House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Matters of Public Importance


3:23 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

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

In response to Glasgow (COP26), the Australian Government needs to ensure they are taking steps to address fuel sovereignty and security in Australia.

I call upon 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—

3:24 pm

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is a preamble to the sovereign fuel security bill, on which the most diverse of views are represented on the crossbench. They have very, very diverse views. But we have come together to do something which is good for the country. This is a self-reliance issue. I raise the question on China. We want to be friends with China. We are not picking a fight with China. But if they were to embargo our fuel—our petrol and diesel—which comes out of Singapore and South Korea, then we would be in the most terrible trouble.

If you think that these scenarios are fanciful, do you read history books? In World War I, Churchill bought British Petroleum, the Anglos controlled all of the world's oil, and Germany went to war. In World War II, the Americans cut off the supply of oil to Japan, and Japan had to go to war. We have had Middle Eastern wars continuously for the last 40 or 50 years, all over oil. Twenty-seven per cent of our indigenous oil is sent overseas. Twenty-seven per cent of our petrol and diesel requirements are exported and then imported, with a huge profit margin for the people that process it. We're the poor country that just produces raw materials.

What we're proposing is that we ban the export of oil. That is very common, and I think most countries on earth do that. Most certainly America does it with gas. That's item 1: the oil will be kept in Australia and processed into petrol and diesel here. That's 27 per cent self-sufficiency now. Our waste can be converted into diesel. Germany did this in the latter years of the war. Southern Oil is doing it now. They've been visited by the Queensland Premier and the Prime Minister of Australia. They've been going for 16 or 17 years, making profits. They say that major population centres can turn 30 per cent of the waste of Australia into diesel.

Al Gore, the patron saint of the environment movement, in his book An Inconvenient Truth, cites renewables—ethanol specifically—as the first answer to the CO2 problems on the planet. So we are proposing that 40 to 45 per cent of Australia's petrol be renewables. That is what it is in Brazil, and I think it is 13 to 15 per cent in America, to quote two examples. Of course, we are extremely well suited to supply that at a very great profit and benefit for our country. And we are proposing that government cars in metropolitan areas be electric, which will extend our fuel supply in Australia for many more years than would normally occur and also provide us with an industry in Australia, because part of our proposal is that those electric government cars will be manufactured in Australia by an Australian owned company by law. No more of your economic rationalism, sending everything overseas. It stays here.

What a fantastic contribution to the nation the crossbenchers are making here. We buried our differences, which are huge. We buried our differences. Couldn't the major parties bury their differences and do something good for their country? Ninety-five per cent of Australians would agree with every single element of that, and it'll cost the country nothing at all. As a young man—I'm 76 years of age—I've spent most of my life with 72 per cent of our motor vehicles being produced by Australians. Five out of six of our great mining companies—the biggest mining companies on earth—were Australian owned. Five out of six of our major farming operations were Australian owned. All of the sugarcane mills—cane was our major industry in Queensland until coal came along—were 100 per cent Australian owned by Australian farmers. Our meatworks were 80 per cent—arguably 90 per cent—Australian owned from the cattle industry. And 100 per cent of our electricity was Australian owned. Now, no motor vehicles are produced in Australia—not 72 per cent; none. Our mining companies—five out of six of which were once owned by Australians—are now foreign owned. Five out of six of our major farming operations were Australian owned; the operations are now foreign owned. All of our sugar cane mills in Queensland are foreign owned, bar one. Our meatworks are 99 per cent foreign owned. Rather interestingly, apparently 25 per cent of our electricity is now coming from solar panels which come from China. So 25 per cent of our electricity is coming from China. And China owns 43 per cent of our electricity industry in Australia. We're a Third World country. Almost all of our exports are simply iron ore and coal. And the other minerals, including iron ore, are derivatives of coal and must be smelted by coal—that's copper, aluminium, zinc and iron.

I have never been a dramatist with respect to climate change. I have always said that, if you want to argue about climate change, I am not into that argument. But there is no argument about what happens in the ocean. If you've done elementary chemistry, you know that the more carbon dioxide you put into the atmosphere, the more carbon dioxide there is in the ocean, which means changes to the pH level. And shellfish, which are at the bottom of the food chain—most shellfish can't be seen with a magnifying glass—will have great difficulty in forming their shells, which are calcium carbonate, which is an alkaline. A problem is arising there, but it's not about the problem arising; it is about knowing that we are going to run out of fossil fuels in 150 years.

To me, 150 years is not a long time. I can remember my great-grandfather, Joe Warby, vividly and with very great affection. Well, he was alive 150 years ago. So you'd better get off your backside if you want to deal with the fact that fossil fuels won't be around. God bless fossil fuels and God bless the industries that have provided us with great wealth in Queensland. But they won't be around, so we on the crossbench have got off our backsides and are proposing what will happen into the future, and we will be riding the front of that wave as we go into the future. These moderate proposals will bring an extra, I would argue, $10 billion a year into the Australian economy. That's 100,000 direct jobs, and indirect jobs doubles that figure.

