House debates

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

3:20 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

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

The government's abandonment of its promise to cut power bills by $275.

I call upon those 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—

3:21 pm

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

In December last year—it was the Friday after the last sitting day—the now Prime Minister and his now Minister for Climate Change and Energy had all the theatrics set in place, and they made this extraordinary announcement to the Australian people of their climate change policy if they were to win government. That climate change policy consisted not of one but of two targets. One target was a 43 per cent reduction in emissions. The other target was a $275 reduction in power bills. Two numbers: 43 and 275.

In this sitting, the first sitting of the parliament, the government had the opportunity to put its policy into a bill. Both these numbers did not appeared. Forty-three and 275—guess which of these wasn't in there? Was it the 43 or the 275?

An opposition member: I think we know.

I think we do know. The 275 was gone. This represents the first broken promise of the Albanese Labor government.

This is the first promise, and they didn't waste their time. They made sure they broke their first promise in their first sitting of parliament, a promise that goes to the heart of every living room across Australia. Every single household is copping higher power bills. Every single household knows very well that they have a new government in town that went to the people making a promise of cutting power bills, and every time they open up their power bills from now on, they will be reminded that this Albanese Labor government made them a promise that their power bills would go down and not up. This is a broken promise.

What I find extraordinary is that, despite having broken a promise to the Australian people so blatantly, despite having the Prime Minister and the minister in this place over the last two weeks confirming they have abandoned this promise to the Australian people, the Australian Labor Party's official website still claims they will deliver on that promise. Still to this day today, the Australian Labor Party are untruthfully claiming to the Australian public and to Australian businesses that they will cut their power bills.

You can look it up right now. That's what the Labor Party promises, still to this day, but the Prime Minister and the minister have refused in this place, in this chamber, to confirm that's what they're going to do. But we know they're going to abandon that promise. When they made the promise in the first place—and we've heard it from the Prime Minister already in this sitting—it was the most comprehensive economic modelling apparently ever done by any opposition. That's their claim. The $275 was based on the most comprehensive economic modelling ever done in the history, since Australian Federation, of any opposition. They are already walking away from it.

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Women) Share this | | Hansard source

What else is going to go up?

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

That is exactly the question. I tell you what's going to go up: prices of a whole bunch of products and services throughout this country, especially energy-intensive companies and the products they deliver. Think of the steelworkers, those who make steel, across this country and their jobs in the foundries. Think of those who run bakeries. Think of the butchers. Think of the hairdressers. Their power bills are going up. Those opposite might laugh about those trades, but I don't laugh about those trades because they built this nation. Their power bills are going up, and the Labor Party find it funny. Do you know what's interesting, Deputy Speaker? The Labor Party's official website is still promoting the $275 reduction in power prices, but guess what website includes the Powering Australia policy, which is Labor's document, but excludes the $275?

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Which one?

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister's own department's website—they know. I don't know if they've told the minister, but they know the truth. This government, although it was elected with the promise of delivering a cut in power prices, has abandoned it, and the minister's own department knows it. That's why you do not find that $275 promise on the department's website, but the Labor Party's fine with still promoting it. That's the game they play. That's what they do.

Can we go back to the most comprehensive economic modelling ever done since Federation? I almost said 'muddling'. It would have been an interesting pun. The $275 in the spreadsheet that was done for the modelling—listen, Labor guys, who are trying to ignore it because it's really important for you to know this, colleagues—drives an assumption of 306,000 jobs. For those on the Labor benches, who do not know their own policy: in addition to making other promises, they had promised 604,000 new jobs as a result of their climate change policy. Of those, 306,000 jobs—in other words, well over half of the jobs that they have promised through their climate change policy—are predicated on the cheap power prices that they have now abandoned.

So they've abandoned the power prices, and they've cut, by over half, the number of jobs they claimed that that would deliver. This is despite the Prime Minister standing here in this sitting period, saying, 'Oh, we stand by the modelling.' The Prime Minister stands by the modelling, but can he confirm that he will deliver on the promise of a $275 cut in power prices? He can't answer it. He abandoned the promise. He abandoned the promise of power prices, and he is abandoning the promise of jobs. They go hand in hand, based on the very modelling that the Labor Party claims is the most comprehensive in the history of our nation.

