House debates

Monday, 15 March 2021


Gas Sector

12:38 pm

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

I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges that gas:

  (a) will be central to our ongoing economic recovery;

  (b) is a crucial input in our manufacturing sector, which employs over 850,000 Australians; and

  (c) provides the firmed electricity generation needed to balance Australia’s record levels of renewable investment; and

(2) calls on all Members of the House to support the Australian gas sector and the important role it plays in creating jobs, providing affordable energy and reducing emissions.

I will start off by talking about renewable energy. Australia is leading the charge in the surge to renewable energy. Our CO2 emissions in Australia are at their lowest level since 1995 and we are 19 per cent below 2005 levels. It is a remarkable outcome and it takes to task those who say the government is doing nothing. It is just simply not true. Since 2007 Australia has invested $35 billion in renewable energy, and my state of South Australia is more than 50 per cent renewable on the electricity grid now. New solar and wind are being constructed at 10 times the global average and more than twice as fast as the next quickest nation in the world. These are remarkable outcomes. But, while this is admirable, the faster we go, the harder it gets.

You need to have some understanding of the way the electrical grid system works to get your head around this. Renewable energy works quite well when there is a diverse mix of energy across the grid. 'If the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow' is a phrase we've heard a lot. When you come to that point of time you need something to fill the gap. The more intermittent electricity you have on the grid the fewer the days of the year those who supply on-demand electricity can make a profit on their investment, on their powerhouse, if you like. If a coal-fired power station, for instance, goes from being able to sell its electricity at a profit from 365 days of the year down to 200 days of the year, 100 days of the year or, as happened in South Australia with the closure of the Northern Power Station, about 70 days a year, it gets to the point where the profits it makes on 70 days a year, or 50 or 20 or whatever it might be, are just not high enough to keep its doors open. So they leave the industry. They leave the electrical generation grid.

What is there then to fill that gap? In Australia, there are a number of options. One that is getting a lot of attention at the moment is battery backup. There have been some significant investments in battery backup—in South Australia too—but battery backup is still, by my calculation, probably about 10 times as expensive as it has to be to affordably fill that gap. It's very, very good for frequency modulation and it's very good for instantaneous response, but to build enough battery to be able to supply one, two, six or eight hours of electricity to power virtually the whole grid would be way beyond the scope of any economical suggestion. The government, through Snowy Hydro, is investing in Snowy Hydro 2.0, and that will make a significant difference. It will be the biggest battery in Australia and it will be efficient. But there are only so many Snowy Hydro 2.0s that you can build, and we need something else to fill the gap.

In South Australia, indeed in Australia, we are blessed with abundant gas supplies. I am a South Australian, and Moomba, the Cooper Basin, is largely in my electorate. It has been one of the predominant suppliers into the eastern gas market for the last 50 years, and there's a lot of gas left there. It's a place where the gas industry excels and where, despite a lot of the knockers from elsewhere, fracking has been successfully undertaken through most of the last 40 years or so. You need the gas to fill the gap when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine. We need to understand that gas is not an enemy but an enabler of renewable energy. You need something to fill the gap, and you can't keep building renewable energy unless you've got that something to fill the gap. The most economical, most sensible and most environmentally friendly is gas. Through government policies, we have seen a reduction of 40 per cent in gas prices across Australia. Largely, we've moved legislation but haven't had to enact it because companies have pulled themselves into line. The gas industry in Australia underwrites our fertiliser manufacturing industry. It underwrites our manufacturing industry generally. Gas is a great industry for Australia.

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

12:44 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. I am very pleased to rise today to speak on this motion. I welcome this opportunity to share the experience of the Northern Territory, specifically my home of Darwin and Palmerston, and our experience with the gas industry. The Territory, of course, is home to significant gas reserves, and adjacent waters also have significant gas reserves. Darwin is the home to important facilities, including the massive and lucrative INPEX Ichthys LNG project. It's worth noting that it's one of Australia's largest resource projects, worth around $60 billion. It's also the biggest investment that the Japanese have ever made overseas.