In finally concluding what we're saying here, I praise the Prime Minister, insofar as what the Prime Minister said was, 'It is not a matter of when; it is a matter of what.' I wish he'd held his ground on it, because now he is on the 'when' side and not on the 'what' side. We're not talking about 'when' here; we're talking about 'what'. Do something about it. Don't talk about it; do something about it. Even if you do not believe in climate change or the problem arising in the oceans, you have to say that the fossil fuels will not be there, and you've got a huge time frame in which to move into new industries and, once again, to produce a refined downstream product, and not just be the raw materials country that really exports nothing else except iron ore and coal.

It seems to be the opinion of this place that we're going to close down the coal industry. I don't know where you're going to get your income from overseas. And don't talk about education, because it's an insult to our intelligence. It was never there until about 18 years ago, because the figures were looking so bad they moved education from over here into an export industry. Well, it's not an export industry. Your taxis are driven by overseas students. Your after-hours stores are manned by overseas students. It's simply rotating money in Australia. Indigenous oil is 27 per cent; waste to diesel is 30 per cent; renewables are 40— (Time expired.)

3:34 pm

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I praise the member for Kennedy for his second valuable contribution in this parliament today. And I welcome the contribution he's made on this matter of public importance.

I note his interjection, where he says that he was defending a union leader, but I'm sure that, once he heard the remarks from the Prime Minister about her encouraging lawbreaking, he retracted that proposition.

At the heart of the issue that he has raised in this matter of public importance are important issues about Australia's economic future and security, and they are ones that we are very mindful of. But they are also ones where we don't want to end in a situation where we want to close Australia off to the world. We are an island country. We prosper and thrive in a trading environment, and we do so because we see the economic opportunity to offer our bounty to be able to enhance the wealth of the nation and create the jobs so that we can build the future of the country.

As the member for Kennedy knows, if you have wealth that you generate from primary industries, you can invest it in building the base of your manufacturing sector. Of course, as part of that, there is an important role around affordable energy—something that is perhaps missing sometimes from some of the other crossbenchers, who seem to undervalue its contribution—and banning exports, for example, in certain fuels will only leave Australia a poorer nation and less capable of competing in the manufacturing sector. The member for Kennedy made a remark about $10 billion that he thought was the benefit of his proposals. I look forward to reading the modelling that backs that up.

Fuel security is a big challenge for our country, and nobody should suggest otherwise. We have big challenges around supply chains and security, and it sits at the heart of our economic resilience as a nation. It's at the core of what we understand as a government is central to Australia's sense of security and confidence in the world. If you want to see what happens when you dismiss those challenges, you just need to look at what is happening in Europe right now—and I think that's partly what the member for Kennedy has been alluding to—where they have become dependent on foreign fuels, particularly gas. That has left many countries high and dry, where people are unable to afford energy prices. That has a direct impact on houses, particularly during those difficult and challenging winter months. Also, of course, it means that the wealth of those nations is transacted off to others who can provide them a supply and exploit or take advantage of them. We don't want that for our country.

When Australians think about fuel security, what they think about is the ability to turn the switch on in their house and the light comes on and when they turn on the heater—and as the minister will know—they are able to heat their home for themselves and their family, particularly in the winter months, or turn on the air conditioner during the summer months and cool their home. And, of course, it is critical when they go to the bowser and they put the pump in that they are able to not only get the fuel but also are able to afford it.

It's also a big challenge for industry. We know that, for industry, there is a huge demand from feedstock, gas and electricity to make sure that they are competitive. It doesn't matter what sector you are in—and the member for Kennedy rightly outlined the role of manufacturing. If you are a manufacturer in this country, your electricity prices are a critical part of the input of your competitiveness not just in producing the goods for us domestically but also in being able to export those goods around the world competitively so we can create more wealth for our country. That is the value-add that comes from our natural bounty, which is something we need to understand.

And, of course, fuel security goes to the heart of our national defence. We know how critical that is, because we have big challenges in our regional security, and we want to be part of a solution that not only builds up our domestic security—which is very important—but also helps other sovereign states to be able to stand on their two feet regardless of the risks that may come.

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

The assistant minister will just pause for a moment. Is it a point of order?

Photo of Bob KatterBob Katter (Kennedy, Katter's Australian Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I claim to be misrepresented. This is about fuel security, and all our fuel comes from overseas.

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

If the member is claiming to have been misrepresented, there will be an opportunity for that at some other time but not during the course of this debate.

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction) Share this | | Hansard source

There was no intention to misrepresent the member for Kennedy. At every point I have reiterated the fundamental concerns that he has raised and how critical it is that we have reliable, affordable energy and available energy for our country, for a multitude of purposes. The question is not whether we need it; the question is how best you achieve it. That is the basis of our plan and part of our approach as a government.