One of the reasons that prices are skyrocketing at the moment, and they have been since this government was elected, is the lack of gas being poured into the Australian market.

As soon as the minister was appointed to his role, we in the opposition, in the coalition, were very clear in saying: 'Power prices are going up. You need more gas in the system. Please, minister, call an emergency meeting of gas CEOs. Get them around the table and put pressure on them. If need be, threaten to use the gas trigger, otherwise known as the ADGSM.' Guess what he did: absolutely nothing. Instead of calling a meeting with gas CEOs, do you know who he wanted to meet with? Other politicians around the country. A great, big, fat lot of good that did, didn't it—a whole bunch of politicians coming in a room, from states and territories, umming and ah-ing. Guess what tangible activity came out of that: nothing, not one thing. It took two months until, only days ago, the ACCC tabled a report that said, 'Guess what: you need to pour more gas into the market.' Two months it took until the new resources minister said: 'You know what? Maybe we should start threatening to use that gas trigger after all.' It took two months of absolute inaction.

This is why the Australian people, unfortunately, can have no confidence that the Labor government will deliver on its $275 promise, because its inaction in the domestic market will make it absolutely impossible. This is the first broken promise of the Albanese Labor government.

3:31 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

At the outset, I'll make it clear that I'll only be speaking for seven minutes, to allow three divisions to get done before adjournment. I want to make that clear to the House. Labor speakers, government speakers, will similarly be curtailed for the good operation of the House.

Let me start by repeating what the Prime Minister has said repeatedly over the last few days: we stand by our policy commitments, including to make power bills cheaper by increasing renewable energy in the system. We stand by our policies, and those policies are part of our broader climate and energy policy package.

The rank hypocrisy of a political party in putting forward this MPI on a day when the climate bills passed through the House of Representatives just demonstrates how irrelevant they are over there. On a historic day, when every member of this chamber—except for the Liberal and National parties—was relevant, participated in the debate, made speeches, moved amendments and contributed to helping end the climate wars, those on the other side were stuck on repeat. They were stuck on Groundhog Day and stuck on perpetuating the climate wars. In the end, what those opposite did was vote against cheaper power prices. Those opposite voted against cheaper power prices through their actions today.

That's not a surprise. You only have to look at their record in government. Whenever there was an opportunity to push power prices up, those opposite took it through their 22 energy policies—and I sadly don't have time to repeat all of them. We had the clean energy target. We had the emissions intensity policy, which lasted for 12 hours. Josh Frydenberg got up in the morning and said, 'Let's have an emissions intensity policy.' By the afternoon, he'd abandoned it. We had NEG 1, NEG 2 and NEG 3; we had UNGI; and we had my favourite—the 'big stick'. It was so effective!

What was the member for Hume's last act as energy minister? What was the member for Hume's last, pathetic, desperate act in the last days of a tawdry, sordid nine-year-old government? It was to change the law to hide an almost 20 per cent increase in power prices. It's not a surprise and is entirely characteristic of a man of that sort. It's not a surprise, because in 2019 the member for Hume, the current shadow Treasurer—we'll see how long he lasts in that role; if he keeps accepting the questions his tactics committee give him, I don't think he's going to last too long—promised that, by the end of 2021, wholesale energy prices would be $70. Well, wholesale energy prices averaged $106 by the end of 2021. Guess what they were in the month of May. Were they $70? No. Were they even $100? Had he managed to keep them stable? No. They were $341 a megawatt hour. He managed to triple it, which is good given his performance in other parts of his portfolio! This is only one small part of his and that horrible, neglectful, decadent government's history. We saw four gigawatts of energy leave the system with only one gigawatt coming in. We saw Snowy Hydro 2.0. We had Malcolm Turnbull's leather jacket moment followed up by the member for Hume, who couldn't answer a question in this House on energy without referencing his relatives, who actually made a contribution. I will pay respect to his relatives who built something at the Snowy Hydro, unlike the member for Hume. And we had $1 billion to support 3,800 megawatts of new power generation, where not one dollar was delivered and not one watt was delivered. That's a great contribution! The other side are great at wasting money, but they couldn't get the money out the door. That's how incompetent the last government were on energy policy.

