House debates

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Matters of Public Importance


3:25 pm

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

I have received a letter from the honourable member for McMahon proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The impact of the Government's failure on energy policy on Australian jobs, growth and emissions.

I call on all those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:26 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Recently I heard the best explanation of the government's climate change and energy policy I have ever heard. It was quite articulate. It was very clear. It was from the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. He was asked about the government's climate change and energy policy, and he said:

We're not worried, or I'm certainly not worried, about what might happen in 30 years' time.

That was his crisp explanation of the government's climate change policy. They're not worried about the future.

We in this building are meant to be concerned about the challenges facing the Australian people today and what sort of country we leave to the next generation in coming decades. I know our young people want us to be concerned about that. We on this side of the House are concerned about what sort of Australia we leave behind. We worry about the fact that under this government's policies, under the government's current policy settings, net zero emissions won't be reached in 30 years time; they will be reached in 146 years time. That's the current trajectory of our emissions under this government. That means we will be asking Australians to live with more of the types of horrendous bushfires we experienced last year. That means we will be asking Australians to live with longer and more intense heatwaves, with all the health implications for our older Australians and the economic and productivity implications of that. That means we will be asking Australians to live with more and more diseases that are more common in tropical areas. They're the health implications of climate change. They're the health implications for our country. That's what Australia will look like in 30 years time, and the Deputy Prime Minister seems not to care about that.

We are also concerned about what our economy looks like in 30 years time, and the government should be concerned about the missed opportunities of their policy neglect. The government should be concerned about the investment and the jobs we are missing out on in Australia because they don't have a climate change policy. That is what they should be concerned about. The economic implications for the suburbs and regions of our country are about getting climate change and industry policy and regional policy correct. The Liberals and the Nationals have been engaging in a scare campaign for decades now. They claim that climate change is some sort of inner-city obsession that will cost jobs in the regions and the suburbs. That's the narrative of the Liberal and National parties. I tell you what: the actual truth is that the policy paralysis under this government is costing jobs in the suburbs and the regions today, and it will in 30 years time as well. The policy paralysis is cruelling opportunities for our young people.

The fact is it is the regions that have contributed so much to Australia's economic success over decades, creating our energy, that are also the places where new energy can be created with the right policy settings. They are the places with access to the ports, the railway lines and the pipelines. They are the places with the space for renewable energy generation. These are the regions, whether it be the Pilbara, Portland, the Collie-Bunbury, the Hunter or the Illawarra. These are the places that can be the centre of job creation in Australia if we get climate change policy right. They can invest in the jobs. They can generate the energy for us, and it can be exported for the growing middle class of Asia. But we've got to get the policies right. And it's the suburbs of Australia where manufacturing can be reinvested in and regenerated, if we get energy policy right.

I have the honour of representing the largest industrial estate in the Southern Hemisphere, Smithfield and Wetherill Park. I live right on its edge. I see the factory closures when policy goes wrong. But I also see the opportunities. I see the factories installing solar panels to reduce their energy costs so they can create jobs. I know—we know—that we can still be a country that makes things, but the first thing to get right is energy policy. We know it; those opposite don't know it. We can create 250,000 jobs over coming decades by moving to net zero emissions by 2050. We can grow our economy by $680 billion. Or, under the current policy settings, we can lose 880,000 jobs, under the approach of the government. That is the negligence, the neglect, in poor climate change policy under those opposite.

We have great opportunities in Australia. We're the largest producers of lithium, which is essential for batteries. We could actually add value by making batteries and solar panels in Australia much more than we do. But what's the approach of the government? The minister for resources is in the chamber. What was his great contribution to the discussion about the opportunities in lithium? He said:

We have got a real risk particularly with solar panels and lithium batteries that they could turn out to be this generation's asbestos.

What vision! What a vision for Australia! What optimism! What hope he creates! It's going to be the asbestos, he says—and he's the minister for resources! That's his vision for Australia.

The fact is that the economy changes when you move to net zero. It makes more sense to manufacture more in Australia, not to export our raw resources so much but to keep them here and add value and to export the products as well. Not only is the government out of touch with the rest of the world with their refusal to move to net zero by 2050, with more than 120 countries committing to do so; they're out of touch with the job creators in Australia, and the representatives of the job creators. The Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Industry Group, Meat and Livestock Australia, BHP, Origin Energy, BlueScope and Orica—and, just last week, Appia—all support net zero emissions by 2050

The representatives of oil and gas in Australia support net zero by 2050. They have a more forward-leaning climate change policy than the government of the day! That shows how out of touch this government is with those who will create the jobs. And the dysfunction shows itself in other ways. We had the Clean Energy Finance Corporation bill before the House—or at least it's meant to be before the House. The minister at the table said, 'This is a legislative milestone.' It's turned into a millstone around your neck, comrade! It's a millstone, because the government can't even bring it in for a vote, as the government benches outdo themselves in a race to the bottom. The minister says that the CEFC should be able to invest in gas. The member for New England comes in and says, 'Soft!'—it should invest in coal and gas. And then the National Party backbench says, 'Soft!'—it should invest in coal and gas and nuclear. As a result, we don't see the bill before the House.