One of the most critical things is that you don't achieve security by isolating yourself from the rest of the world. In fact, last year I wrote a paper—which may be of interest to the parliament—focused on the challenges of supply chains and managing risk, and particularly cited a paper by Baldwin and Evenett from the Centre of Trade and Economic Integration at the Graduate Institute in Geneva. It was in the context of COVID-19, but the principles remain fundamentally the same. The report found:

The risk management literature has been looking at the resilience and robustness of supply chains for more than 20 years. It does not conclude that domestic production or shorter supply chains are the best way of addressing risks.

It goes on to say that, instead:

By allowing buyers to tap supplies produced in many national markets, individual supplier-specific and country-specific risks will be reduced.

If you isolate yourself, you can only depend on yourself. If you work with other nations of good standing who are willing participants, you can hedge the risk and spread the risk across the board.

That is very much the approach we are also taking when it comes to domestic policy. How do we harden our infrastructure, our supply chains and our security, while also not cutting our nose off to spite our face? That is why the Morrison government is taking strong action to further boost Australia's long-term fuel security by locking in the future of our refining sector. This is an issue not just of security but also supply. Our comprehensive fuel security package will support around 4,000 jobs, protect the jobs in our refineries and increase the amount of diesel we will keep onshore to address exactly the challenges the member for Kennedy outlined. And, of course, we don't just do this in isolation around the refining of existing or traditional fuels like diesel.

Also, what do we need to do to build the industries and the foundations of the future of the Australian economy, particularly in the context of fuels? I think specifically about the challenges that we as a nation will face in the future with freight, as we move towards carbon neutrality. It is easy to say that we can just wave a magical wand through a piece of legislation, as some members may wish to, and somehow our challenges around reaching carbon neutrality are suddenly going to be solved. That's not the reality. We know that technology is going to be part of that solution and building the infrastructure and the foundations of Australia's future energy security is going to be a critical part of that conversation.

When the Prime Minister and I, the minister, the member for Higgins, who I understand is here, and Senator Henderson, from the great state of Victoria, were at the Toyota plant in Altona, we saw the real power of hydrogen as part of the transport fuel strategy of the country. There are companies, increasingly, investing in hydrogen power, particularly for passenger vehicles. And there is the work that's being done with electric vehicles as well. The reason that hydrogen is so important is precisely the point that the member for Kennedy outlines. When we think about the issues of security around fuel, this very quickly transfers onto the broader issues that our country faces as a consequence of our road network and food security. It's fine to create food, to manufacture and process food, but if you can't get it from the factories or from the farms and into households, or at least into nearby supermarkets, we have a food security risk. Hydrogen fuel—as part of that freight network to enable, in a carbon neutral future, the capacity for goods to be freighted across the country—is going to be an important part of that conversation as well. That's why we understand how important fuel and fuel security is going to be, because in the end it goes right to the heart of our capacity to succeed as a country and deliver for Australians what they want: national security, freight and food security, the creation of jobs and opportunities, and a vibrant manufacturing sector that value-adds onto our primary industries. So there is a lot that we are doing in this space.

As I said, it's not just in the context of hydrogen; it is also critical that we are doing it in new sectors that will build the future of the Australian economy. You just need to look at the work that we are doing in critical minerals. I see the minister in front of me who is in charge of the Critical Minerals Strategy. When we look at what we need to do to build energy security for the country, it is not just in the transport fuel space, which I understand is mostly what this motion is about, but also looking at the other sources of energy generation that underpin the electricity network that we are going to need in its many forms. Critical minerals are particularly important for building renewable resources, so they can be part of that solution. And, of course, they are minerals that we can export to the word.

3:44 pm

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

r HAINES () (): I thank the member for Kennedy for bringing this important issue to the House and acknowledge that he's quite right: we do have many different opinions. He and I both represent electorates where people need to drive great distances to work, to live, to socialise and to access health care. So the eye-watering cost of petrol these days is a top-of-mind issue for us both. It's a top-of-mind issue for any family budget. In the year to September, petrol prices have gone up 25 per cent. It's $1.62 in Wangaratta this morning and $1.68 in Wodonga. Unfortunately, prices are projected to remain high. Some analysts say prices could be $2 by the end of the year. When you're driving an hour each way to work or to the weekend footy or to see a GP, that truly hurts. It truly is an issue that regional Australians are concerned about.

Lots of politicians are running around saying they'll bring down petrol prices or, indeed, that the other side might increase petrol prices. But really we need to be honest with people. The reality is that there isn't much any Australian government can do to affect the price of fuel. The reason prices are so high is that the price of crude oil has gone up and that global supply chains are under pressure as the world recovers from COVID-19. Because Australia is almost entirely reliant on imported liquid fuels, there's truly not much we can do about it. In the year before the pandemic struck, Australia imported over 60,000 megalitres of liquid fuel, around two-thirds of our total consumption. Australia imports liquid fuels from countries like China, Japan, Singapore and the UAE. Each year we spend almost $40 billion on importing fuel. Australia has just two domestic oil refineries left, and the government is forking out $2 billion over the next decade to keep these alive. The brutal reality is that Australia does have a fuel security problem. Our entire economy and our national security rest on an unreliable, insecure supply of a polluting, expensive imported product. It would take just one hostile nation disrupting trade routes or one major natural disaster disrupting our supply chains and Australia really would be running on empty.

