Tuesday, 2 August 2022
As I was a minister in the previous government, it's been some years since I have participated in a grievance debate. On contemplating what issue to raise in this place, it struck me that perhaps it's not so much a single concern but rather the government's approach to solving the issues that needs to be examined. I want to be very clear: I'm not blaming the incoming government for all the problems that we currently face. But I do believe that their approach is going to make a challenging situation even harder and have real impacts on the lives of Australians.
I'm an engineer by profession. I like to figure out how things work. It's in my nature to analyse a situation carefully. I see a problem and I want to work out the best way to fix it. Some used to call that a commonsense approach; I think it's just practical. I believe this sort of approach is the foundation of the progress of humans. It's the basis of invention and design implementation. But I am deeply concerned that this practical problem-solving approach is being substituted by ideology and symbolism, with little regard for whether the outcome is a problem solved or a problem created.
Let me provide a few examples from this incoming Labor government and their ideological partners, the Greens. First up is the ideological drive to prematurely end the use of coal and, now, gas before we have other energy sources that are capable of providing reliable baseload power. As an engineer, I have worked in power stations. I understand the imperative of baseload power. I'm also very clearly on the record as saying we should stop debating whether climate change is real and what degree of impact it is having, and we should get on with developing the technology to address it.
So I'm very much in favour of transitioning to cleaner energy sources as soon as possible, and I believe that we will, through ingenuity and investment in technology, reach that point. But I'm not in favour of jeopardising the power supply we all rely on in order to tick a box that says we've abolished the use of coal by a date that is arbitrary. What is the sense in that? And I can't for the life of me understand the Greens ideological obsession with moving away from gas. The reality is that, like most of the world, Australia relies on coal and gas to heat our homes, to power our businesses and to keep our hospitals, schools and essential services operating.
I spent a lot of time in the last parliament putting in place protections for our critical infrastructure to ensure that they are safe from cyberattack and other threats. An unreliable or intermittent power supply presents an enormous challenge for critical infrastructure and systems of national significance. But how often is this consequence discussed? I clearly and definitively support the move to cleaner energy sources for the future of our planet. The coalition has worked hard and Australia has achieved greater outcomes when it comes to reducing emissions than many other nations over the past decade, including those who claim the symbolism of being climate warriors.
Between 2005 and 2019 Australia reduced our emissions more quickly than Canada, Japan, New Zealand and the United States. Australia has a strong record of meeting our targets, having beaten our 2020 Kyoto target by 459 million tons. On this side of the House we believe we can achieve net zero through technology, not taxes. We are committed to ongoing practical action, not empty symbolism. Symbolism should not be pursued at a pace that puts lives, livelihoods or our national security at risk. It should not be pursued at a pace that means pensioners can't afford to heat their homes in winter or turn on their air conditioning in summer. It should not be pursued at a pace that means our manufacturers decide to relocate offshore. And let's make no mistake: if we drive up energy costs here or create an unreliable supply, our manufacturers will have little to no choice but to take their production to countries that do not have such a punitive ideological approach to energy supply.
This is the last thing we need, especially after the pandemic revealed the need to bolster our sovereign capability rather than remain reliant on international supply chains. I am deeply concerned that we have lost all sense of rationality and common sense when it comes to the climate debate. We are being driven by emotive arguments that don't examine practical outcomes. We have terrified young people into a religious activism of sorts. Many of these kids have no concept of how electricity is produced, what baseload power is and why it's necessary. We've substituted logic for emotion, action for symbolism, and the outcome of this will be a range of unintended, ill-considered consequences that will impact our way of life and our future prosperity.
We are seeing the same symbolism, with little regard for analysis, in the way the government is bullishly pursuing enshrining an Indigenous Voice in the Constitution. They are actually insisting that they won't tell us how it will operate and what it will mean for the way our nation is governed. They tell us we should not worry about the practical details, because it feels like the right thing to do. That is no way to make a serious decision. It's certainly no way to run a country. We're seeing ideology trump common sense in Labor's move to abolish the cashless debit card, which has benefited some of our most vulnerable Australians. We are seeing ideology prioritised over border security in Labor's policy to abolish temporary protection visas—one of the three key pillars of Operation Sovereign Borders. And the ridiculous thing is that they abolished them last time they were in government, and more than 800 boats and 50,000 people arrived illegally. We are still paying for and dealing with the consequences of that emotive, ideological decision.
So tonight my grievance is with the emotive, ideological approach that this government is taking to some of the serious issues that we face as a nation. At a time of great challenge, we need clear thinking, practical action and sensible outcomes. This parliament must be dedicated to fixing problems, not creating bigger ones, no matter the good intentions and the motives. As the old saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I'd also point out that ideology alone doesn't put food on the table, and it doesn't keep the lights on. Ultimately, while it might feel good, it also doesn't lift people out of poverty or make our community stronger. I look forward to working constructively to point out the practical consequences of this government's agenda and what it means for the future of our nation.