The onshore processing facility is located in Bladin Point in Darwin, and the facility includes processing trains to produce LNG and LPG, along with storage tanks and a loadout jetty. This is supported by an offshore logistics hub, which supports the wider project, including floating production, storage and offloading facilities. So far, 1,100 Territory businesses have secured contracts and purchase orders related to this massive project. INPEX is a major employer in Darwin, in my electorate. Over the life of the project, there will be around 600 jobs created to run the facilities in Darwin, and $2.6 billion will flow to the Northern Territory government in tax revenue. The flow-on effect from this in Darwin and Palmerston is immense, with money supporting countless local businesses. All of this is a real consequence of the Northern Territory government having the foresight to create the right environment to not only promote but welcome investment in this important space. I want to acknowledge the former chief ministers Clare Martin and Paul Henderson for their work to secure that investment.

There are even more opportunities that are ready and waiting for us to take up. Japan is poised to become a major customer for Australian hydrogen. Japan has declared that it will become a hydrogen economy by 2030 and will need 300,000 tonnes of the gas a year to make that happen. Just as Australian coal helped Japan rise from the ashes of war to become a great global economy, now Australian hydrogen gas can help keep Japan as a great global economy, creating more long-term, stable Australian jobs into the bargain. But the ongoing opportunities from gas to our jobs and economy are still at significant risk. The risk is not necessarily from the straw man that those opposite love to put up. The risk is not from excessive state or territory government regulation; the risk is from the very government that those opposite serve.

This is a government that provides no policy certainty in this important space. Over eight years this government has had 22 energy policies. It's hard to believe but it is true. If it's not true, those opposite have their chance to speak to that later. What is the ultimate effect of this muddled and disorientated collection of policies? What are we left with? What are the investors left with? Well, it's confusion in private investment for new gas operations. When confusion reigns, uncertainty is not far behind. The lack of certainty that is a product of 22 energy policies in eight years is hurting industry and impacting people every day. I only hope that the efforts of the member for Grey in bringing this motion forward will prompt a rethink among those opposite, and I hope he's got some support for that rethink. Without a clear plan to address climate change and protect jobs, the government is dooming future generations to play catch-up with the rest of the world due to this ongoing policy uncertainty.

So I call on the government to end the uncertainty, dispel the confusion and act. Our communities and Australians jobs cannot be protected without that firm action. Labor wants to see a proper energy regulatory framework with certainty. We want to be able to generate much more investment in renewables so that we can give traditional industries and households the certainty of their energy supply. This lack of policy certainty from the government, with 22 energy policies in eight years, has been very confusing for private investment and has hindered its efforts to fund new gas operations. It's up to the government of the day—and right now that means those opposite—to provide a solid and robust investment framework so that private investment can flourish in all forms of energy generation.

12:49 pm

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

In my electorate of Lindsay there are over 600 manufacturers employing over 6,000 people. Across Australia, our national manufacturing industry supports over 850,000 jobs. I want this number to grow, particularly in Western Sydney, empowering Australian manufacturers to create and sustain more local jobs.

I was proud to bring the Prime Minister to Lindsay to meet with many of our local Aussie manufacturers, transforming the factory floor into a roundtable at Plustec in Emu Plains, who manufacture high-quality Australian-made windows and doors. The Prime Minister heard directly from local manufacturers directly how our national policies are being implemented on the ground. Our local manufacturers SpanSet, Grant Engineered and RKR Engineering and so many more create and sustain local jobs that support local families and make our community such a great place to live, work and stay. But to be competitive and to create more local jobs, Australian manufacturing needs affordable, reliable energy.

As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that we deliver long-term support for our manufacturers, and gas will play a key role from creating plastics for essential PPE to the fertiliser used in our food production. The government's plan focuses on unlocking supply, improving the efficiency of transportation and empowering consumers to get the best price. Under this government, gas prices have dropped in the domestic market. Wholesale gas prices on the East Coast during 2020 were around 40 per cent lower than prices in 2019. We're continuing to implement measures that will put downward pressure on energy prices, helping local manufacturers in my electorate of Lindsay and right across Australia.

John, from ACO Australia in Emu Plains—in Lindsay—joined me and the PM at our manufacturing roundtable. ACO uses gas predominantly to power their rotomolding plant, manufacturing items for use in the construction industry. John noted the recent decrease in gas costs has improved the efficiency of his business. This is part of a consistent drop in gas expenses over the last year, going from almost $10,000 per month in early 2020 down to around $7,000 earlier this year. John told me that this is allowing ACO to invest more back into their business and this is what it is all about—investing in business and creating more local jobs.

