House debates

Monday, 23 October 2017

Questions without Notice


2:36 pm

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Defence Industry, representing the Minister for Employment. Will the minister update the House on how the government's commitment to guaranteeing an affordable and reliable energy supply is critical to generating a stronger economy with more jobs? How does a fragile energy market jeopardise the prosperity of our economy?

2:37 pm

Photo of Christopher PyneChristopher Pyne (Sturt, Liberal Party, Leader of the House) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Boothby for her question. The member for Boothby will remember that, last week, it was announced that the Turnbull government had presided over 371,000 new jobs in the last 12 months. A lot of people might have thought that that was hard to improve upon. That was such a stunning number. How do you get more jobs out of the economy? Well, there is a way. You can solve the energy issue, which is exactly what this government is trying to do—which I note that the opposition have given up on today. They have completely given up on energy. The issue that our constituents raise with us everywhere we go is affordable power and reliable power. Labor have not asked one question about it today. Instead, they've given up on energy, but this side of the House hasn't.

We know that, if we can bring about affordable and reliable energy, it will create even more jobs than the 371,000 that we announced last week. It's good for investment. It's good for jobs. It's good for growth.

As recently as today, it was revealed that AEMO has intervened in the South Australian energy market five times in the last six weeks to keep the lights on in South Australia—five times in the last six weeks, and it's only spring. Imagine how fearful older people in their homes, businesses and hardworking Australian families are—imagine how concerned they are—about the approaching summer.

So what we're calling on the South Australian government to do is get on board with this government's Australian National Energy Guarantee. The National Energy Guarantee has the capability to solve the energy crisis in this country by increasing supply and capacity in the market, driving down prices and, therefore, as a consequence, ensuring more reliable supply and more affordable prices for businesses and households. We don't want the Premier, Jay Weatherill, or Tom Koutsantonis standing on the platform forlornly as the train pulls out.

The Australian public are not interested in people playing politics on energy prices in Australia. They're not interested in the Labor Party wanting to play the old politics of negativity and division. What they want is to see, at COAG in November, the state and territory governments getting on board with this government's attempt at solving one of the most significant issues facing households and businesses every day. We don't want the snake-oil salesman, the Leader of the Opposition, pretending to be bipartisan, offering support, when in fact all he wants is a political fight. On this occasion, the Labor Party needs to support the households and businesses of Australia. (Time expired)

2:40 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Port Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister's latest energy policy. On 1 July, electricity prices for the average EnergyAustralia household in New South Wales increased by nearly 20 per cent. So does the Prime Minister seriously expect people in New South Wales to thank him for a lousy 50c-a-week saving they might get in three years time?

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, people in New South Wales will certainly not thank the honourable member opposite for his efforts to impose on them the South Australian solution, which of course is to have the most expensive and the least reliable electricity in the country. The reality is that the Labor Party's failures in energy have created the problems we face today. The honourable member opposite, who asked the question, first said to Barrie Cassidy that Labor had no idea that allowing the export of gas from the east coast could result in higher prices and tight supply. He said, 'No warnings'—it came as a bolt out of the blue, apparently. But then, when it became obvious that this ridiculous position could not be sustained—because not only had the warnings come from the Public Service, from the Department of Energy, but they'd come from the Energy Market Operator—he had to then turn around and make a belated confession.

The rise in the price of gas was entirely a consequence of the Labor Party's failure to apply any level of business competence to the management of national energy policy. Despite warnings to the contrary, they allowed gas to be exported from the east coast without any effort to protect the domestic market.

Now we have addressed that challenge. Gas is now flowing. Today, when I was with Senator Seselja and the minister for energy at Viridian Glass today, we heard Rob Sindel, the chief executive of CSR, noting the benefits that are flowing from our action on gas, and noting that wholesale spot prices have been coming down since our actions. That is an example of delivery of real action to deliver a drop in gas prices that of course is going to be important to ensure the viability of so many businesses.

The honourable member makes up figures—what was it? Fifty cents a week or something? He can make up all the figures he likes. The reality is this: he knows that we have a policy recommended by the Energy Security Board—independent; expert—which says that they expect there to be a 20-to-25-per-cent reduction in wholesale costs over the period, and that would be reflected, they estimate, in a $110-to-$115-a-year reduction in electricity bills for retail customers. (Time expired)

2:44 pm

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

My question is to the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services. Will the minister update the House on how the government's National Energy Guarantee will support hardworking Australians and businesses and drive investment and jobs growth in the economy? Is the minister aware of any alternative approaches?

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Durack for her question, and I know she works hard each and every day to deliver for those members in her community. She knows that you've got to get the policy settings right. You need to make sure that you drive investment in your community in order to deliver a strong economy. And that is exactly what we're doing on this side of the House. That's why we had the good news last week that the coalition government had been able to deliver more than 371,000 new jobs in the last 12 months alone. But we know that there are threats to this jobs growth. If we are not able to have affordable and reliable energy, we will not be able to continue to deliver the jobs that we need in Australia. That is why we on this side of the House are delivering the National Energy Guarantee that will fix the broken energy policy that has existed in this parliament and in this economy for too long.