As we move into a more uncertain world where petrol prices are skyrocketing, we need to make the smart decisions to guarantee sovereign energy security and protect Australians from paying through the nose, and that means renewables. Australia is blessed with the best renewable energy resources in the world, and they're the cheapest form of power available to us. If the government did more to make electric cars more affordable and build the charging infrastructure we need—I acknowledge they're putting some money towards it, but we need a lot more—and to invest in renewable energy, we wouldn't have these problems of expensive and volatile fuel supply. You could power your car with the solar panels on the roof of your house, and you could do it on the cheap. If Australia generated all of our power, it would mean we would be less vulnerable to the whims of other countries and global markets. We could build our energy security on the supply of cheap, clean, locally generated power—power that we can never run out of. Instead of sending $40 billion a year to offshore oil companies, we'd be sending that money into the pockets of regional Australians, because renewable energy will be generated in the regions.

We've seen in the pandemic that global supply chains can be fragile. We've seen that those countries that can manufacture their own vaccines are in a much stronger position than those that cannot. We've seen the behaviour of countries hoarding not only vaccines but PPE, ventilators, oxygen and other essential medical equipment. Yet, on the critical question of our fuel security, the government is leaving us entirely open to an increasingly uncertain world.

Let's make our power here. Let's pay our farmers, not foreign oil companies. Let's rely on cheap fuels, not expensive ones. I call on the government to do more to invest in renewables and get the cost of electric vehicles down so that everyday Australians can pay less at the bowser and have more to spend on the important things of life.

3:49 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think we can all agree in this chamber on the principle of the importance of fuel security and its obvious importance from an economic point of view and from a national security point of view. Of course, as a government we have made some recent announcements to improve and enhance onshore storage and provisioning, particularly of diesel, and also refinement capacity in this country. I'm proud that the government is making those important, necessary decisions, and there may well be other things that need to be done into the future that we will certainly take into account. Just as importantly, on the topic of energy security, one of the things I'm particularly excited about is the opportunities we've got in hydrogen and the government's record in investing in hydrogen hubs and working with international partners for us to be a real hydrogen energy superpower. There's no doubt that to meet the commitments we've made to get to net zero by 2050 one of the big parts of that will be having a very substantial hydrogen industry. We are a nation that is well placed to be a world leader in hydrogen and have the ability to not only produce an enormous amount of hydrogen for our own needs here but also to export hydrogen around the world.

We are already seeing agreements signed between companies and governments. Japan and South Korea are two prominent examples—companies from those nations. They see the potential for Australia to produce the lion's share of their hydrogen needs here. I'm talking about green hydrogen that we produce through electrolysing with, most probably, renewable energy. In Adelaide we've got a trial site at Flinders University, where they're currently blending hydrogen into the natural gas network. There's an electrolyser there, and that uses renewable energy from the South Australian grid. Hydrogen is produced through electrolysis of water, splitting the H20 molecules so the oxygen is released and the hydrogen is captured. That is a very exciting pilot program that's seeing that blended into the natural gas network in the suburbs around Flinders University. In success, going forward, we could see that rolled out across the country, and more hydrogen than just the blend in the network that we've got right now.

Even more excitingly, we're seeing the government make commitments to major hydrogen hubs in the near future. I'm hopeful that my home state of South Australia will be favourably looked upon by the government when it comes to our ability to participate in the hydrogen supply chain. Of course, this is an industry that can exist right across the country. It doesn't have to choose one state or city over another. All of the states and territories have the ability to participate in a hydrogen industry and have that as a very significant fuel source domestically but also an enormous export industry for us. If hydrogen has a pathway to replacing diesel into the future in long-haul transport and other diesel use, we could see Australia being an enormous energy superpower from this opportunity because the ability for us to produce hydrogen should be unlimited. We should be able to produce all the world's required hydrogen if that's necessary. That's quite an ambitious objective, and I'm not suggesting that we will fulfil the 100 per cent bargain, but hydrogen can be a massive export industry for our country.

That's real fuel security because it's not increasing storage of someone else's fuels for longer supply chain periods here; it's producing our own energy here in Australia for Australian needs but also pursuing the export opportunities that we can have as the rest of the world moves down the path of decarbonising. I don't know anyone who would credibly suggest that we can achieve decarbonising the global economy without green hydrogen playing an enormous part in that. This is an exciting opportunity for our country. It's something that our government is investing in very heavily. We are partnering with industry to pursue the development of a hydrogen industry that we can see creating thousands of jobs directly—if not tens of thousands—and hundreds of thousands of jobs indirectly in this country. It will also make an enormous contribution to our energy security, grow our economy and help decarbonise the planet.

3:54 pm

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

Australia is the ninth-largest energy producer in the world and has enormous renewable energy resources capacity. Despite the naturally gifted position that we are in, we remain heavily dependent on imports of refined petroleum products and crude oil to meet our liquid fuel demand. The reason for this dependency is that our abundant energy sources are not the type and quantity of fuel we currently consume in the form of liquid fuels.