This is how delivering affordable, reliable energy gives manufacturers in Australia the certainty so they can scale up and expand. The importance of energy costs is well-known across all industries. I was pleased to have the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, with me in Penrith to meet with manufacturers and other local businesses. I have being doing this a lot to ensure our local manufacturers have a say. We can then look at how our national policies are affecting our local businesses. The minister and I had a wide-ranging discussion on all things energy because we know how important it is.

In February this year, the Australian Energy Regulator released its draft determination for the default market offer for 2021. The government introduced the default market offer in July 2019 to protect customers from excessively high standing-offer contracts and to make it easier for customers to shop around and compare prices. This has delivered meaningful impacts for local households and businesses. Compared to before the introduction of the default market offer, a family in St Mary's could be saving up to $802 per year on their electricity bill, while a hairdresser or cafe now could be paying up to $3,300 less per year on their electricity bills. For families, this means more money back into pockets. And for the 15,000 small and medium size businesses in Lindsay, this means they can invest more in their business, grow, expand and support more local jobs.

This is just one of the ways the Morrison government's committed to driving down energy prices, supporting Australian households and businesses, not just now but into the future. The future of our manufacturing industry in Western Sydney is full of potential. The minister for industry and I got to see this firsthand at SydWest Global Connections Tech Startup Accelerator Program at Western Sydney University's Launch Pad. The government committed $250,000 to establish this program, focusing on supporting start-ups that have the potential to grow and create more local jobs. This is what it is about because when we're backing our local industry, when we are backing our local small businesses, our economy is strong, and that is what I will always be doing for our community in Lindsay.

12:54 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The importance of the Australian gas sector can't be overstated. The sector plays an important role in creating economic growth, and in increasing our export and income earnings. I believe it will play a critical role in the post-pandemic recovery. The motion before us today has highlighted that the sector provides 850,000 jobs, as well as electricity, manufacturing for feed stock, and heating. The sector also provides significant impacts on Australian households. As we just heard from the member for Lindsay, despite all her roundtables and show-ponying with ministers, we're yet to see some real reform in this sector. We know that the gas sector has an important role to play. On this side of the chamber, we know that it will play a critical role in meeting our target of net zero emissions by 2050. As we know, the government doesn't commit to this, so it's important that, from our side of the policy process, we support and get the settings right.

What really matters when it comes to the gas sector's role in our economic recovery are the workers in the sector—something we are yet to hear about today—and the right of the Australian people to access affordable and reliable gas. This is where I take exception with the government, where they talk about their so-called gas-led recovery in their plan. It has failed. We've seen that this government have been unable to deliver the well-functioning, transparent and efficient east coast gas market necessary for Australians accessing an affordable and reliable gas supply. The government have failed to solve this crisis and deliver affordable gas to Australian users, especially gas-intensive manufacturers. Through you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to the member for Lindsay, who has left the chamber, I simply say that all the roundtables and all the ministers visiting her electorate is irrelevant, unless there is real reform and unless manufacturers see the benefit. This has placed a countless number of jobs and the whole industry at risk, at a time when this country simply cannot afford to lose any more manufacturers.

I simply say to the government: you've had eight years while you've been in charge of this portfolio and these policy matters. Where is the reform? It's not good enough to say it will be in 10 or 15 years. Where is it? The government has also failed to include any policy in its gas-led recovery that will immediately boost the number of jobs, even though this is essential, as I said, to help Australia get out of recession. The government has failed to deliver an energy policy, as we've heard from the member for Solomon, that will bring down prices, provide certainty to the industry and make it easier for business to proceed with planned gas generation. I'd love members opposite to walk into any business in Australia and ask, 'Have your energy prices reduced?' I know what the answer will be. They complain about this all the time. The government's lack of meaningful and consistent energy policy also represents a significant missed opportunity to create new jobs from the industry's growth. We know that gas is central to this country's economic recovery, but Australia's economic recovery must also capitalise on the huge potential of renewables in the energy sector—energy-intensive manufacturing and the new and emerging industries, creating that important pathway of net zero emissions by 2050. Firming up gas generation supplies will be critical to capitalising on renewable energy opportunities.

