 2011-12 there was a political fix, and the political fix was between the Labor Party and their alliance partners, the Greens. They ruled out carbon capture and storage as one of the prohibited technologies that could be funded under the CEFC. This is despite the fact that the International Energy Agency says it is not optional, when it comes to reducing emissions, to rule out CCS. And it is despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change saying that the cost of meeting Paris commitments would be double if you did not have CCS. It is despite the fact that you can get a 90 per cent emissions reduction by using CCS, not just for thermal generation—gas and coal—but also, importantly, for industrial processes: chemicals, steel, cement.
That is why the coalition's announcement was welcomed by the likes of BHP, BlueScope, the Business Council of Australia, Energy Networks Australia and Shell. And indeed it was entirely consistent with the comments of the member for Corio, the member for McMahon, the opposition leader in the Senate, the member for Lilley and indeed the member for Port Adelaide.
Opposition members interjecting—
Government members interjecting—
Mr Speaker, on your earlier ruling, where you drew attention to all interjections being disorderly and members being referred to by their title, the Treasurer has just done the exact same thing, in defiance of your ruling—and he knows he is in defiance.
The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. I urge the Manager of Opposition Business, if he would like—given it is Thursday, and with five minutes to go—to perhaps, with respect, review everything I said when I addressed his last point of order. I do again say to members interjecting that all interjections are disorderly, and they should bear that in mind particularly when it comes to referring to members by their correct titles.
The Labor Party went to the Australian people in 2016 ahead of the election with a specific policy proposal, which was to broaden the investment of the CEFC. The member for Port Adelaide went to the Press Club and said he wanted to get rid of the ridiculous restrictions on the mandate of the CEFC. So you could imagine our surprise when the Labor Party announced that it would not support our legislative change to the CEFC. We know that the Labor Party will say one thing—it does not matter if it is on company tax, it does not matter if it is on the Medicare levy, it does not matter if it is on Gonski school funding and now it does not matter if it is on energy policy—they will say one thing to the Australian people and do another thing in this place. We all know on this side of the House that, when it comes to hypocrisy, thy name is Labor.
My question is to the Prime Minister. The Finkel review concluded that a clean energy target, accompanied by other reforms, would lower prices, lower emissions and ensure reliability without new coal power stations. But it is reported today that the government is considering throwing more than $1 billion of taxpayers' money at a new coal-fired power station. How can the Prime Minister possibly justify throwing $1 billion of taxpayers' money at a new coal-fired power station?
We know that the member for Lilley supports coal, because he commissioned a report into a new coal-fired power station in Northern Queensland. The member for Lilley—the second most famous boy to come out of Nambour High, the second most famous graduate out of Nambour High—
A government member: The Treasurer of the millennia.
the Treasurer of the millennia, and Euromoney's Treasurer of the Year. The reality when it comes to coal is that it is a critical part of our energy mix. The Leader of the Opposition said this in 2007:
We believe completely that coal is part of Australia's energy future … We also need to be at the forefront of ensuring that the processes, which we adopt to use coal, are as clean and as efficient as can possibly be made.
So the reality is that, under Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, we want an energy mix which is technology neutral, which is focused on the trifecta of affordability, stability and meeting our international commitments. Only we on this side of the House can do that and only Labor will drive up electricity prices and lead to a more unstable electricity system.