A report commissioned by the NRMA and prepared by retired Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn, titled Australia's liquid fuel security, called on the government to take precautionary measures to deal with the disruption of the flow of oil to Australia. The report highlighted the fragility of our supply and the impact of disruption to our supply through war, natural disaster or economic turmoil. For instance, dry goods could run out within nine days, and chilled and frozen goods within seven days. Retail pharmacy supplies could run out within seven days, and hospital pharmacy supplies within three days. Fuel available to the public may also be exhausted within a matter of days. One could be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of bad movie script, but it's not a script; this is the very real risk we face as a nation.

Australia, as a member of the International Energy Agency, has the obligation to maintain 90 days of net oil stock supply. However, we have failed to meet this obligation since 2011. The fuel security package announced by the government purports to address this with measures that will increase our domestic storage and maintain a sovereign refining capacity, but much of it is about fuel tickets being stored in the US. This is not a solution. Our fuel security is directly related to the sovereignty of our nation, I think, more than any other issue.

What we need are clear strategies that will remove our dependency on oil with immediacy. The most effective approach within our control is to transition to electric vehicles. However, just as with our obligation under the International Energy Agency, we are also failing when it comes to electric vehicle sales. The reason for this is quite simple: we do not have a nationally coordinated plan for the transition to clean vehicles. In 2020, just 0.7 per cent of new vehicle sales in Australia were electric, compared with a global average of 4.2 per cent. In Norway it was 75 per cent. We should be building electric vehicles here, not just driving them. The government's Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy is a start, but it falls so far short. The strategy omits some of the most effective policies at increasing electric vehicle uptake—namely, an increase in direct purchase incentives, fleet procurement, vehicle CO2 standards and stringent fuel efficiency standards.

Report after report concludes that direct financial incentives have the biggest effect on EV purchase decisions. Increased incentives would drive demand, which will increase EV model availability and, in turn, increase EV demand. Incentives do not have to be straight-out subsidies, although I would welcome such an initiative. Low-cost loans available through government-backed borrowing could provide access to EVs across the nation with minimal or no cost to government.

It is really quite appalling that Australia is one of the few OECD countries with no fuel efficiency standards. In contrast, mandatory fuel efficiency standards have been adopted by approximately 80 per cent of the global light vehicle market, including the US, the EU, Canada, Japan, China, South Korea and India. We have no mandate for ethanol in this nation, and it is a great shame. I know it's an issue that the member for Kennedy has talked about for as many years as I have been in this parliament.

We often approach complex policies and priorities with mutual exclusivity, and it is no more evident than in the discussion around fuel security. The transition to electric vehicles must be considered as a strategic component to our national goal of achieving fuel security and not just a standalone policy that promises a lot but delivers very, very little. Australia has been very, very lucky on this issue, but, really, any number of issues could stop the fuel coming into our nation, and then we would be in absolute dire condition.

3:59 pm

Photo of George ChristensenGeorge Christensen (Dawson, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is my pleasure to rise on this matter of public importance raised by the member for Kennedy, my electoral neighbour and good friend. I should say we're talking about fuel security here in Australia, and I want to begin by acknowledging some of the recent things that have happened in this space in Australia under the Morrison government, such as the minimum onshore stock holding obligation to safeguard key transport fuels, including increasing diesel stocks by 40 per cent. It's a very good start, a long way from where we were under previous policy. I also note the investment of over a quarter of a billion dollars in constructing new diesel storage to create about a thousand new jobs, but more importantly to increase diesel storage in strategic key locations across the nation, and also locking in our remaining refineries; they were dwindling and threatening to go by the wayside. Locking them in also gives us a level of security that we didn't have before. But it is probably an understatement to say that that's just a good start.

There is a lot more that needs to be done, because we are well short of international obligations of around 90 days of fuel security, which is considered what is needed by any sovereign nation to get through some crisis. If there were a situation where our shipping lines were cut and we were reliant on fuel coming in from another nation, we would be in a lot of trouble, which is why other avenues need to be explored, such as biofuels. The member for Kennedy and I have been long-time supporters of the idea of expanding the ethanol industry through a mandate. I drive on ethanol just about all the time. When I go to a bowser that has an E10 option, I use that. It's clean, it's efficient, it drives very well, and, on top of that, it is a green fuel. So we could do more by boosting that. There is so much more that could be done in that space.