It's important that we develop gas reserves, subject to independent scientific assessments and effective environmental regulation. I want to pay particular credit to my union, the Australian Workers Union, led by, at a national level, Daniel Walton, and in my home state of Queensland, the state secretary, Steve Baker, for their fierce determination and their advocacy to governments across all political persuasions to deliver the critical reform that we need. We also need to put downward pressure on gas prices, including sensible measures to expand the east coast gas pipeline network, as I've said, and we need to do a thorough analysis to ensure that this benefits consumers and the broader public. Another way we can ensure Australians aren't paying more for gas is by maintaining effective mechanisms for ensuring LNG exports don't put upward pressure on domestic prices. It's important that we support gas-intensive manufacturing industries, like chemical and fertiliser production, so they can grow and provide local jobs.

I want to use my time today to urge the government not to waste this opportunity and to harness the gas sector in this moment to grow our economy. Listen to the advice of the Australian Energy Market Operator, who says that gas will continue to play an important role in power generation as other technologies emerge. As projects come online with the nation-building renewable energy and large-scale storage projects, let's make sure we're being smart about how we balance renewables and still get the most out of the gas sector.

12:59 pm

Photo of Damian DrumDamian Drum (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to acknowledge the member who has put this on the table. It is a fantastic motion by Mr Ramsey, who has spoken about gas and put it on the agenda because it is so critically important for the electorates that have a very strong reliance on manufacturing.

In my particular area, it tends to be with food manufacturing—SPC, Campbell's soups, Kagome soups—and it goes into steel manufacturing, and there's Unilever and all the milk processors. They're all heavily dependent on gas but other forms of energy as well they're very reliant on; they're big energy users. Gas is seen as this transitional energy source as we go to an area of cleaner energy, but right at the moment we need dispatchable sources of energy. We need energy when we need it, and sometimes intermittent energy sources let us down. When we have food manufacturing, we cannot afford to go without energy when we need it. This is why gas is so critically important. So I acknowledge the member for Grey for putting this on the table.

The 850,000 people who are supported through the manufacturing sector are very relevant, certainly when you go into my electorate of Nicholls. We've had a number of round tables, going back to 2016 or 2017, where the price of gas was going through the roof. Industry leaders came to the electorate office needing to impart their experience to make sure that their voices and situations were heard in Canberra. Now we see that the policies of the coalition have, essentially, brought down the prices of gas and electricity. So I think it's a little bit selective of the previous speaker to say that our policies aren't working. We must also acknowledge that gas has a great opportunity to be the transitional form of energy we need, and our industries will be highly supportive of us if we can get there.

The crucial nature of food manufacturing throughout the Goulburn Valley is part of the agricultural chain that exists within northern Victoria. It fits hand in glove with the agricultural sector. It's as critical as the farmers. It's as critical as the support that we offer. It's as critical as the water that we make available for our irrigation within the Goulburn Valley. At the end of the chain is this food manufacturing, and if one part of this chain falls over it's goodnight for everybody. So we have to look at the crucial role of cheap, affordable, reliable and flexible energy, and that's gas. Right at the moment, as we all push to where we want to be into the future, which is a cleaner environment, as we transition towards that space, we have to acknowledge the incredible role that gas is going to play.

I would suggest that in my electorate we're probably talking about 15,000 to 20,000 people who would be directly or indirectly employed through agriculture, food manufacturing and associated industries. It's an absolutely incredible part of northern Victoria. There are some 13 different milk manufacturing, milk processing, factories. Then there are all the fruit and vegetables and Unilever. It is an incredibly complex situation. Right at the crux of all of these industries, right at the crux of all of these families, is the ability for them to have a flexible, affordable, reliable energy source, and, at the moment, that energy source is gas.

We understand there will always be those who simply consider gas in the same vein as coal. They wish to be selective with their facts about the emissions associated with the production of gas. They wish to be selective with their figures around the true cost of renewable energy. I sometimes think we need to get this debate back on an even keel, to have some common sense and reality and practicality around this debate and stop being so political.

1:04 pm

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If you could extend me a little bit of latitude, I am conscious of the fact that while we participate in this important debate Brittany Higgins is on her feet addressing the rally outside. I'd like to acknowledge and thank her for her courage and her activism. I'd like to express my sorrow for her experience and wish her the very best into the future. But life goes on inside the building. This is an important debate.

