House debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Private Members' Business


11:16 am

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

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes:

(a) the Government's rush towards 82 per cent renewable energy could expose Australia to unnecessary national security risks due to a dependence on imported solar panel components from China;

(b) that an analysis, led by the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security, Senator James Paterson, uncovered exploitable flaws and vulnerabilities in smart inverters which accompany many Australian solar photovoltaic systems;

(c) that almost 60 per cent of installed smart inverters are being supplied by Chinese manufacturers bound by China's national intelligence laws, which could require companies to be ordered by Beijing to sabotage, survey or disrupt power supplies to Australian homes, companies or Government;

(d) that energy security is national security, and the predominance of Chinese firms supplying inverters leaves Australia vulnerable to cyber-attacks;

(e) that the Government has been aware of the concerns raised by the Opposition but continues to do nothing to alleviate the risks;

(f) that providing affordable and reliable energy that is free from foreign interference should be a first order priority of Government, and that the Government is failing on all fronts;

(g) that the Opposition's concerns have been reinforced by the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) which has delivered a report revealing the threat posed by solar inverters; and

(h) that the CRC has warned of the potential for a 'black start event', which:

(i) refers to a scaled, targeted and simultaneous attack on the grid resulting in a power plant being rendered incapable of turning back on without reliance on a generator or battery; and

(ii) could shut down the entire power grid and take a week to recover; and

(2) calls on the Government to:

(a) stop dithering and take action to ensure Australia's energy grid is free from foreign interference;

(b) immediately launch a review into the national security implications of its 82 per cent renewable target; and

(c) follow the CRC recommendation and ensure cyber security impact assessments be completed for all solar inverters being sold in Australia, and that mandatory cyber security ratings be introduced for solar inverters.

The government's target of 82 per cent renewable energy in the nation's electricity grid by 2032 raises more questions than answers just at the moment. Many experts have raised concerns about the rate of change with the pathway that the government is on, the assumptions around green hydrogen and the ability of anyone to construct 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines within the next nine years. Along with this, new concerns are arising about our sovereign security. We've long been concerned about Australia importing the bulk of our solar panels, and it's worth noting that 82 per cent of the world's solar panels are made in China. We also import wind farm generators. In fact, we import some of the steel for the towers and certainly much of the steel for the transmission line towers. Those things are all concerns to me and to Australians.

But new concerns are now arising about the underlying technology used to operate our dynamic electricity grid. Components are operated by wireless signals, with databanks embedded within, in this case, Chinese companies, which are ultimately compelled to do their government's bidding, to provide information when the government says that it needs that information. Take photovoltaic inverters, for instance. Fifty-eight per cent of the inverters used in Australia are made in China. They are internet-connected devices which can be remotely operated. If there is one thing the Ukraine war has taught us, it is that systemic targeting of the transmission grid and its generators is one of the faces of modern warfare. Just imagine—perhaps we don't even have to imagine—that an aggressor could strike our electricity grid down from a switchboard thousands of kilometres away. Sadly, that seems like it may well be the reality, if not now then in the not-too-distant future. The rapid change that has occurred in our generating systems—that is, thousands of small-scale generators sitting on people's roofs all over the nation—has absolutely changed the operating environment in which we exist. The US Department of Energy has identified trust in and reliance on the communication platforms, and the risk of hostile forces attacking them, as a No. 1 priority.

The government talks much about its commitment to modern manufacturing and the building of things in Australia. That's great. In Australia we make many things, par excellence. There are some things that we're no longer competitive in, like washing machines, for instance. We need to get focused and identify the areas in which we need sovereign capacity and remove the obstacles. Yes, we do need sovereign capacity in traditional areas like steel manufacturing, aluminium and energy, but it's increasingly clear we need sovereign capacity in intelligent technology as well, in our communications platforms, where the chips embedded in parts and pieces and components that we use every day have the ability to communicate with countries that may be hostile to us. That's solar and battery communications. Even the innocuous dongle can actually be communicating with others. We need to take that into account.