Now, there are parts of the bill that are very good. There are parts of the bill that support the CEFC investing in the electricity grid. We support that. That's very important as we move to more renewable energy sources, to ensure that energy is transmitted across the country very efficiently. But the government can't make it the law of the land, because they are so dysfunctional and divided. Well, you could just adopt Rewiring the Nation. If you can't do it yourself, feel free to steal our policy. Go ahead; invest in Rewiring the Nation, the Labor Party's approach to it. In the meantime, we see the cost of their dysfunction and their disunity. They can't get on with the job.

The frustrating thing is that the Australian story could be so much better. In question time we hear a lot—it must be driven by focus groups—about the Australian way, the Australian approach. I'd like to see an Australian approach to climate change and energy policy that creates jobs and lowers emissions. That's what we're capable of, right across the regions and suburbs of the country. The economics of renewable energy means we could be a country that makes things, embraces the future and creates jobs for young people. It's not a choice between old industries and new; Australia can do both. We can be a powerhouse. We can be a country which brings people with us as we embrace zero emissions and creates those jobs. We can be a country that, with the newest forms of energy—renewable energy—being the cheapest forms, reduces the costs of manufacturing in Australia and actually gives our manufacturers the chance to create those jobs for young people across the suburbs and regions of our country.

But no. Under this government, it's all too hard. We have the false debates. We have the false division. We have the false identity politics. We have the false morality of those opposite, who are in a race to the bottom to engage in the more backward-looking policy. They are arguing about who's the most backward-looking, with the minister for energy giving it a good go, the member for New England coming in and taking the mantle off him and the National Party backbench racing to the bottom to try and outdo them and kill their own bill.

Australia could do so much better. The Australian way could be so much better. But that would take imagination. It would take embracing of the science and the evidence. It would take leadership and looking to the future. It would be about talking to the Australian people about what is possible in 30 years time, embracing the hope and optimism of change, and embracing the need for reform so that those older industries can be accompanied by new industries in our regions and suburbs. This government's not up to it. An Albanese Labor government will have to do it.

3:36 pm

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to rise on this MPI. Of course, it's an MPI that's designed to distract from the indecision and division of those opposite. We know they're paralysed by that indecision. In 10 minutes, the member opposite did not even mention a 2030 target. We know why he didn't mention a 2030 target: because those opposite can't agree on it. You've got the member for Hunter up there saying, 'Adopt the coalition's target.' That's what he's saying—sensible chap! These guys down here can't agree on what it's going to be, so they have no 2030 target. Now let's look at how profound that is. You can't be in the Paris Agreement without a 2030 target. They are walking away from the Paris Agreement. That is their policy position. With no 2030 target, that's where you wind up.

On this side of the place, we are focused on affordable, reliable energy as we bring down our emissions, and our plan is working. We've had eight consecutive quarters of year-on-year CPI price reductions in electricity, with over nine per cent reduction in the last four months alone—9.2 per cent.

Mr Conroy interjecting

The member for Shortland—I'll take that interjection—knows that that's good for manufacturers in this country, good for small businesses in this country and good for households in this country. The wholesale prices, which are the prices that the big manufacturers rely on, are 50 per cent lower than they were several years ago. They are the reductions that we are seeing. They are the outcomes that are happening right here and now. With the default market offer, the price cap that we put in place several years ago to protect those consumers who aren't in a position to go out and negotiate a better deal, in the last year alone we've seen an average bill for a household come down by $136 and for a small business by $577. That's on top of two years of DMO price cap reductions leading up to the last year as well. Now is a great time to shop around. Those wholesale price reductions are coming through to customers. The best way to do that is to jump on the Energy Made Easy website and upload your historical usage. The savings are there, coming from the policies we have been putting in place: the price cap, the additional supply and making sure the big generators don't leave without replacement.

Crucial to all of this is making sure we have enough dispatchable power in our system. We don't want to see a repeat of what the Victorian government did when we saw the closure of Hazelwood and a near doubling of wholesale prices in Victoria as a result of that. As we look forward to future closures like that of Liddell in 2023, we need to make sure that the replacement happens. We've set a target of 1,000 megawatts that needs to be in place to do that. If necessary, we will build a gas generator in the Hunter Valley, a good place to have a gas generator. The member for Shortland knows that. That will contain prices and create jobs. It will generate and sustain jobs in those crucial manufacturing industries.

On top of that, we are seeing outcomes on emissions reductions. We beat our 2020 targets by 459 million tonnes. When those opposite left government, they forecast that emissions last year would be over 635 million tonnes. This was their forecast, with a carbon tax in place. You know what they were? They were close to 500 million tonnes, almost 20 per cent lower than their forecast. And we got rid of their carbon tax. We got rid of it. I'll come back to the carbon tax in a moment, but we got rid of that.

If we look to our 2030 forecast, it is, on a per-person basis, more ambitious than that of many countries in the world—Norway, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and France. It's more ambitious than any of those countries. In the last two years alone, we have improved our position and the performance we're expecting on the 2030 targets by 630 million tonnes. That is the equivalent of taking every car off the road for 15 years. We're not going to do that. We don't need to. We believe in strengthening the economy as we bring down emissions, and that is exactly what is happening.