Now, they're trying to wipe away the record. Apply a bit of Mr Sheen to their record to wipe it away. Wipe it away with a bit of spit and polish, a bit of Mr Sheen. The truth is they lost the election. They had their heartland wiped out. They lost their blue ribbon seats because of their obsession with the climate wars, with 22 energy policies and now they're trying to wipe it out. But, now, they're starting to think about their future. When you have just been wiped out, when you have lost your heartland, when you start thinking about the future, who do you consult? Are there some young dynamos in their party room who will drive this? Is there an energy minister about to leave parliament? Who do you get to talk about the future for the Liberal Party? John Howard.

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention) Share this | | Hansard source

We love John Howard.

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

You love him, obviously. If he's got the recipe for the future, you better get very used to sitting over there.

So you get John Howard to chart out your future and then you go to a safe spot. When you have trauma, you go to a safe place—that's natural. Their safe place is nuclear power, nuclear energy. Whenever they get in trouble, they grip it and the member for Fairfax is obsessed with it. He loves it. He's obsessed with it. What does it mean for power prices? Well, the CSIRO came out with their power price research. They found that firmed-up renewables are $46 a megawatt hour and coal is $141 a megawatt hour. If this is their grand plan, if this is their policy, if this is their vision to get relevant again, you'd think nuclear power might be cheaper than renewable energy and it might be under $41. Well, nuclear power is only $326 a megawatt hour! It's only seven times the cost of firmed-up renewables. That's a great effort.

Before we saw the member for Fairfax, I thought their lowest was the member for Hume, that that was the bottom of the barrel. Now the shadow minister for energy is really taking the cake. This is where this debate is at the moment. On the government side, we've just passed a bill that will end the climate wars, that will give investors certainty, that will allow investors to invest in the clean energy of the future, that will drive lower power prices, that will drive 604,000 new jobs. On the opposite side, they stand for higher power prices and policy irrelevance.

3:38 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention) Share this | | Hansard source

The Australian people deserve honesty from their Prime Minister. Before the election, the Prime Minister repeated his promise to cut electricity bills by $275 on no fewer than 15 occasions. Labor were elected on this promise to the Australian people. It was very clear. This was the Prime Minister's commitment to Australia before the election. What has happened since the election? I will tell you what has happened: the lights have gone out on the Prime Minister's commitment. In fact, do members of this House know how many times the Prime Minister has repeated this commitment since the election? Zero. The Prime Minister has not mentioned it once. In fact, he seems to be more concerned about playing politics than honouring his commitment to ease cost of living pressures for Australians. We've asked him every single day in question time, multiple times, if he is going to deliver on his commitment to the Australian people, but he has shown us very clearly that he has abandoned Australians. Much like their commitment to have a plan to tackle the cost of living, to get wages moving, to back industry and to make more things in Australia, this promise to reduce power prices is no longer. So ashamed are the government of their inability to deliver for the Australian people that they now just want us to forget. But families and businesses in my electorate of Lindsay aren't going to forget. Families who are dreading the next power bill aren't going to forget. Small businesses fighting rising costs aren't going to forget.

ABS data shows electricity prices increased on average by 12.9 per cent when Labor was last in government compared to just 0.3 per cent during the last coalition government. We've spent the best part of the last two days debating climate legislation that isn't necessary, that is simply an exercise so the Prime Minister and his government can gloat and parade around as though they have delivered meaningful results for Australians. I know one thing for sure: the coalition between Labor and the Greens on climate change will not lower power prices. It will not see a reduction in household power bills. It will only drive up the costs as the government becomes beholden to the Greens' radical climate agenda.