In my remaining time, I want to respond to the first part of the member for Kennedy's matter of public importance, and that is the response to Glasgow COP26, and I have a response to Glasgow COP26. All of these international experts and politicians and all the rest of it flew into the home city of my mother, actually, God bless her. They flew into Glasgow, a place that, because of my grandparents and my mother, I thought was a place of common sense, but it seems a lot of uncommon sense flew in—nonsense, actually. They flew in on a cornucopia of different gas-guzzling jets, producing goodness knows how much in terms of emissions. And I've got to tell you that the summary of those proceedings was given by none other than climate activist Greta Thunberg at the beginning, where she said the words 'blah, blah, blah'. That's basically all that came out of COP26, apart from some personal emissions by the President of the United States in front of Camilla. We had Joe Biden falling asleep—again, a great summary of the proceedings of that event; Prince Charles doing a bit of stumbling; Obama thinking he was in the Emerald Isle; and CNN reporting that the conference was held in Edinburgh. How could you say that, as a son of a Glaswegian? But this is what it amounted to. Absolutely nothing over there. There were 140 countries getting together and voting on things like halting and reversing forest loss and land degradation by 2030, when most of them actually don't even have forests to speak of or have any that are in any danger of being whittled away. So that was Glasgow—a complete and utter waste of time for the entire world, one of the talkfests again that will just go down in the annals of history as complete stupidity. But what's going to come out of it, or what people are going to say is going to come out of it, are things that are going to affect our lives here in Australia, things that are going to affect our industries—the push for net zero, the push for closing down the coal industry by 2030. All of these things will be of great detriment to Australia and great detriment to the workers and businesses of Australia. So I think my response to Glasgow COP26, for the member for Kennedy's benefit, is that it wasn't just a waste of time; it was a dangerous waste of time.

4:04 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

After that rubbish, we will get on to actually talking about the matter of public importance: fuel security. I rise to speak on this because it is so important, especially after COP26, because we are incredibly exposed. In June, to bolster security, the government propped up Australia's remaining oil refineries with over $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies. It's important to note that these refineries have been on the decline for the last two decades. We had seven in 2010 and just four in 2020, and we have only two now. This comes due to pressures from lower-cost refineries in Asia. As the Australian Financial Review editorialised at the time:

The refineries plan does not mean self-sufficiency, even with more than $2 billion of subsidy …

So we have no plan for this. Let's be really clear. Self-sufficiency and security must be our goal. If there is anything we have learnt out of this pandemic, it has to be the importance of that security.

Australians spend $29 billion per year on imported fuel, and we are highly dependent on these imports. We cannot service our needs with oil from domestic oil production. It's not enough, and it's the wrong type of oil. Over 90 per cent of our fuels are imported from countries in the Middle East, Asia and North America. It leaves Australia exposed to supply disruptions in our region emanating from conflict, natural disasters and other pressures. We hear the government talk about national security. Then it should care about this issue, because it is intrinsically linked. We've seen with the pandemic what happens with supply chain disruptions and what they do to prices. At the moment, we're seeing the price of a barrel of oil go through the roof, and no amount of sovereign oil refinery capacity will keep us secure from these disruptions. It's a fundamental national security issue.

You only have to look at the skyrocketing price of petrol to think: is this system really working for Australian households? We're now paying almost $2 a litre at the bowser. No platitudes or magical thinking from the Prime Minister will reduce petrol prices. No blaming another side of politics or doing the usual political football is going to change that reality. Rather, we need to come up with some proper planning and not just prop up something that isn't working. We need a transition to move away. But there's no credible plan to wean us off this. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has projected that oil demand will increase to 2040 if we don't change policies.

So that's the point of this MPI: what is the government going to do to reduce pressure on Australian households and exposure to supply chain disruptions post Glasgow? We need a credible transition plan for transport, which uses most of our imported oil—75 per cent, in fact. Transport also accounts for over 18 per cent of our national greenhouse gas emissions, and that's projected to rise over the coming years. Why not power our transport with Australian sun and wind instead of Saudi oil? Aren't we all for Australian sovereignty? Transitioning will require significant investments in electric vehicle infrastructure, vehicle emission standards and tax rebates. Again, the government is the party of lower taxes. Use that to actually create a credible transition plan.

For aviation, that means getting away from jet fuel and moving towards biofuel or synthetic fuels. For heavy vehicles, we can look at electrification and green hydrogen, which we can make here in Australia from renewable energy. The government is offering tokenistic financing through ARENA, who are doing their best, but it's not enough. It's not a concrete policy. It's not being put in place at scale to actually get this transition going.

'The Australian way', the pamphlet that we had pre Glasgow, is a joke. It is not going to pool technology. It is not going to drive investment. We have nothing like the Renewable Energy Target, which was pivotal in the deployment of renewables and is why we are enjoying the small emissions reductions that we have now. The Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy for electric vehicles and hydrogen will not deliver what needs to be delivered. We have an opportunity. It is a moment in time when you can actually have vision. You can put in place a plan. We have, post the pandemic, an opportunity to reset and take on board the evidence. But things like $2 billion for fuel subsidies, $600 million for Kurri Kurri and hundreds of millions for Beetaloo basin are not a transition plan. We actually need some bravery from government.