In 2020, we saw a record seven gigawatts of renewable capacity built in this country, increasingly dominated by household solar because the costs are coming down. In the whole time those opposite were in power, between 2007 and 2013, 5.6 gigawatts was built. In one year we've built more than they did in the whole time they were last in power. We have the highest rate of household solar in the world, with one in four houses with household solar on roofs.

We have to balance that with flexible dispatchable generation, which is why we're investing in crucial projects like Snowy 2.0 and making sure there's enough gas generation, because that flexible gas generation does the job of ensuring the system is balanced to deliver the affordable, reliable energy Australians need.

We know that the answer to bringing down emissions in Australia and around the world is technology, not taxation. It's accelerating technologies like hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and soil carbon which doesn't just bring down emissions but increases the productivity of agriculture in the country. Low-carbon materials like steel, aluminium and cement—this is how you bring down emissions and ensure that industry is strong in this country. Indeed, we know, based on our past experience, that our $18 billion of investment in technology, which will scale up to $70 billion with private sector investment alongside ours, will create 130,000 jobs by 2030. That's without a carbon tax.

We have just been lectured by the member for McMahon, who's new to the job. But it's worth having a look at what the member for McMahon has said in the past about climate policies. Just before the last election, he was on ABC's 7.30 bragging about being the key architect of Labor's failed climate policies they took to the last election. It was those policies that included a 45 per cent emission reduction target that we know was going to slash jobs and slash industries and was effectively just a sneaky carbon tax. The member for Shortland got it right. He described it that way. An 'implicit carbon tax' was the way he put it.

When it comes to the member for McMahon, every problem has a simple solution—and it's more tax. He went for the tax on retirees. He went for the tax on homeowners. This time, they'll be coming after every hardworking Australian with—you guessed it!—a tax on electricity, because they know no other way. That is all they ever have. That's why they're refusing to commit to a 2030 target. We know the only way they would be able to reduce the 2030 target they really have in the top drawer—the 45 per cent emissions reduction target—is through a tax for hardworking Australians on their electricity, gas, cars and you name it. It'll be on their cattle. It'll be on farmers' cattle. The burping cow will get a tax, because that is the only way they know how to do it. Meanwhile, on this side of this place, we are focused on the solutions that will deliver reducing emissions, falling emissions, without destroying jobs and investment.

The member for Hunter and some of his other colleagues are right. He described the member for McMahon's predecessor in this role, the member for Hindmarsh, as having been dumped because he was 'as useless as a vegan in a butcher shop'. That's how he was described. You can move the member for Hindmarsh out and the member for McMahon in, but it doesn't change the fact that they're on the same horse. They've changed the jockey, but it's the same horse. The member for Hunter again had it right when he said that, after 14 years of trying, the Labor Party has not made one contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in this country. That comes from the member for McMahon's own side. That's what the member for Hunter has said about his own side. I couldn't have put it better myself. I have no doubt that, when it comes to climate and energy, the member for McMahon will repeat what he said when he was the shadow Treasurer: 'If you don't like our approach, don't vote for us.' This arrogant approach is now being applied to energy policy.

Well, we are focused on delivering affordable, reliable energy as we bring down our emissions. We are delivering. The outcomes are there. There's been a five per cent reduction in the electricity grid in the last year alone. We're delivering on our 2020 targets, we'll deliver on our 2030 targets at a canter, and we'll deliver in the longer term by focusing on technology, not taxation.

3:46 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

What utter gibberish! I can't get over how hopeless that contribution was, from the latest energy minister of a government that produced 22 energy policies in eight years—probably 23, when they kill their CEFC bill after the revolt from the member from New England and the National Party room. Seriously, it takes a real skill to get rolled by the National Party room and Barnaby Joyce. Let's check some facts. To reach the minus-five-per-cent 2020 target this government signed up to, our emissions had to be 515 million tonnes per annum. Under Labor, we cut emissions over six years by 93 million tonnes. Guess how much they cut emissions by in the first six years of their government. Six million. We only reached the minus-five-per-cent target last year because of the COVID recession. That's the only reason. If the COVID recession hadn't wiped out 14 million tonnes of our emissions last year, we wouldn't have reached the minus-five-per-cent target they brag about.

What about the 2030 target? Their own figures admit that they're not going to meet it. Their own figures say that, at best, we'll be 22 per cent below 2005 levels, meaning we will have only cut emissions by 136 million tonnes, compared to 2005 levels. Where have these 136 million tonnes come from? Again, nearly 100 million tonnes was cut by Labor when we were in power. Let me repeat that: 100 million tonnes of carbon pollution per year cut from our annual emissions. Secondly, this government revised the projections between 2019 and 2020 by 33 million tonnes. What drove that reduction in emissions projections? First off, it was the record installation of rooftop solar panels under Labor's RET, which they repeatedly tried to abolish, and under state Labor policies that they opposed. They're claiming credit yet again for a federal policy they tried several times tried to abolish and for state policies. Secondly—and this is the one I love—the revised emissions projections also include eight million tonnes of pollution saved by the increased take-up of electric vehicles. What hypocrisy from this government! Who doesn't remember Michaelia Cash's unhinged attack on Labor during the last election, claiming that somehow we were going to take away the weekend and take away tradies' utes? And now they're claiming credit for the increased electric vehicle take-up in this country, despite the fact they have not a single policy to achieve it.