I'm indebted to the WeekendAustralian, Justin Bassi and Alexandra Caples, where they warn the problem is much worse than we think. They warn about the risks of light-touch security, which will not stimulate innovation and prosperity:

Rather, it is the surest way to a vacuum in which those who would do us harm are themselves able to operate, innovate and disrupt …

They make this statement, which I think is a rewording of JFK's famous statement:

Instead of asking what online freedoms must be sacrificed for security, we must ask what security is required for online freedom.

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

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Henry PikeHenry Pike (Bowman, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

11:20 am

Photo of Tania LawrenceTania Lawrence (Hasluck, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This is an odd motion by the member for Grey, but it does allow members of the government party to speak about the government's many initiatives in energy policy and important actions in cybersecurity, so I thank the member, and I speak against the motion. The member for Grey is from South Australia. His state has a proud record on the rollout of renewables, and, even though I expect he can't take much of the credit for that, he should be coming here crowing about his state's achievements. Instead, we get phrases like 'rush towards 82 per cent renewables' and, somehow in the same motion, 'dithering'. The member cannot have it both ways. Much of the solar and wind power that now largely runs the state of South Australia originates from the sun and wind in the seat of Grey. The member should be very proud and should be a warrior for the transition.

It is important to set targets and do whatever is necessary to achieve them. In renewables, this is a novel concept after 10 years of, well, dithering by the previous government. This government, in just a year, has made great investments in renewables, as the motion indicates. This is a good thing and much needed. Before the change of government, emissions continued to trend upwards. In July last year, the CSIRO and the Energy Market Operator confirmed that renewables like wind and solar are the cheapest form of energy.

This government has invested in ARENA to power solar research; taken concrete steps to unlock the power of offshore wind; supported a groundbreaking thermal energy storage project in the Hunter and another in Broken Hill; invested to fast-track connection to the National Electricity Market of the country's largest wind farm precinct in Queensland; and legislated our emissions reduction targets, which the member for Grey voted against, which is very telling. What does the member tell the solar and wind companies in Grey about the fact that he voted against emissions reduction targets?

We have supported renewable hydrogen production in Karratha, Brisbane, the Hunter, Gladstone, Townsville and Whyalla, rewiring the nation to allow more renewables to reach consumers and to fortify the energy system. We speak to partners at COP and other international fora on climate issues, and not with empty words to empty rooms. And, of course, we legislated a $10 billion National Reconstruction Fund with a mandate to invest in renewables and low-emissions technologies.

The movement to 100 per cent renewables will have a long tail. The last 18 per cent may take a lot longer than the first 82 per cent, but this transition is part of the government's responsible response to the climate realities that confront us. The climate news is bad. The use of the word 'rush' in this motion is, in itself, intemperate, for a rapid movement is exactly what is called for. We need to transition at whatever top speed is realistic, and we need to become leaders in our region, assisting our neighbours to transition, too.

The motion cautions that Chinese made electronics might contain spyware. Firstly, let's take a breath and assume that it might be improbable that the Chinese would want to keep a close eye on each Australian residence's power consumption. Nevertheless, the government has been very active in the area of cybersecurity. First and foremost, we have a minister for cybersecurity in the cabinet. Apparently, we're dithering, but those opposite didn't even have a minister for cybersecurity when we took office.

Well, they did have one for a couple of years, until 2018, and then they didn't. There's some classy dithering for you! With the Minister for Cyber Security in cabinet, this government has initiated the development of the new Australian Cyber Security Strategy, led the new International Counter Ransomware Task Force, implemented the risk management program to strengthen the resilience of critical infrastructure and essential services, held the Prime Minister's Cyber Security Roundtable in February, established the National Office of Cyber Security and appointed the National Cyber Security Coordinator in June. Just three days ago, we declared another 87 critical infrastructure assets to be systems of national significance, bringing the total to 168 across the energy, communications, transport, financial and data sectors. Unsurprisingly, in March, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranked us No. 1 in the world among countries showing the greatest progress in and commitment to enhancing cybersecurity.

One of the reasons the government changed in May 2022 is that the Australian people want to see action across a range of areas, after years of coalition dithering. This government has been more active on climate change in 16 months than the previous coalition government was in nine years. We've been more active on cybersecurity than any government ever and, at the same time, more useful both in defence and in mending relationships with our neighbours, including our relationship with China.