This broken promise from the Prime Minister, though, shouldn't surprise us. After all, this is a Prime Minister who did not know the cash rate, didn't know the unemployment rate, didn't know Australia's borders were open and didn't know his own NDIS policy. If he didn't know these important bits of information, how could anyone expect him to know how to honour a commitment to reduce power prices?

In June, the Leader of the House told Sky News:

We're behind the modelling that was there and the impact of what we're going to do, particularly through transmission that allows you to get cheaper energy on the grid.

I wonder if the member still stands by that statement today. In that same week, the Prime Minister was asked by the Weekend Australia whether the power bill cut was out the window. His response was to say:

… we are dealing with a circumstance which is a direct result of a failure to give business the certainty that they needed to invest.

This is a Prime Minister who always blames everyone else.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy is more interested in standing at the dispatch box and trialling his stand-up comedy routine than delivering power price reductions for struggling Australian families. The people of Australia are not interested in this government's jokes. It is fast becoming obvious that this government doesn't have a plan beyond empty, hollow campaign announcements.

We have a message for the Prime Minister: government is all about making tough decisions in tough circumstances and delivering what you have promised to the Australian people. The Prime Minister said it's the job of a Prime Minister to deal with the challenges that Australia faces and not to constantly blame someone else. Well, it's time, Prime Minister. It's time that you fess up to the Australian people, take responsibility and deliver those cuts in power prices that you promised during the election.

3:43 pm

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Deputy Speaker Claydon, this is the first chance I have had that wasn't a 90-second statement to congratulate you on taking this position and on your performance in our first two weeks. What a missed opportunity this MPI is. On a day when something historic has happened, when this parliament has come together and said, 'You know what—we do give a stuff about the future and we do care about what we leave for our kids and our grandkids,' we have an MPI that has no substance whatsoever. I'm going to work through a couple of the elements of it.

I am disappointed in the member for Lindsay, someone who I know values the Blue Mountains World Heritage area, that she would say that we have spent this week debating legislation that isn't necessary. People who live in the electorate of Macquarie, the neighbouring electorate, and those who live on the extended part of the river—we share rivers, the member for Lindsay and I—think this legislation is necessary because it actually has the potential to change the future of our region in a positive way.

Rather than talking about claims that there are broken promises—and I'll come to that, because there are definitely no broken promises—what I think we could have used this for is to stop arguing about whether or not we need action on climate change and to have an adult debate about the way forward. Let's talk about the different options that we now have with our commitment to a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 and look at how we get there. I know I should not have expected an adult debate from those on the other side. We've never seen one in the six years I've been here, and, clearly, nothing is going to change, even though they're now on the other side, so I mourn the missed opportunity.

I'm in awe of the Minister for International Development and the Pacific. He can remember more of the energy policies of those opposite than I possibly can. We have an absolute conviction in our commitment to make power bills cheaper, and I'm just going to give you a really simple lesson. The more energy at a cheaper price we can get into the grid, which we will rewire so it actually can get from where it's generated to where it needs to go—the more we do that; the more cheap energy there is coming in—the more that is going to be the thing that is real gold for energy prices, for manufacturers who need reliable energy at a cheaper price, for households and for small businesses. It's really simple maths, and I'm disappointed, given the intellectual firepower opposite me, that those opposite have not been able to do the maths and work it out.

But it's not going to happen in nine weeks, and let's be clear about that, so I'm very pleased to say: watch this space. We will keep our commitments because we know that renewable energy is going to be better for our entire economy.

3:46 pm

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Services) Share this | | Hansard source

For three years, the effects of the COVID pandemic have changed our lives, challenged our livelihoods and taken an unspeakable toll on all our loved ones and families. Today we still live through these challenging times. They're far from over, and what most Australians continue to feel is pain. The challenges haven't simply snuck up on us. They haven't jumped out in the dark overnight. Hopefully, one thing that all politicians in this nation and in this place can agree on is that we continue to face significant obstacles preventing us from resuming our treasured way of life.