Mr Keogh interjecting

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

The member for Burt will cease interjecting.

Photo of Kelly O'DwyerKelly O'Dwyer (Higgins, Liberal Party, Minister for Revenue and Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

It will guarantee reliable energy, by delivering the right level of dispatchable base-load energy at the appropriate points in time. As a result, Australian businesses will be able to have confidence that they can keep the lights on, that they can continue to employ and that they can continue to invest. It is important for both domestic and international investors to have the confidence to invest here in our economy and boost jobs.

The member for Durack has asked whether there are any alternatives, and she is right to ask that—there are. The Labor Party over there have got an energy thought bubble—an energy thought bubble comprised of reckless renewable energy targets that they combine with billions of dollars in subsidies and taxes that will mean higher taxes and less reliability for Australian families and Australian businesses. Labor wants Australian consumers to pay for their $66 billion subsidy, and, while they are happy to slug Australians and Australian employers with higher energy prices, they have forgotten that one of the core responsibilities of government is to deliver reliable and affordable energy, to keep the lights on and to keep the economy running. Labor have no plan whatsoever to do anything on energy, unless, of course, the wind is blowing—and the wind is certainly blowing over there!—or unless the sun is shining. They will cost Australian businesses and Australian jobs if they put in place their energy thought bubble. The National Energy Guarantee, which we will deliver, will deliver for all Australians. (Time expired)

2:47 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Thanks to this Prime Minister and legislation being debated in the parliament today, someone earning $60,000 is guaranteed a tax hike of $300 a year. Yet the Prime Minister can't even guarantee they will save a lousy 50c a week on their energy bills in three years' time. Why is it that the only guarantee this Prime Minister can make is that, thanks to him, working Australians will always have less?

2:48 pm

Photo of Malcolm TurnbullMalcolm Turnbull (Wentworth, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Australians know that Labor governments can be guaranteed to deliver higher energy prices and less reliable energy. The Labor Party's track record when it comes to border protection, when it comes to the NBN and when it comes to energy reveals astounding incompetence. The Labor Party have demonstrated both at the federal level and at the state level, particularly in South Australia, that they cannot be trusted with energy policy and that their incompetence, the combination of ideology and idiocy, results in less affordable, more expensive energy and less reliable energy. So the lights don't stay on, the air conditioners don't stay on and the hospitals don't have their plant running.

The Labor Party's failure to look after Australia's energy security is one of their great failures in government, and it goes hand in hand with all of those examples of Labor incompetence, whether it's failing to defend the integrity of our nation's borders, whether it's their incompetence with the NBN, wasting billions of dollars in sheer mismanagement, or whether it is putting our energy security at risk. The Labor Party cannot manage—they are incompetent—and that has been proved by them again and again.

2:49 pm

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister outline to the House the importance of affordable and reliable energy for Victoria's rural and regional hospitals, such as Horsham hospital? Is the minister aware of any threats that undermine the delivery of services at regional hospitals?

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Mallee, who's been a passionate advocate for Horsham hospital, Kerang hospital and West Wimmera hospital services in areas such as Nhill and Jeparit. But one of the things he knows as a practical farmer is that if you can't keep the lights on you can't run a hospital service; you can't take care of people. There are two fundamental approaches to electricity affordability in this House: on one side is a constant push for downward pressure on electricity prices, and on our side it is to increase electricity reliability. Whether that involves the abolition of Labor's electricity tax, its carbon tax, whether that involves pushing to overturn the approaches in South Australia and Victoria which have created massive electricity instability and price hikes, or whether that involves opposing Labor's new $66 billion electricity tax, our side is consistent. We believe and we practise policy which pushes down electricity prices.

By comparison, there's a very different approach, a very different philosophy, a very different belief on their side of higher electricity prices and higher electricity taxes. This is why we have seen, in Victoria, Horsham hospital hit with a potential $500,000 increase in its electricity prices this year as part of a $44 million increase in electricity prices for Victoria's hospitals, this is why we've seen a $370,000 hit to the West Woomera hospital service, and this is why Kerang has been hit and the Bendigo region has also been hit. What we see is an outcome of deliberate Labor policy. They intentionally took action to close down the Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria and to blow up the Northern Power Station in South Australia, and the outcome of that was higher electricity prices.

On this side, what we've seen is not just the abolition of the last electricity tax, not just opposition to the next electricity tax but the Prime Minister's work and the energy minister's work with the National Energy Guarantee. These things are about making sure that you can keep the lights on for the homes, for the pensioners, for the community centres and, in particular, for the hospitals. When you rip $44 million out of the hospital service by placing massive high electricity taxes on them, you are hurting hospital services in Victoria. The significance is real and the opportunity cost is profoundly important. At the end of the day, there are two fundamental approaches: one is that we have an approach of downward pressure on electricity prices; the other is that they have a $66 billion electricity tax. (Time expired)