House debates

Tuesday, 23 May 2023

Grievance Debate

Macquarie Electorate: Infrastructure

7:18 pm

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

MAN () (): I'm very pleased to let my community know that Endeavour Energy has received funding to deliver the first community batteries to the electorate of Macquarie. In the first round of grant funding, Endeavour will receive $1 million to install the community batteries. Now, this is not just one battery for two areas—each of them is around about half a million dollars. This is actually a really innovative approach that's going to involve several community batteries. In the lead-up to the election, we announced that for the Blaxland area we'd do a community battery. In fact, Blaxland is going to receive four individual batteries, each providing 740 kilowatt-hours of battery storage. Hobartville, where I also announced there'd be a community battery, is actually set to receive what they call a fleet of 11 individual batteries, with a total capacity of 888 kilowatt-hours. These will be batteries that sit up on poles. Part of this pilot that we're doing is looking at much more innovative ways to deliver it, rather than a giant box taking up space in a park or on some community land. What has happened is Endeavour has looked at the community, at the way the houses are laid out and at the needs of the power users and has determined this is the most effective way to provide community batteries to Hobartville and the wider Blaxland suburb. This is part of the election commitment I made—standing at East Blaxland shops with the now minister for climate change—to commit to these community batteries, and I'm just delighted that within 12 months of coming to office we are able to get to this point in delivering on that commitment.

On average, one in three Australian households have rooftop solar, and that makes us a leader, but the question is: how do we do even more with solar than just having rooftop solar? We all know it needs batteries, but batteries are expensive. What this is going to do is allow my households to not have to invest in their own battery, because we will have these incredibly innovative community batteries. The real issue is that we generate a high level of energy during the day but not at night. What this allows is that instead of all that energy going back into the grid during the day, it will get stored in the batteries. It will then be able to be drawn on by households in the area that's covered. What we're doing is storing cheap electricity and allowing people to draw it down without having to pay the higher night-time rates, which is often the case.

More battery storage in the grid is also going to help take pressure off the grid to avoid or defer expensive network upgrades, so there's a broader benefit to it. The community batteries will also help to support further uptake of renewable energy without compromising reliability or security of supply. This is not just a short-term thing; it's going to have longer-term benefits to the community. Of course, there are benefits for individuals. One is to lower power bills by taking advantage of solar energy that can be stored for later use. Another is reducing emissions by increasing the use of solar power. The third is reducing pressure on the grid, which means that you won't get a situation where it's at capacity.

This is something I would have loved to have seen a long time ago, and I know the community feels the same way. What we've got now is something really innovative, and I'm looking forward to working with Endeavour Energy as we go through the next stage of this. Now that they have been given the green light, work will begin on formalising the battery locations, and they will be engaging with the local community about the project. We should expect to start works in coming months to plug the battery into the grid. It's a very exciting initiative. It's not the only thing that the Albanese government is doing to bring down power bills and to increase our use of renewables, but for Hobartville and the wider Blaxland area, it's a fantastic, practical start.

Hawkesbury residents now have access to life-saving medical scans, thanks to a Medicare-funded MRI license for Hawkesbury hospital, It isn't new technology, but it is the first that we've had in the electorate of Macquarie—the very first—and we have been wanting one for a long time. Prior to this, patients at Hawkesbury hospital who required an MRI scan needed to be transported 30 or 40 minute to access an MRI. Having the service onsite means a much better result for patients, quicker diagnosis, decreased waiting times and improved efficiency. This MRI, was something that emergency doctors at Hawkesbury hospital spoke to me about a bit over a year ago. They just explained how vital it was and what the delays were like for their work. Fortunately, this doesn't happen without Castlereagh technology being part of it. So, while the hospital was very keen to have it, Castlereagh Imaging, who run the imaging services, stumped up the money for the actual machine. I really want to thank them and the St John of God operators of Hawkesbury hospital for doing that.

What I was then able to do was back them in with the Medicare licence, because that's the bit that provides the subsidised health service for people. Without that, the costs are exponential. I'm very proud that we have been able to do something. For many people, it will be much more affordable. It is more accessible for everybody. It has transformed the way patients are being looked after within the hospital and it is also available for outpatients, for people who just get a referral and need an MRI.

I want to really note the great work of Strephon Billinghurst, the CEO of Hawkesbury District Health Service, and Dr James Linklater, the chief executive officer of Castlereagh Imaging. This was a team effort, and I'm so proud to have been working on it to solve a problem for the Hawkesbury community.

I had the great privilege couple of weeks ago of launching an exhibition involving Blue Mountains artists and a whole lot of others like Lucy Culliton, Reg Mombassa, Euan Macleod, Adrienne Richards, Leo Robba and Kelsie King, who took part in a collaborative effort called the Painted River Project. What they painted was swamps, which doesn't sound that sexy, does it? But they were the hanging swamps of the Blue Mountains, which we know from an ecological point of view are really key to the biodiversity of the region and have suffered, some of them very badly, in the recent fires. These swamps act as natural filters and purify the water that flows through them into our creeks and rivers and they provide habitat for a wide range of plants, animals and insects, many of which are endangered.

They all took part in the Painted River Project, and the exhibition at the Western Sydney University campus in the Margaret Whitlam Galleries brought them altogether to see their works spread across the large gallery spaces there. Many people were involved in it, including people from the Blue Mountains City Council, who helped make it possible, water scientist Professor Ian Wright and digital artists Greg Hughes and Matthew Lahoud. Fabulous photographer Sally Tsoutas caught the images of the artists at work as they went out in the open air to do their painting. They really wanted to show the link between our environment and art. They are really ahead of our cultural policy, because in the Albanese government cultural policy one of the things we have highlighted is that we are going to establish artist residencies to visit World Heritage sites to produce artworks and tell stories of the place and its heritage, and here are my incredible artists way out in front doing that. It was a fantastic exhibition and I give them my huge congratulations.

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

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