In the lead-up to the May election, it was very clear to me that the most significant challenge in my electorate would be felt very long after the election was over, and that was, of course, the cost of living. Without a doubt, the cost of living for families and businesses is the No. 1 grassroots issue that is being talked about, and electors ring me every day in order to discuss it. It's what they talk about in normal conversation. It's what they talk about in the crib rooms right across the electorate of Braddon, and I'm very sure that, in that way, Braddon is very similar to other rural and regional electorates right across the nation.

Whoever won government during that election knew that managing the impact of the rising cost of living was their major and immediate challenge. When I enter the Albanese government's address, issues and answers to the cost of living crisis into any search engine, all I get is a lot of data from prior to the election. But since the election it has been radio silence. Since the election there has been very little. Alarmingly, if I search the government's pledge to cut power bills by $275, which would be a normal thing to search for, it seems that all indications are that the government is now backtracking. It is crab-walking away from this important responsibility. Instead, the measurable promise of cutting power bills by $275 by 2025 seems to have been replaced by a general statement that the government has a policy of doing 'what they can' to assist cost of living pressures—what they can.

I come from an electorate of real people, practical people—small business owners, sole traders, partnerships—people who work hard every day. They get up at four o'clock in the morning to milk the cows. They work all night to get the crops in ahead of the rain. They've taken a risk. They've borrowed money. They've employed people every day in their business. These are the people who don't discuss where the next wind farm's going or what pronoun they're going to use today. Today they're talking about how they're going to pay their power bill, which is increasing; how they're going to find that extra money; what they're going to cut out of the grocery bill in order to meet the rising costs of living and the rising interest rate; how they're going to put clothes on the backs of their kids as they go into their winter uniform; and how their little boy is going to get his new shoes so that he can go to school. These are the questions that burn in the minds of my electorate. These are the questions that they raise with me every day.

Obviously, when they raise these questions, they expect a response back. They've learnt that over the term that I have been their representative. When I give them an undertaking to get back to them, that's exactly what I do: I get back to them. I'm as good as my word, and I put it to this government that it needs to do the same. Take a leaf out of that book. If you promise the Australian people a reduction of $275 off their power bill, that is exactly what you should do, or you should explain why you're not going to do it rather than crab-walking and backing away into a tiny corner. Otherwise, rather than calling the government full of policy, electorates like mine will call the government something else: they will assume that you are full of—empty promises. The creation of 604,000 jobs, with five out of six of those new jobs being created in the regions, is a mammoth task, and we will wait and see whether this is just going to be another empty promise that will just continue to fail—

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Bendigo.

3:51 pm

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

I guess we could forgive members of the opposition. It's a Thursday afternoon. I guess we could forgive them for being simplistic creatures and getting hung up on this one little detail of what is a very comprehensive plan, because they are a group of politicians who don't realise that a comprehensive plan lasts for more than 10 weeks or for more than two days.

If they were worth their salt and had actually read the plan that Labor took to the last election and that we're now implementing—the Powering Australia plan—they would know that how we get to the money that Australians will get back on their power bills is by implementing the plan. We need to rewire the nation. We need to build more renewable energy. We need to build community batteries. We need to work with local and state governments, with ourselves and with industry. We need to work with all the community and business stakeholders that have come on board to back our plan to get our energy grid. We need to transition it to a grid that actually helps people power themselves. We are coming from a place of neglect where the previous government did nothing. In fact, they actually did worse than nothing. Environmental vandalism is what they did—the way in which they destroyed our energy security in this country. So I guess we should be a little bit forgiving of the fact that they are stuck on one sentence.

Australians, I can tell you, have a lot more faith in their government. They know it's going to take a lot of work to rebuild our grid. The previous government failed to do things like build the interconnector in Kerang in regional Victoria, which would allow all those renewable solar energy projects around Mildura and the north-west to be built—investment waiting to happen that didn't happen because of the previous government's complete inaction. Instead they were talking about the never-never of nuclear power. Instead they were talking about funding the building of coal-fired power stations. That's how out of date the previous government were.