Then there are some very suspicious figures on fugitive emissions going down, despite the fact we've had a very significant increase in fugitive emissions over the last four or five years. Despite all those rubbery figures, the government admit that they would only be at minus 22 per cent by 2030, not to the 28 per cent they brag about.

How did they get to the minus 28 per cent? They then claim—

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

They just make it up!

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

They just make it up! The member for Griffith is right. They make it up by claiming nearly another hundred million tonnes of abatement from the technology road map. I've read the technology road map and it is as useful in this debate as a restaurant menu. It just says, 'We have all these wonderful technologies. We have carbon capture and storage, we have solar and we have hydrogen.' It says, 'We have all these great technologies,' but it doesn't deliver a single policy that drives them. It doesn't deliver a single policy to drive those technologies, which are suddenly going to provide abatement through technology.

The truth is that this government has no policies to cut pollution. All they can do is claim credit for Labor's policies from when we were in government, claim credit for state policies driving record renewable energy investment, claim credit for recessions—they can claim credit for the COVID recession—and claim credit for electric vehicles coming up. This is the truth of this government. They're all spin and no substance when it comes to emissions policy.

As the member for McMahon pointed out in his contribution, they're sacrificing huge economic opportunities for this country—huge economic opportunities—to grow jobs in things like battery manufacturing and lithium mining. We should be using our great mining resources to supply the new industries of the future. That is what's being sacrificed and that's what has been betrayed by this government. They're betraying regions like mine, which could be the centre of new power as well as continuing to be a centre of other technologies, including export coalmining. That's what the future is under wise government, but that's not what this government is doing. This government is pursuing an ideological obsession in the Nationals party room of putting nuclear power around the country.

3:51 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm thankful for the opportunity to respond to what has been absolute twaddle. We'll give a couple of lessons to the member for McMahon. Out in the real world, there's a thing called a material safety data sheet. He should go and look some of them up. If we're going to have tens of thousands of acres of solar panels in this country, it's a responsible government that will deal with them in an environmentally friendly way when they come to the end of their working lives. Those opposite may not know this, but solar panels actually deteriorate over time. Their output deteriorates to the point where eventually they're not worth having and are removed. They get damaged—they get hit by hail—and they have to be disposed of appropriately. If those opposite are seriously saying that we shouldn't have a plan to deal with these issues, well, they are lost—lost once again.

I'll say this to the member for McMahon as well, who raised bushfires. From someone who lives in an area affected by bushfires, in regional Queensland, there are three things which come into play for bushfires: the fuel load, the ignition source and oxygen. If state governments continue to not deal with hazard reduction burns and if they continue to not decrease the levels of hazard in terms of the fuel load, then these results will continue. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you've been out there as well, in your former life. You know that, if you're out there standing in front of a fire which has 40 years of fuel load on the ground and there's a 30 kilometre-an-hour wind up its backside, it will be a massive fire coming towards you. You would really want the state government to have dealt with this issue beforehand. These things can be dealt with, the risk can be reduced and we can have a better outcome.

I say to those opposite that the questions remain the same for their policies: What's it going to cost? How are you going to do it? Who is paying and where do they reside? We know from the last election—it was very, very clear—that the former Leader of the Opposition had no plan and didn't know what the cost was. And, when the Australian people put the pressure on him, they decided that he was the Bill they couldn't afford, hence we are here in government and we're delivering on our technology road map. We're moving forward with our plans.

We've heard a lot from those opposite about critical minerals and a lot from those opposite about those opportunities into the future. It's this side which is actually taking on those opportunities. It is this side of the House which established the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office. It is this side which is engaging internationally to see that those opportunities come to fruition. In fact, in Western Australia there's been a deal done for lithium between a company and the US Department of Defense. I think this is another good outcome which we will continue to build on into the future.

What do we say to those opposite? I read the press, like many people in this building, and I think that Greg Brown from The Australian belled the cat. He had a great story, some weeks or months ago—

Government Member:

A government member interjecting

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

He did indeed! It was about Labor's environmental action network. And what was Labor's plan from the LEAN? And I know we have a lot of lean members over here! The great plan was to get rid of gas appliances. They were going to eliminate gas appliances across the country. Can you imagine it? The Leader of the Opposition, he's out with the handcart, he's clogging over the tiles, he's working his way down the road: 'Bring out your kitchen appliances! Bring out your hot water systems! You can't have them anymore, because they run on gas.' What an absolute nonsense. Can you imagine it? The Leader of the Opposition, he's in his hard hat, he's got his hi-vis on, he's charging through the kitchen with his hammer: 'Where's your stove? You can't keep that. We've got to have that gone, because it's all about the environment.'