I congratulate the member for Grey, because he has been able to bring a group of people together from all political persuasions to talk about the importance of gas. In this country the gas sector remains a bedrock of the Australian economy, both in consumption terms and in export terms. It's our second biggest export earner. We use it domestically to generate electricity and to power our manufacturing plants. We use it as a feedstock in just about every product we use in our daily lives, including personal protective equipment that we relied upon so much during the COVID period. It keeps us warm in our homes. I see some Victorians here; Victorians are the biggest per capita consumers of gas in the country. In fact, I think the biggest consumers of gas in absolute terms are the Victorians, and yet they are so reluctant to get gas out of the ground. We use it to cook our food, and we use it to heat our water.

Gas provides 25 per cent of our energy consumption. I'm not talking about electricity consumption now. I'm talking about energy. I'm talking about the planes in the air, the cars on our roads, what we consume in our homes and what we consume in industry. By comparison, oil is 38.7 per cent and coal is 29.9 per cent, so, at 25 per cent, it's a big part of our energy supply. It will be an important part for many, many decades to come. Importantly, only 37 per cent of that 25 per cent is used for electricity generation, highlighting what I said earlier. This debate is not just about electricity generation, as important as that is. This debate is about what we rely upon gas to do in our broader communities.

As our coal generators age, they won't be replaced—it's highly unlikely that anyone is going to build a new coal generator in this country. There are those who are hopeful, but I don't think the numbers stack up. In New South Wales 90 per cent of our electricity generation comes from plants that are 30 years old or older, so we've got a problem coming. Renewables are important, but we can't rely on renewables only. To get more renewables into the system, we need more synchronous or firming power. The best, quickest and most cost efficient way of doing that is to get more gas electricity generation into the system. An email in its integrated system plan tells us that to 2040 we will need between six to 19 gigawatts of firming power—that is, between three and 10 Liddell coal-fired power stations. Where do people think this power is going to come from, if we don't get more gas out of the ground and start generating more electricity with gas? The ACCC tells us that we've got problems: we've got a lack of gas, we've got a lack of connectivity and we've got a lack of competition in the gas pipeline sector.

We need to get more gas out of the ground. There will be some communities who don't want it extracted near prime agricultural land, and that's fine. There are plenty of areas where it can be extracted without any threat to agriculture in this country. We should be extracting more. That's why I so strongly support the Narrabri Gas Project in New South Wales. It's why I support the Hunter Gas Pipeline, which will bring more gas from South-East Queensland through the Hunter Valley, fuelling new industrial opportunities and bringing more competition to the network in that part of the world. In the Hunter region, we will lose our coal generators over time. We've got an abundance of renewable projects in the pipeline, but we will need the gas. We've got two important gas peaking stations in the pipeline. One is from AGL at Tomago and one is from Snowy Hydro in Kurri Kurri. I'm very hopeful we achieve at least one of them. I'll certainly be working on behalf of the community to make sure we do, so that we can remain, in the Hunter, the engine room of New South Wales.

1:09 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly, I would like to thank the member for Grey for bringing this motion forward. It is essential that we do address the issue of energy and how we get our energy at the cheapest rate. I would like to thank the member for Hunter. I agree with most things he said. Although, I do disagree with him, I think there is room to build a coal-fired power station in the eastern states: Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

As the government, we are focused on delivering affordable, reliable, secure energy for hard-working Australians. Gas will be central to our ongoing economic recovery—and it was seen as well through this COVID-19 pandemic. It has kept our exports and our local gas users supplied with good, cheap, affordable power, which is fuelled by gas in a lot of situations. So gas-fired recovery is a key component to the Australian JobMaker program when we're looking at manufacturing. Manufacturing needs cheap, reliable electricity. Gas can supply most of this. A strong gas company will help re-establish a strong economy. It supports our manufacturing sector, which currently employs 850,000 people. It used to employ a lot more than that. However, because electricity prices have not been able to compete with overseas industries that figure has fallen to 850,000—as it stands now.

It's an essential input for the production of plastics, PPEs and fertiliser. Gas is the main supply of that energy, along with the northern oil, in my electorate, who use natural gas to recycle waste oil. They process up to 300,000 litres every day. Gas is essential for that operation. Increasing gas supplies, to help continue to put downward pressure on our energy prices, is essential. Gas provides flexibility and reliable, affordable energy. It's not about competing with renewables. It works in conjunction with renewables. It complements renewables. Gladstone is currently producing natural gas from its three natural gas facilities on Curtis Island—for domestic markets, but also for exporting. There are three major companies in Gladstone headed by Santos, that's an Australian company; Shell, who we all know has been around for a long time; and ConocoPhillips and their partners. They spent $80 billion building those three gas plants on Curtis Island.