4:09 pm

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the strong action the Morrison government has taken and is taking to reduce emissions whilst growing our economy. At Glasgow, the Prime Minister outlined our plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and we're doing this with technology, not taxes, and choices, not mandates. That's the Australian way. To reach net zero, we are considering the future of our technologies. We recognise the role future technology breakthroughs will play in closing the gap, with new and emerging technologies to reduce emissions by a further 15 per cent by 2050. And we're delivering a balanced approach to achieve this through our commitment to securing our fuel sovereignty. I'm seeing firsthand the benefits of our government's commitment to affordable reliable energy in my electorate of Bonner. We've locked in Australia's sovereign refining capability with our fuel security package supporting the Ampol refinery in Lytton, in Bonner, and Victoria's Viva Energy refinery in Geelong, backing more local jobs for more local families.

Fuel is critical across our economy and the Morrison government is acting in a practical, responsible way to reduce emissions while preserving Australian jobs and taking advantage of our new opportunities for industries. We're considering the livelihoods of our truckies, our tradies, our farmers, our commuters, our miners and, of course, everybody who travels in Australia. We are also protecting families and businesses from higher fuel prices, ensuring they can keep more of what they earn. In fact, we will be keeping fuel prices amongst the lowest in the OECD.

Locking in Australia's fuel security will deliver benefits for all Australians. Traditional fuels will continue to be the dominant fuel source for transport beyond 2030. We cannot be complacent about fuel security because of this, and this package will lock in these refineries until 2027. It is critical for our farmers, our emergency services, our truckies and our industries, who rely upon diesel to keep Australia moving. Diesel consumption has increased over the last five years. Of all major transport fuels, it is the most important for all Australians as it underpins our economy and critical services. If it wasn't for our government's commitment to fuel sovereignty, it is likely Australia's remaining refineries would have closed within the next five years. Between these two refineries, this would mean losing 1,200 direct jobs and forfeiting 1,750 new construction jobs. The fallout would have had devastating impacts on jobs in all fuel-dependent industries and our local economy.

Earlier this year, I was extremely pleased to welcome the Prime Minister and the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, to Bonner for the announcement of this package. On a local level, this package equated to 550 direct local jobs. The flow-on effect of this certainty in the local community could not be underestimated. When I joined the Prime Minister and Minister Taylor on a tour of the refinery, we walked past a worker holding up a handwritten sign which read, 'Thank you for supporting our refinery.' I was beyond humbled to read this, because this is exactly what we do. We support real people, people with families, people with passion for their work. These are people with incredible skills, and we absolutely must harness and ensure that our sovereignty stays here with us.

This package will also complement our Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy, which will empower consumers to drive the car that they want. This will be done by enabling the right environment, rolling out infrastructure and making the grid EV ready through priority reforms. It's backed by a $250 million Future Fuels Fund focused on public EV charging, commercial fleets, household smart-charging and heavy and long-distance vehicle technologies. It also forms part of the more than $2.1 billion our government has committed to support the uptake of future fuels and vehicles. Labor's 2019 policy would have forced Australians to purchase an EV regardless of whether it was right for them, by setting a target that 50 per cent of new car sales had to be EVs by 2030. But our government won't be telling Australians what car they must drive or increase the cost for those who can least afford it through taxes, bans or standards. We know this will just drive up the cost of Australian family vehicles, so we're taking action to strengthen our economy and back our industries, and reduce emissions while we are at it.

4:14 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Bonner started his remarks in this MPI by saying his government was taking action, but I think we know that this government is missing in action. And it is lovely, I have to say, to see the crossbench, with this MPI today, bringing forward a topic that I have spoken about in this chamber many times before and which we agree is a serious and important issue. But unfortunately the government, or at least most of the government—I know there's a spattering of members over there that agree with us—isn't actually taking this issue seriously, because under the Morrison government petrol prices are skyrocketing, real wages are going down and working families are going backwards, and this is a government that is doing nothing to resolve any of these things.

Back in 2011, Australia had a liquefied fuel reserve well over the 90-day International Energy Agency requirement. But, over the last 10 years, Australia's seven fuel refineries have dwindled down to just two. This approach is certainly leaving Australia vulnerable to supply chain shocks. COVID-19 has demonstrated that such supply chain disruptions are not just a theoretical possibility. In fact, we're seeing it right now, with petrol prices going through the roof across the nation.

It's not just about supply. It's not just about jobs. It's not just about the economy. It's also about our national security, our sovereign integrity and our ability to look after ourselves. Petrol prices have risen under this government. We've seen these prices rise all over the globe. Indeed, in the last 24 hours, President Joe Biden announced that he's authorising a historic release from that nation's strategic oil reserve to help offset a surge in gasoline prices in America in the hope that this will have global flow-on effects.

Meanwhile, here in Australia, we don't have a strategic reserve. We hardly have any refineries anymore. We get our fuel through Singapore. On this government's watch, we have seen oil refineries shut down in Australia, and a rescue package had to be put in place to try and keep refineries operating here in Australia. But guess what? That didn't work either, because, under the government's plan to support refineries, we saw two refineries close. In February we saw the Altona Refinery close in the seat of Gellibrand, resulting in the loss of 150 jobs. And in Kwinana, in the seat of Brand, the biggest refinery in Australia was closed, resulting in a loss of some 600 jobs. It was not just job losses but fuel security loss for our nation as well. Retired Air Vice-Marshal John Blackburn AO has been vocal on this matter for some time, criticising the Australian government's approach to ensuring national liquid fuel supply. I tend to agree with him.