I think this is a ridiculous proposition from those opposite. They want to cancel the Christmas barbecue. They want to take away gas opportunities. All of the people around Australia know it is a complete nonsense. It is a complete nonsense. As the minister said earlier, what we know of those opposite is that they've changed jockeys but that they've got the same horse—the same horse, heading in the same direction, with the same challenges.

We'll continue to support to resources sector. We'll continue to develop gas across this country. We'll continue to ensure they have jobs. What do we see from those opposite? They're terrified of coalmines. The Leader of the Opposition went to Queensland, couldn't find his way into one of the biggest export industries in Queensland, couldn't find a way to have a chat with those people who work underground and above ground, delivering those resources right around the world and ensuring that royalties continue to be paid to state governments—royalties that pay for roads, schools and hospitals.

I say to all of those listening, all of those individuals, those hardworking men and women in the resources sector: thank you for the work you've done over the last 12 months. This side of the parliament appreciates your work; this side of the parliament will continue to support you. Those opposite want you to be out of a job, and they have demonstrated that over and over again. We'll continue to see it from those opposite. They simply don't want people to have a job.

3:56 pm

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If you're someone working in the resources or energy sectors, you would have been incredibly disappointed with the contribution that just came from your own minister. It completely misunderstood the purpose of this MPI, which is to address the fact that the government has failed on energy policy and failed to protect Australian jobs and industry.

Lots of people on this side have been to coalmines and spoken to coalworkers. I'm one of them. They've raised issues with us that this government has failed to address in their industry. They have huge safety issues, which the minister who just addressed the House has not addressed. They have huge workplace issues. What they say to me when I speak to them is that they want a minister to sit down and be honest about what's happening in their industry—not the spin, not the rhetoric, not the protection of the big multinationals. Be honest about it. They want to know what's going on in trade negotiations. Let's hear from the government the honesty about what's happening with coal. How many ships are now stuck off the coast of China because they haven't resolved that dispute? What knock-on effect will that have on Australian industry and Australian jobs?

This government has failed. Any achievement that we have actually made in this area around reducing emissions and getting on top of the energy crisis is due to the work of the former federal Labor government, as people on this side have outlined, and the work of current state Labor governments, which have committed to renewable energy targets and committed to net zero emissions by 2050. We are not alone. The government seems to think it's a really radical idea to commit to net zero emissions by 2050, but the National Farmers Federation stands with us, the Australian Industry Group stands with us—multiple businesses and organisations stand with Labor on this. And it's not just because it is about improving our position when it comes to carbon emissions. It's not just about the opportunity for jobs and industry in Australia. It's because the rest of the world is going that way, and if we do not act soon we'll be hit with climate tariffs. They are coming. There's a reason why we don't have free trade agreements or multilateral agreements yet with the EU and the UK. The rest of the world is going that way, yet we have a government whose heads are so far in the sand—or the 1950s—that they can't see that their inaction will cost jobs.

The government's failure is costing us jobs in agriculture. You talk to farmers, whether they're involved in the Climate Action Network or the Farmers Federation. The impact that global warming is having on crops and the impact that the inaction on climate change is having on agriculture cannot be underestimated. Whether it be our wine and wine production industry or our fruit-growing industry, farmers are struggling to understand the science required to keep up with the changing climate around them, and they are desperately calling out. They see a positive role that agriculture can play in a world where we are moving towards net zero emissions by 2050.

I've mentioned trade. So many jobs are on the line because we are not meeting our commitments, our targets. Then there's manufacturing, which the government like to pretend they are on the side of. I've lost count of the number of manufacturers that I spoken to who want a decent energy policy. Not 22 in six years, but a decent energy policy that delivers low energy costs, green energy costs. I have manufacturers in central Victoria saying, 'We will help build the solar farm near our manufacturing facilities if we can get support from the federal government to do so.' Our industries want to go greener. They get that it's good for business. They get that it's good for the environment. It also secures their energy going forward.

It's also going to have a huge impact on tourism and hospitality jobs. Those opposite make a joke about it—'Nobody wants to sit outside on a 40-degree day'. Talk to the business owners who can't set up their outdoor dining on a 40- to 45-degree day. The impact global warming is having on hospitality and tourism cannot be underestimated. The government think it's a joke. They think the more that people raise this issue and link it back to jobs, the less they're being serious. We need a government that is serious about energy and energy policy that will protect and secure jobs going forward, not be laughed at and joked about.

4:01 pm

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

Honestly, I can't believe this motion. I am really struggling. Energy and emission policies by this government are a spectacular success, and saying it ain't so does not make it fact. We are completely on target. We beat our Kyoto targets. We'll beat Kyoto 2. And, despite what the member for Bendigo just said about not meeting targets, we are on track to beat our Paris targets—a non-compulsory target that a whole host of countries, who puffed their chests out at the time, didn't even set targets for. But we will meet our target—a target, in fact, that the ALP are not publicly prepared to say they would commit to.

I should know a bit about energy policy. I come from South Australia. In 2016 we faced an absolute crisis when the Weatherill government—a Labor government, I might point out—pulled the rug out from under the Northern Power Station. They pulled 540 megawatts off the power grid overnight—just like that; snap—and our spot prices for wholesale electricity in South Australia that year soared to $108 a megawatt hour. In the five years that have passed since that time, through strategic government policies—these things don't happen in a vacuum—this year it's $35 a megawatt.