11:26 am

Photo of Henry PikeHenry Pike (Bowman, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this important area of debate, and I thank the member for Grey for raising this critical motion. Energy security is of course national security; that is not a new concept, but the increased digitalisation of our energy production has brought new risks and vulnerabilities that the federal government has to contend with to maintain our national security.

We know that Australia's solar sector, much championed by the current government, is dominated by imports from China. We know that Australia has one of the greatest levels of rooftop solar take-up in the world, yet many of our households are reliant on smart inverters to convert energy from rooftop solar panels into electricity. In fact, some states have now mandated the adoption of smart inverters. These smart inverters have internet connectivity and can be controlled remotely, creating a significant risk of infiltration and sabotage.

Chinese imports make up 58 per cent of Australia's smart inverter market. Many of these firms have established links to the Chinese Communist Party. The two largest suppliers in the Australian solar inverter market, Sydney-based Sungrow and Melbourne based GoodWe, are Chinese owned and have links with the Chinese Communist Party. Firms such as Huawei, a Chinese firm already blocked from participating in Australia's 5G rollout due to national security concerns, are suppliers of smart inverters in Australia. The question has to be asked: if they can't be trusted with our digital infrastructure, how can they be trusted with our energy infrastructure?

It goes without saying that the capacity to disrupt a significant portion of our energy capacity would have disastrous effects for Australian industry and Australian households, particularly if we find ourselves in the midst of a national crisis. This risk has materialised slowly over many years. Our reliance on foreign-made material components in our critical infrastructure networks is increasing almost exponentially. I'm advised that there are no security measures currently in place to prevent malicious actors from using solar inverters to disrupt the solar electricity grid. This isn't good enough, particularly when the policy of the federal government is to continue to ramp up the adoption of solar technology.

The government has said that for Australia to reach its 43 per cent emissions reduction target there will need to be 60 million panels by 2030. How many of these will be able to be turned off by a foreign actor? How much baseload capacity will be left to supplement supply if and when this occurs? I note that the home affairs minister's public comments in this area have pointed to government's efforts to boost domestic inverter manufacturing capability. While that is of course worthwhile, it's a long-term strategy to an immediate problem that's getting worse every day.

I note that this is an issue that has been thrust into the national conversation by the research efforts of shadow minister Senator Paterson. Earlier this year, the federal government also began a process of removing numerous Chinese-made surveillance cameras from Defence premises and other sensitive national security areas, after Senator Paterson's advocacy. But it shouldn't have to come down to the research efforts of the shadow cabinet for action to be taken by this government. They should be proactive on this front, not reactive.

We've seen energy network disruptions in Ukraine. It's now, clearly, a feature of war in the modern age that these sorts of digital attacks do occur. We've seen action being taken on this front by the government of the Netherlands, and, in the United States, we're seeing more and more legislators ringing alarm bells around the implications for or the risks to the system from foreign actors.

It's clear that the headlong rush towards 82 per cent renewable energy is creating unnecessary security risks. These issues need to be sorted out before wider adoption, not as an afterthought after it's too late.

The opposition is calling on the government to take this threat seriously. Action must be taken to ensure Australia's energy grid is free from foreign interference. And it's not just solar photovoltaic systems that need to be investigated. How many other renewable energy technologies have components that can be sabotaged by foreign actors? It's time that the Labor government was awake to this danger. I commend the motion to the House and encourage the government to take the necessary action to ensure that this rush towards renewable energy doesn't result in an undermining of our national security.

11:31 am

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

I think the previous speaker belled the cat when he started laughing right at the end, because the irony of this motion must have suddenly hit him. What we have seen, I think, and what we continue to see is a complete amnesia about the last 10 years and about how, indeed, we could have got ourselves into the situation that we're in. But I'll talk about us.