As I have said, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant vulnerabilities in global supply chains, and importing more than 90 per cent of our fuel stocks now means that we are absolutely at the mercy of these overseas supply interruptions. We need to approach this not just from an economic perspective but also with a scientific, business continuity and, perhaps most vitally, military defence approach. We cannot forget that fuel access and supply is a fundamental defence industry input to defence capability. It's become apparent that many of the fundamental assumptions about our nation's security need to be revisited and, with that, the assumptions that we have made regarding our supply chains and in particular fuel supply.

The security and critical supply chain is something that can't simply be left to the market or to big business. The government needs to take a leading role to ensure our nation's ongoing security. We must safeguard our nation's liquid fuel security. Everything that moves in this country is fuelled on diesel or avgas. The WA resources industry, the one that keeps our entire nation's economy going, would literally stop without these two fuels. Yet now, without the BP Kwinana refinery, there are only five days of avgas storage in Western Australia and only three weeks of diesel. Reliant on imports, many of which traverse northern Asia, we are now without an option for refining our own from more abundant crude imports from around the globe. And the government's best solution so far is to buy a fuel stockpile but keep it in the United States of America! We need to be serious about this. We need to be backing our Aussie refineries, our jobs that go with them and our fuel networks. We need to be backing our national economy and our security. The government's been talking a big game when it comes to national security over recent days and weeks, but it is leaving us fundamentally short when it comes to our fuel security.

4:19 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Morrison government is taking strong action to further boost our long-term fuel security by locking in the future of our refining sector, and that's been through the landmark Fuel Security Act 2021, where we've looked at the refining capacity to secure ongoing operations of refineries in both Brisbane and Geelong. These will stay in operation until at least mid-2027.

As part of this commitment, the government will also co-fund $250 million in major infrastructure upgrades. This is important, because it will help to lower the sulphur fuel content of our fuels for our onshore refining. This lowering of the sulphur content in fuel will bring benefits of around $1 billion in avoided health costs due to better air quality. This will also help motorists to save costs on maintenance. Our fuel security package is important not only for ensuring our short- and medium-term support of the refinery industry but also for making sure we improve the health of our consumers.

The issue with our fuel security package is that there are two things coming at us at speed. Firstly, we have been dealing with the COVID pandemic, and that has had an effect on our supply chain. There is absolutely no doubt about our sovereign supply chains; whether it's been for medicines, PPE equipment or tests, we have had issues to address. That can also be true for fuel security, so it is important that we turn our minds to the issue of how to make sure we have fuel security.

But it's not just COVID that we've had to deal with, with regard to self-sufficiency and security; we've also had the issue of the world transitioning to a decarbonised economy. Australia has been very fortunate that it has had a lot of access to cheap energy in the past and will continue to in the short to medium term. But we are going through a transition which means we need to build the infrastructure of the future. That's why we recognise that, while fuels are transitioning, we need to get ready for the green superpower led future that is awaiting Australia. This includes the government's strategic investment in the Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy. This strategy will help empower consumers to drive the car they want and help support an enabling environment by rolling out infrastructure and making the grid electric vehicle ready.

The transition that needs to happen, where we move from being dependent on diesel and on fossil fuels, is going to take time, and it is going to take technological development to get us there. But this government is committed to a carbon net zero 2050, underpinning the infrastructure changes, technological development and business development that is going to have to happen to get us there sooner, faster and safer.

Our strategy is backed by the $250 million Future Fuels Fund, which will focus on some very important aspects. The first is public EV charging stations. We know Australia has some particular issues with regard to being a big continent and us liking to drive a long way. Anyone who's been to Europe knows that they have much shorter distances. Australians love to get in a car and drive a long way. We need to make sure our public EV charging stations are supplementing the private EV charging stations that are growing like sunflowers across this great continent. A number of constituents in my electorate spoke with me last week about the work they are doing in the private EV charging sector. We know GET and JOLT are two such EV charging businesses that have grown very rapidly and are providing private EV charging. We as a government are backing in private enterprise and filling the gap with public EV charging. We also understand household smart charging will be important for the future, and we also know we're going to have to deal with heavy and long-distance vehicle technologies in a very different way. These will be fuelled by hydrogen—green hydrogen in particular.

As we move from a liquid fuel past based on fossil fuels to a liquid fuel future based on green hydrogen, we know there is a lot of change coming to this country. And who do you trust better than us to lead you into that future? Who do you trust better than a government that understands the technology led development of future fuels, of infrastructure, and understands that industry partnering with government is the best way forward by enabling the gaps to be filled by government but not the whole thing to be driven by government? Partnering with the private sector to support uptake and stimulate co-investment in future fuels is how we get to a greener, cleaner future faster.

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

The time for the discussion has concluded.