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

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

Yes, the battery is an improvement. So is the extra wind generation. I absolutely support that premise. But let me also say that the more than halving of the gas price in Australia is absolutely instrumental in delivering that outcome. Let me explain to those on the other side, if they don't understand: it is the last generator that comes into the electricity bidding grid that sets the price, and in this case the last bidder is the generator that that can supply electricity on demand, and in South Australia that's gas. So the more than halving of the gas price in South Australia has led to the outcome where we have more than halved, in fact it's come down by almost 60 per cent, the wholesale spot price in South Australia.

This has made an absolute difference in our state. We can see businesses that can afford to lift their heads up again and pay their electricity rates. In fact, in 2016 we had the highest electricity price in the world. To then hear in this place that people are proposing that the government policies that have actually delivered that outcome are a failure is beyond imagination, quite frankly.

The other half of what I really wanted to concentrate on here today is the absolute myth that keeps on being expounded in this place that somehow Australia is failing on emissions targets as well. I started off by giving you those facts about the targets we are meeting. In this year, 2021, we are now 17 per cent below the 2005 emissions levels, and we will get to 26 to 28 per cent by 2030. This is an outcome that is not matched by many nations around the world.

Last week, I came into this place and I took some time to explain to people how the international carbon accounting mechanism is drawn up by Europeans for Europeans, and it does not recognise the role of nations that actually export energy to provide clean energy on their behalf. Take the Australian gas industry, for instance. Thirty per cent of the energy from gas that is extracted in Australia to be sent to Japan so they can have clean electricity—much cleaner than using coal—is actually used in Australia in the compression process. Guess whose debit that 30 per cent goes on? It goes down against Australia, yet we are not the beneficiary of using the energy. That is an absolute racket! When it comes to uranium, we use electricity and diesel to mine and refine the uranium and then we send it to other countries so they can have clean energy, but the diesel and the electricity goes on our debit account. That's a preposterous situation. It should operate like a GST.

4:06 pm

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I have spoken in this place often about how I think the government could be capitalising on the jobs and opportunities that the renewables sector has to offer. We should be leading the world, and I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say that, if Labor were in government, we would be. Australia and, I strongly believe, my electorate on the New South Wales South Coast in particular are uniquely poised to be booming in the renewable energy space. We know the community wants us to. We know the non-government sector and industry want us to. So what is holding us back? That's right: it's this government's failure to establish a coherent and clear energy policy. It is costing us jobs, it is costing us innovation and it is allowing our emissions to continue going up.

Only last week I put on the record my strong objections to the government's proposed changes to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation bill. At that moment in time, the proposal in front of us was to add gas as one of the industries the CEFC could invest in. I said I was concerned that the bill was an attempt to undermine the CEFC and fundamentally change its purpose, which is to support renewable energy generation. Oh, what I didn't know! Before too long, the Nationals had piped up again. The member for New England decided he wanted coal-fired power plants included as well. Somehow Barnaby Joyce thinks a fund that allows for investment in new technologies that help to lower emissions should invest in old fossil fuels. Go figure! And then what do you know? The Nationals' obsession with nuclear power reared its ugly head. The leader and deputy leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Bridget McKenzie and Matt Canavan—the former minister for resources, no less—decided they want the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in nuclear power. I have said it before and I will say it again: the coalition cannot be trusted—

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member will pause. The minister is seeking the call. Point of order?

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I just remind the member to use—

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is it a point of order?

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, it's on a point of order in relation to using the correct title for members and senators.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've been listening closely to the member, and there have been a couple of occasions where she has used the name of the senator. I ask her to use the proper title. Please continue.

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've said it before and I will say it again: the coalition cannot be trusted when it comes to nuclear power. But I can tell you this much: the people of my electorate of Gilmore on the New South Wales South Coast will never accept a nuclear power plant on our shores. We will never allow the crystal clear blue waters of Jervis Bay to be put at risk by the Nationals' obsession with nuclear. We will fight you every step of the way every day for as long as it takes. We won't forget, because no matter what the coalition say they will always try this on. They will always be working, sometimes secretly and sometimes right here in a press conference at Parliament House, to push nuclear power generation in our community. Liberal-National governments can never be trusted when it comes to nuclear, just like they can't be trusted to get it right on renewable energy.

The fact is that we do not need nuclear power. Not only is it dangerous; it's also expensive. There is no business case to support nuclear power. There is no community or industry appetite for nuclear power. What is their appetite for? It's for renewable energy. The jobs of the future are in renewable energy; we all know it. But the Liberals and Nationals are simply obsessed with coal and nuclear power. It baffles the mind. To be frank, it would almost be comical if it didn't have such serious repercussions.

In a community like mine, the reality is that we are losing the opportunities for local jobs for local people, something that we just can't afford. We have industry and the community sector leading the way with local solar farms, electric vehicle charging stations, a renewable energy cow poo farm—the list goes on and on.

