Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister agree with the Business Council of Australia, which today said about the government's discredited forced divestment policy:
It is surprising to see this legislation proposed by a Liberal Government. This is the kind of intrusive, heavy-handed intervention into the market you would expect from the Greens.
Further, they said that 'bad policy created this mess, and ill-conceived and rushed policy' won't achieve what is desperately needed: lower electricity bills for families and businesses.
The Labor Party spend most of their time saying that we are the champions of big businesses. I'll tell you who is sitting in bed with big businesses that want to rip off Australian customers on their electricity prices: the Labor Party. That's who it is. I agree with the Business Council on this matter though—when the Business Council of Australia said that the emissions target of 26 per cent is appropriate and achievable, but a 45 per cent emissions reduction target is an economy-wrecking target. That is what the Labor Party are proposing. So, not only do they want to cuddle up to the big energy companies and not take the sides of customers, like the Liberal Party and the National Party are doing, they also want to hit customers with what is effectively a 45 per cent electricity tax, which will put up electricity prices for mums and dads and for small businesses and pensioners and older Australians. That's the Labor Party's view.
The member for Barker reminded us this week that when Robert Menzies said that we stand up for the forgotten people, that didn't mean forgotten energy company executives; it meant mums and dads and people paying electricity bills. That's who we're fighting for. In the Liberal and National parties, we're fighting for small businesses who are out there working hard. We're fighting for family businesses. We're fighting for people who go out there and earn a wage and pay tax. We're fighting for people who haven't got the time to go out there and be advocates all the time and be political activists. That is the party of the Labor Party and the Greens and the Left. They want to fill the airwaves with economy-wrecking policies, but what we're doing on this side is standing up for Australians who work hard and are sick of paying too much for their electricity bills. We're prepared to take on the big energy companies; the Labor Party has folded.
My question is to the Minister for Energy. Young people across Australia, and again today here in our parliament, are demanding your government take action on climate change and listen to the world's climate scientists. But, instead, you're proposing to use public money to underwrite and indemnify coal-fired power stations, which could leave taxpayers exposed to huge liabilities. Minister, to the nearest billion dollars, what is the potential exposure of the taxpayer if, over summer, you underwrite coal-fired power stations or indemnify them against future carbon risk? Will you now drop your fiscally irresponsible crusade to prop up coal-fired power stations, or will you leave it to this power-sharing parliament to pass my bill to prevent your economic recklessness?
I thank the member for his question. We are seeing, over the next 2½ years, an investment of $15 billion committed to new generation in the electricity sector. That will see a 250 per cent increase in the solar and wind in our sector, from nine per cent of generation up to 23 per cent of generation in the next 2½ years. Whilst ensuring that we will get emissions below 26 per cent by the early 2020s, the challenge this creates is we need to have enough dispatchable 24/7 power in the system to keep the lights on and keep prices down. That's why we are underwriting new generation, new supply, to make sure those prices come down.
We are also taking on the big energy companies. And we're doing that because we have seen dodgy practices, we have seen manipulation and we have seen price gouging from those in the energy sector that are more interested in the bottom line than the interests of customers. Those opposite have a big decision to make: whose side do they sit on? Do they sit on the side of the hardworking small businesses and families of Australia—
Members can cease interjecting The minister will resume his seat—I haven't called you; I need to rule on the point of order raised by the member for Melbourne. His question had a long preamble and at least three questions in it, so it's not in order to raise a point of order and seek that the minister answer one single part of it. If the member for Melbourne wants the minister to be contained in his answer to a specific area, he needs to make sure that the question is specific to that point.
The real question here is: which side of the table do those opposite sit on? Do they sit on the side of the hardworking small businesses and families of Australia, or do they sit on the side of the big energy companies? We on this side sit with those hardworking small businesses and families across Australia.