We know and the Australian people know that through the action we've already taken and the work we've already started—building renewable energy projects that are in the pipeline and rewiring the grid—energy bills will be cheaper, and Australians will celebrate that day. But we're in a dark place right now because of the inability of the previous government to do anything. At the end of the day maybe it's because they are really upset about the results of the last election. It has been 10 weeks. They should know, because in 10 years they failed to do anything, that it actually takes more than 10 weeks to build an interconnector in Kerang. It takes more than 10 weeks to reverse the damage of a decade. That is the reality of where we're at. We will have cheaper bills. Maybe they've just played this hand a little bit too soon, because it has only been 10 weeks since the election.

3:55 pm

Photo of Andrew WillcoxAndrew Willcox (Dawson, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak about a matter of public importance, the rising cost of living and Labor's scuttling of its own promise to cut power bills by $275. During the election campaign Mr Albanese visited my electorate of Dawson, in January this year, where he told local media outlets that Labor's emissions plan would see, 'a reduction in power bills, on average, of $275 by 2025'.

Labor says it was elected on a promise to create jobs, cut power bills and reduce emissions. We all know what has happened to the second part of that promise. The commitment to cut power bills is dead in the water. There is a gaping hole in the Climate Change Bill—no mention of power prices. The Prime Minister has sat on the commitment he made in my Mackay electorate in January for six months knowing that he could not keep it.

It gets worse. Labor made this commitment to the electricity consumers 15 times before election day. The Prime Minister finally confirmed he could not keep his promise in his first question time, making it clear to all Australians that this government cannot be trusted. The Albanese government is more committed to playing politics than easing the cost-of-living pressures on Australians. It goes downhill from there.

The concessions this government has made to the Greens will be ruinous for the economy. At the time of rising inflation, rising interest rates and rising living costs Labor's restrictions on the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility, Export Finance Australia and Infrastructure Australia will make it hard, if not impossible, for these agencies to recommend or provide finance and insurance projects in the energy, resources and agricultural sectors.

This is on top of the government's decision to back-pedal on its ill-advised move to scrap the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia. You know that the decision is wrong. The resources that come out of the North are the lifeblood of the Australian economy. How is this government going to fund the roads and infrastructure if it keeps squeezing the life out of the North and denying it's funding for energy, resource and agriculture products that are so vital for our export earnings? This will also deny finance to provide important regional infrastructure projects, upgrades to the freight corridors. Ports and gas pipelines will have to go begging because they won't be able to get finance. The Prime Minister promised he would not ban coal and gas projects, but that is exactly what he's doing by denying them finance. A ban by stealth is still a ban.

The Prime Minister is selling out Australians in regional areas like my electorate of Dawson. Investment in jobs will simply disappear. We have already seen power prices in the National Electricity Market more than double, and in some cases triple, compared to the same time last year. On top of that, we have a Treasurer who admits life is going to get harder and more expensive, but Australians will just have to grin and bear it. If Australians think the cost of living is high now wait until we have the government that cannot afford to pay its bills, because it is cutting off the flow of money from the North. And when it runs out Labor will just go back to its tired old playbook—raising taxes.

Unlike the coalition, this government has no plan to address rising cost-of-living pressures for the 3½ million families that have a mortgage. Our record speaks for itself. Emissions have fallen by more than 20 per cent since 2005, while our economy grew by 45 per cent. We beat our Kyoto target by 459 million tonnes. We set a credible plan to achieve— (Time expired)

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I give the member for Solomon the call, I want to remind everyone, as much as I love a robust MPI on the last sitting day of the last fortnight, to dial it down.

4:00 pm

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

I've got limited time, so I'll just summarise. I know, Member for Dawson, you're new to the chamber, but you have joined the biggest bunch of incompetents that couldn't land an energy policy after 22 tries at it. You aren't responsible for the trillion dollars of debt or the failure to establish an energy plan in any shape or form, but you've joined the mob that were, so try and get them on board, because the future of the north that we're a part of is pretty vital. The renewable energy future is really important for the north. I wasn't going to mention this, because I've got limited time, but those opposite deceived the Australian people prior to the election, and that was absolutely unforgivable. But we're on this side, as the Australian government, because the Australian people knew that we were serious about action on climate change and about the position of renewables in our energy mix into the future, and they made us the government of Australia.