Fantastic things are happening, and all in the huge gaping hole that is the government's energy policy. If we had leadership from the coalition government on renewables, just imagine the jobs and just imagine the innovation we could be seeing from local people, local farmers and local not-for-profits. Let me just say, coming from a dairy farming family, I can tell you that we have a lot of cows on the South Coast and they produce a lot of poo. We could be capitalising on that, just like the local farmers are trying to do in Nowra. Locals are desperately trying to do their bit. The government just can't be trusted on renewables. They can't be trusted to create jobs and they can't be trusted to keep us safe from nuclear power.

4:11 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A family in St Marys could be saving $802 a year on their electricity bill. A hairdresser or cafe in Penrith could be paying up to $3,300 less a year. This is how our energy policies—the Morrison government's energy policies—are working for everyday Aussies and our local small businesses right across the country. We are focusing on practical, technology led solutions to deliver affordable, reliable energy.

I'm so pleased that I was part of the announcement of one of these practical solutions: the Hotel Energy Uplift Program. The minister for energy and I were together at the Australian Arms Hotel in Penrith to announce the program. It means that local businesses, small businesses, motels, small hotels and serviced apartments can apply for up to $25,000 in grants that go toward energy efficient upgrades. It can be used for upgrades to air conditioning or upgrades to windows—things that will make their businesses more energy efficient, which is great news for our local businesses. They've been struggling so much during the coronavirus pandemic, particularly our local hotels, and we know this. That's why we are supporting them. I'm so proud that businesses right across my community of Lindsay are getting supported with this grant. It is absolutely fantastic.

When I'm talking about small businesses, I'm never more proud than when I go out to local small businesses and see that they're doing it for themselves. They're not reliant on government getting in the way; they are investing in their own businesses and taking their own risks. There has never been a more positive story than Custom Denning, who are in St Marys. They are making Australia's first electric bus. They are doing this from a technology led perspective and they are leading the way across our country. The minister for energy and I took a ride on one of these buses. I'm so proud that this is happening in our local community, more so because they support 150 local jobs. They told me about the tradespeople that came on and helped them with their business. They told me about the trainees that came on and worked in their business and grew with their business. Like 600 manufacturers across Lindsay, they know that manufacturing leads the world and, when we're competing on quality and innovation, we are light years ahead of the rest.

I also want to hear from my community, because I am passionate to hear from them, about energy. I held a forum with the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, and we talked about our policies to support small businesses and our plan to deliver reliable, affordable energy. From builders to swim schools, manufacturers to retailers—we heard from a wide range of people in my community of Lindsay just a few weeks ago. We were talking about how important it is that our policies are supporting them and our plan to drive down costs. Very pleasingly, they talked to me about how these plans are working.

In fact, these plans are working so well that electricity bills are expected to fall in the second half of 2021 and beyond thanks to continued action by the Morrison government to reduce energy prices for families and businesses. The Australian Energy Regulator has released its draft determination for the default market offer for the 2021-22 year, signalling further substantial price reductions for households and businesses across New South Wales. This is great news for local Lindsay families and local small businesses; I have 15,000 small businesses across my community of Lindsay who will benefit from this. Under the AER's draft determination, residential customers on standing offers in New South Wales could save as much as $136 a year on their electricity bills compared to 2020-21. This means our policies are working because prices are coming down. Small businesses in New South Wales could end up slashing their energy costs by $577 a year. These are facts. The fact is in the figures.

These price falls follow on from the Morrison government's introduction of the default market offer in July 2019, protecting customers from excessively high standing offer contracts, making it easier for customers to shop around. As I said, the facts are here and there is nothing more factual than ABS statistics showing that household electricity bills doubled under Labor, whereas under this government Australian households have now experienced eight consecutive quarters of year-on-year electricity price falls. I am so proud of our energy policies. We're working for Australian people and we're working for local businesses. (Time expired)

4:17 pm

Photo of Josh BurnsJosh Burns (Macnamara, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It takes quite an effort to be outfoxed by the member for New England, but this Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction was outfoxed and outclassed by someone who was clearly above his pay grade, because the member for New England won that day. I came to parliament this week and I went through the list of legislation, and as I was scrolling through it I double-checked to make sure I hadn't missed a piece of legislation. Do you know what bill wasn't on the list of legislation for this week? The Clean Energy Finance Corporation bill. It wasn't there. It was there last week. The member for Fraser noted it. I noted it and spoke on it. I raised some concerns about the bill and the government's willingness and desire to take the clean energy out of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They also want to take the finance out of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation—two terrible amendments. But the member for New England outfoxed and outclassed this minister, and now we are not going to see that piece of legislation come back. That bill is gone, just like the other 22 energy policies of this rabble of a government. We've had 22 energy policies from this government.

All industry is crying out for a policy: 'Just please give us a policy! We'll settle for one from the minister for emissions reduction, but just give us a policy.' Industry knows, and we on this side of the House know, that tackling climate change equals jobs. Tackling climate change equals job creation and job opportunities for Australians. But what do they know on that side of the House? Senator Molan said on Q&A that he doesn't use evidence to form his beliefs and views on climate change. Evidence is too high a bar for those opposite. Senator Rennick has some wild ideas about what the Bureau of Meteorology is up to. 'Conspiracy Craig' broke up with them; they didn't break up with him.