As a government we want to ensure our long-term domestic gas market at a good price, an international competitor price. Under our government gas prices have dropped in the domestic market. Even before COVID-19 there was a reduction in the domestic price of gas across Australia. These prices continue to fall. Lower gas prices are also driving down wholesale electricity prices, so they work hand in hand.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's, ACCC, latest gas inquiry reports have shown that the gas has fallen significantly in 2020, presenting a significant shift in the market pricing. These price reductions are good news for Australian householders, industry and jobs. There are approximately 200 jobs on each Curtis Island plant—600 jobs in total—but they do have shutdown crews who work continuously around the clock to keep those gas plants up to scratch. This will help build our robust and competitive gas industry, allowing gas producers and users to thrive on cheap markets that must be competitive with overseas countries. All lower prices are benefitting all Australians. We will support the infrastructure in the gas fields. That takes us into a moving forward position, which should benefit all Australians.

1:14 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We are all focusing on keeping our industrial systems going, particularly manufacturing. Everyone realises Australia's vulnerability without our own manufacturing sovereign capability. It is obvious to everyone involved in the energy system. The member for Hunter actually spoke common sense—coming from a member of the ALP; Hallelujah! What has happened to the rest of them? They have gone missing in action. They have swallowed this nonsense that we can replace our fossil fuels at the drop of a hat and rely on temporary wind blowing, the day-night cycle, monsoon periods and wet and cloudy weeks—like the month or six weeks where we had 600 mills of rainfall on the North Coast of New South Wales—to replace the form of energy that is available around the clock. The last time society relied on the weather or the flow of water through creeks and mills was in the 1700s and 1800s.

How the modern industrial world happens is because manufacturing is powered by oodles and oodles energy, and that has come out of the use of fossil fuels. We know that this is having an effect on the atmosphere that we all breathe and the climate. So we have to do it in the most efficient way. Gas is part of that efficiency, because it has a lower footprint than burning coal. But so does other forms of technology, like modern coal-fired power stations. Many are in the seat of the member for Hunter, and he understands the practicality and the reality of keeping Australian manufacturing going, let alone losing it because our prices for our energy are too high.

We have bucket loads of gas in our country, in our offshore areas, and we have developments happening. People have to realise that it's not a bad thing. It delivers fertilisers for our farmers. For all the plastics and lots of other things that are manufactured, gas features as one of the ingredients or the feed stock for it. So we need it and we need it cheap and plentiful; otherwise, we won't make stuff in this country. It is US$2.52 for a unit of gas in America. It has come down considerably in Australia but it's still around $7, $8 or $9. So you can't run a baseload system on gas. You can use it in a gas-peaking plant, where you get paid an absolute motza because the market gets shorted by people who have a variety of assets and they get a lot for their electricity. But, for that portion of the electricity that never varies, that doesn't drop below a certain amount, you need a baseload system.

Gas is really part of the recovery and is essential for our industry and for everyday things in life. We cook with it. We heat with it. Countries freeze. Look at what happened to Texas. They had a big freeze and they lost 50 per cent of their natural gas because it all froze in the pipelines. The place froze and electricity was like it is in Australia regularly—it went to over $5,000 for short periods of time. But the important thing is gas is not bad. Gas is essential. We can get it out of the subterranean places on this earth quite safely. There is a flush of salty water when it first happens in natural gas fields or in coal-seam gas, but all the water doesn't run to the bottom of the earth and we don't die in gas plumes. It's well managed in Australia.

We need to support the project that the member for Hunter was talking about, the Narrabri gas fields. New South Wales needs to have gas nearby where manufacturing can happen. You need a pipeline to get it there. So the Hunter gas line will be important to keep the engine room of New South Wales and Australia, the Hunter manufacturing precinct, alive and well and producing stuff for this nation. So I commend the member for Grey's motion about the importance of gas, but we have to make sure that we secure it for us here in Australia rather than exporting it all.

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Proceedings suspended from 13:19 to 16:00