I want to do a little bit of what the previous speaker did and talk a little bit about northern Australia—a different slant on it, a more positive one. I want to reflect on how important the passing of our legislation today was for my constituents. The Northern Territory is one of the hottest parts of Australia. Darwin is certainly the hottest city. We know how brutal the build-up of heat and humidity can be, and we'll cop it. Climate change is critical everywhere, but an increase in temperature will be felt acutely by us and many that live across northern Australia. I'm committed to doing my part, as part of our great government, to make sure that we are able to adapt to climate change and to maximise renewables in our system. This government is going to get on with it. We've committed to a 43 per cent reduction by 2030 and we've committed to being carbon neutral by 2050. We can't have a continuation of the ideology we had from those opposite. It's just not going to get us anywhere, so get with the program. You are on the wrong side of history.

I just want to give those opposite a bit of an idea. I went to Queensland recently and visited Barcaldine. In Barcaldine, the home of the Labor Party, where it all started, there is the Barcaldine renewable energy zone, BREZ. I recommend you go and have a look at it. As the Prime Minister said this week, up in the Territory we've got Sun Cable, which is going to be the biggest solar farm in the world. That's an exciting future to get behind. Come up and have a look.

4:03 pm

Photo of Garth HamiltonGarth Hamilton (Groom, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge your request, Deputy Speaker Claydon. This is the last MPI of the week, and I will try and dial it down. But the muse is with me a little bit here, because I've heard the most honest thing I've ever heard from Labor in my two weeks here! It's been fantastic: 'Don't worry about the cost. Don't worry about the cost. It's just a little, itsy-bitsy thing. Don't worry about it. Put it over here. Forget about it. Don't worry about the costs! You don't need to think about it.' Oh, my goodness! That's fantastic! I couldn't have done that better. I'll grab that clip later on and beam it in to Groom. Fantastic!

We have heard lots of great words from Labor. Thank you very much for your wonderful contributions. There are a couple of words they didn't say, like '$275'.

A government member: A trillion dollars in debt.

I'll get to that number, but that's a good number too. 'Two hundred and seventy-five dollars.' They can't say it. No-one could say it. It's amazing. All this opportunity to talk about this MPI, and they can't say the words, '$275'. It's a great word. Try it out. It's fantastic: 275. It's poetic. It rolls out of you. It's magnificent! It's an absolutely magnificent couple of worlds that come together. They are wonderful.

The other one is fantastic too, because I hear this often. Let's address it: a trillion dollars worth of debt, every dollar of which you agreed to.

A government member: No we didn't!

You damn did. Absolutely you did. And it would have been more debt if we had followed all of your policy suggestions, so let's go down this path.

We are a very short time into this term of government and already this government has hit the fork in the road: 'Do we do what we said we would do, or do we walk away from our commitments?' We saw the government today in question time give a wonderful Dorothy Dixer about how good they were. It was the best question we've ever seen: 'How good are Labor?' It was fantastic. Absolutely wonderful. Here we are already. We're about to go home on Thursday. We're about to go home, and Labor have already left this promise behind. They've already walked away from this. It's already gone.

We acknowledge the need for balance in a conversation on energy. That little issue of cost is important. It's an important thing. Let's be fair; Labor dabbled in balance. They dabbled. They thought about it, they had a little, modest dabble—a 'dabblet' maybe; I don't know. They thought they'd have a go at this. They said: 'Yes, absolutely. We've got this target and we're going to reduce emissions and we're going to reduce your energy bills by this much.' It really was a good start, until they got elected. It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where he gets the hire car: 'You took the reservation; you didn't hold the reservation.' Guys, I've got to be honest. You made the commitment, and that was awesome. It was great. You made the commitment, but you've got to hold the commitment. You've got to hold it. That's the important part. That's what we're looking for. George is laughing to himself in the background over here. It's absolutely fantastic.