We on this side of the House know, as does every single state and territory government in this country, that we need a pathway towards net zero. The Business Council knows we need a pathway towards net zero. The Farmers Federation know we need a pathway towards net zero. The international community, our major trading partners, know we need a pathway towards net zero—Japan, China, South Korea, where a lot of our exports go; they are all heading towards net zero, mostly by 2050, some by 2060. But of course this government has become an international embarrassment and they have led Australia into the unenviable position of being a laggard on climate change.

I'm glad we have now been joined by the member for Goldstein, because he is a part of this House's efforts and this government's efforts to, instead of actually tackling climate change, put forward an alternative around nuclear energy. They on that side of the House, and also my neighbour on the other side—I'm in a friendly neighbourhood, in Macnamara—the member for Higgins, who is also a fanatic on nuclear energy, come into this place and talk up nuclear energy. But what they don't say is how many billions of dollars of taxpayer funds they're willing to spend for nuclear energy. They also don't say whereabout the nuclear energy reactors are going to go.

Now, I'm looking forward to the member for Goldstein announcing in this place that he wants to push forward with the Brighton Beach nuclear reactor!—just on the coast there, next to the yacht club. Just shuffle over a little bit, fellas, because we're going to build a large-scale nuclear reactor right next to the little huts there on Brighton Beach. There'll be just the little huts, and then the big nuclear reactor on Brighton Beach. That's what they want to do. They want the nuclear reactor right there on Brighton Beach—or, if the member for Higgins has her way, maybe the Toorak nuclear reactor! Move over folks, we're going to build the nuclear reactor in the middle of Toorak! It is as laughable as it is dangerous.

We on this side of the House believe in the science. We want to see action on climate change. And we want to see an energy policy that will create jobs in this country.

4:22 pm

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a real treat to follow a member of the Labor Environment Action Network, I think it is, from Victoria, because the topic of our MPI today is energy policy, and of course what we see across the chamber from the government is a party torn apart by the two factions. We've got the GetUp faction, the LEAN faction, with the member for GetUp, which is how I refer to the member for Macnamara, and we've got the Otis faction. And we did have the member for Hunter in the chamber for a little while at the start of the base. I absolutely respect the member for Hunter. He represents a coalmining province, and his job, like the job of all of us in this place, is foremost to represent the people who live and work in his electorate. So, I want to give a shout-out to the member for Hunter for his stance to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the people who live and work in his electorate.

But that's not the case across the board, particularly through that region. We have the member for Shortland here, who doesn't seem to prioritise the jobs and livelihoods of the people who live in his electorate. It was interesting the other day to see that the CFMMEU had done some polling in those seats, and I think they had the member for Shortland on 29 per cent—which perhaps indicates that the people in his electorate aren't necessarily happy with the stance he's taking on these issues and about whether he's prepared to stand up for their jobs.

But today we're here to discuss the climate and emissions policies of the government, so I want to run through some of the achievements of the government, and they are very impressive. In 2020, a record seven gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity was installed in Australia. That's more renewables in one year installed under the Morrison government than in the whole of the previous, Labor, government's six years—seven gigawatts in 2020 versus 5.6 gigawatts under the previous, Labor, government between December 2007 and September 2013. Australia now has the highest total of solar and photovoltaic capacity installed, per person, in the world, at 644 watts per capita. And emissions in Australia are lower this year than in any year under the previous, Labor, government. So, it's a bit rich of them to come into this chamber and complain about the policies of the government.

Our plan is driven by technology, not taxes. As we all know, technology is moving at an extraordinary pace. Only 10 years ago none of us had an iPhone. Today we're on our third or fourth iteration. The technology has moved so quickly. We know that, in all other areas, technology is moving incredibly rapidly. In 2010 we didn't even know what an iPhone was. Today it dominates our lives.

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, a point of order.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, Member for Shortland. I know where you're going with this. There is no point of order. Continue, Member for O'Connor.

Photo of Rick WilsonRick Wilson (O'Connor, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It may be 2008. The point is, whether it was 2008 or 2009, technology is moving incredibly quickly in so many areas. Of course, in the energy sector it is moving incredibly quickly.

In the last 1½ minutes I've got I want to give a shout-out to those people who work in the energy sector in my electorate of O'Connor. In the town of Collie, which I am very proud to represent, we have the only coalmining province in Western Australia and the coal-fired power stations that generate around 50 per cent of Western Australia's electricity. According to AEMO's website, as at this point in time coal is producing 47 per cent of Western Australia's energy. That's in the middle of the day when all the solar is operating. I'm very proud of those coalminers.

I reiterate what Minister Taylor has said: we won't sacrifice jobs and industries in regional Australia for no global emissions benefits and we won't impose taxes to get there. It's not just the coalminers in Collie who work very hard to enable enormous productivity and benefits for this country; the Worsley Alumina refinery employs 3,000 people and relies on the baseload power that's produced from the Collie power stations just up the road. It employs so many people and puts so much wealth into the economy in the south-west of Western Australia.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time for the discussion has concluded.