But this $275 is no laughing matter. It's been raised before. Today I had a text from a constituent telling me about her texts from her landlord to say rent is going up $50 a week. That's in Centenary Heights. Those are the real cost-of-living pressures we're experiencing across the country. This is what's on people's minds. Cost-of-living pressures writers are there; they are real. We're feeling it across the country. Whilst this is happening, in the light of this, this is the moment that Labor choose to flip-flop and walk away completely from their commitment. Again, $275 is a beautiful couple of words, absolutely fantastic, and they walk away from it. They said, 'Vote for us and we'll do this,' then they got elected—

An opposition member: Give him an extension!

Absolutely, I'll take the extension. But now they're at the part where they're saying: 'Yeah, nah, we're going to walk away from that. That's not what we're about.' It's been so clear. This is the best example—you know what? Maybe this isn't the best example of a flip-flop we'll get from this government. Maybe they've got ambitions to go higher. Maybe we'll see better flip-flops, but this is a pretty good one. To do this straight off the bat, to come in and do this right at the top of the order is absolutely fantastic. It sets the scene. We've talked about the kinder, gentler parliament that we we'll see here. We've talked about that, and that's good talk, but what do we see? Judge Labor not by what they say but by what they do. This is a government that flip-flops straight off the bat and walks away from its commitments. That is what this government is setting the scene for. It's a fantastic standard.

4:09 pm

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Albanese government has been in power for less than three months, and we haven't wasted one day to act on climate change and honour our commitment to the people of Australia. The government stands by its commitment to make power bills cheaper because we have a plan to make it happen, but Rome wasn't built in a day; we have to first deal with the 10 years of the coalition's inaction on climate change, a decade of chaos and failed policies.

Today we began the march to change. Today in the chamber we passed the first real climate change bill in many, many years. It's the first step to implementing the Albanese government's mandate to take real and meaningful action to address climate change right now.

The facts are clear. Cleaner energy is cheaper energy and everyone knows that, except perhaps those sitting opposite. The CSIRO and the Australian Energy Marketer Operator's GenCost report recently released confirms wind and solar are the cheapest source of electricity generation and storage in Australia. The Albanese government knows that solar and wind are cheaper. We also know that our Powering Australia policy will see renewable energy rise to make up 82 per cent of the natural energy market by 2030. Powering Australia will deliver 604,000 jobs across our nation. The government is also investing $20 billion in upgrading the electricity grid to allow more renewables into the system to bring costs down.

Australia has the highest uptake in the world of home solar but just one in 60 households has battery storage because of the upfront costs. Up to 100,000 Australian households across the nation will benefit from those 400 community batteries, including one in Corangamite in my electorate. Community batteries offer better economies of scale than household batteries, with lower capital, installation and maintenance costs. These are just some of the mechanisms the Albanese government will use to bring down energy costs. But unlike the previous government, we will ensure that the Australian consumer will always come first.

The Albanese government supports work to prevent anticompetitive behaviour in the market being undertaken by the Australian Energy Regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Energy Market Operator. By contrast, under the previous government, we had nine years of wasted opportunities, denial and delay; nine years of stop-start energy policies, with 22 energy policies abandoned; nine years of hearing from some of those opposite that climate change is not even real. We saw a government attempt to abolish and then water down the Renewable Energy Target.

The previous government constantly undermined both the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. They demonised renewable energy and disparaged large-scale battery storage as being as effective as the big prawn. Who can forget when the previous Prime Minister said electric vehicles would 'end the weekend'? We saw the previous government dragged kicking and screaming to net zero by 2050. We even know that the previous government changed the law to hide recent energy price increases of up to 19 per cent from the Australian public before the last election.

By contrast, Australia now has a government with the right policies to put downward pressure on energy prices, to make energy bills cheaper and to honour its commitment to all Australians.

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers, the debate has concluded.