National security, to our government, is sacrosanct. It underpins every other area of government on which the Australian people rely for essential services, from combating cost-of-living pressures to delivering nation-building reforms to Medicare; to cheaper childcare, cheaper medicines and cheaper bulk billing; to the transition to net zero emissions by 2050. Every one of the government's reforms hinges, in some way, on our ability to keep our country safe from the many threats that would sap the foundation of our democracy, for—and make no mistake—Australia is under daily pressure from a full spectrum of threats, ranging from geopolitical competition through to foreign interference, organised crime and cyberattacks. And energy security is among the urgent priorities of this government's national security agenda. So, to that limited extent, I welcome the motion for making the valid point that energy security is national security.

But, unlike those opposite, all arms of our government are acting on this view. Securing our critical infrastructure—which includes the power plants that are raised in this motion—is one of the priority focal points of our new 2023 to 2030 Australian Cyber Security Strategy, whose development was announced in December. We have appointed an expert advisory board, made up of the brightest minds in business, government and defence, to tackle this complex issue.

Our government has also appointed Air Marshal Darren Goldie, AM, CSC, as the National Cyber Security Coordinator, and I wish him well in his role. He's incredibly capable. His role will focus on making critical infrastructure entities more cyber-resilient to these ongoing attacks on our systems.

In December, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy released version 2 of the Australian Energy Sector Cyber Security Framework. It specifically provides a tool for assessing cybersecurity maturity across Australia's energy sector, addressing the exact set of issues that the motion raises, across gas markets, the electricity sector and liquid fuels.

This motion voices fears that smart solar inverters could turn solar panels into vectors of foreign interference, with hackers shutting them off remotely. While no threat can be dismissed out of hand in our hyperconnected age, with the Internet of Things turning what was once science fiction into our daily reality, I do have serious reservations about the motivations behind this sudden epiphany among those opposite on cybersecurity and energy security after over nine long years of doing—what, exactly? I distinctly remember the coalition's energy security strategy. It was importing 91 per cent of our fuel and holding only 32 days worth, outsourcing our fuel security to the US, with fuel transported on foreign owned ships that take at least three weeks to reach us That's before you get to the coalition's answer to every energy policy question: building nuclear reactors in Australia's suburbs out of ideological hostility to wind turbines and solar panels.

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

I bet you haven't got many wind turbines in your backyard!

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

I'll take that interjection. It's like an episode of The Simpsons. But, seriously, you really have to wonder, if solar panels are a national security threat, why is there no such scrutiny on nuclear? It is curious, isn't it? Why not the scrutiny on nuclear? It is very curious. Meanwhile, for nine long years, the coalition was totally asleep at the wheel on cybersecurity and energy security and the need to protect the infrastructure that Australians rely on every day. Perhaps those opposite should explain to the Australian people why their government turned a blind eye to procurement from high-risk vendors for a decade, creating the very risks that they decry today. We do need to lessen that supply chain concentration. Luckily, we've got a government that will get after it.

11:36 am

Photo of Melissa PriceMelissa Price (Durack, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to begin by thanking my friend the member for Grey for bringing this important motion to the House and for his long-term advocacy for remote and regional Australia. I'm very proud to join this critical call to action, as we must ensure that our national security is not forgotten in Labor's reckless energy transition.

The Labor party has been very clear about its ambitions to radically transform Australia's energy sector. Australia currently generates between 30 to 35 per cent of its power from renewable sources. The Albanese government has committed to increasing this to a whopping 82 per cent by 2030, which is only seven short years away. This commitment has serious implications for the efficiency and for the reliability of our energy sector, with the Australian Energy Market Operator warning of massive blackouts this summer and in the years ahead. This is on the back of already record-high electricity prices suffered by families and businesses under the Albanese government.

Through this motion, we wish to highlight the serious national security concerns that at present are being ignored by this Labor government. As we know, almost 60 per cent of installed smart inverters are being supplied by Chinese manufacturers, bound by China's national intelligence laws. Such reliance could leave Australia vulnerable to sabotage of our power supplies. As detailed by the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre, a coordinated attack could be catastrophic for Australia's electricity markets. Such a targeted attack could result in what's called a 'black-start event', which is where power plants are incapable of restarting without reliance on an auxiliary power source like a generator or a battery. A black-start event could bring down an entire power grid for one week.

In light of the damning research, it is clear that at the moment we are on a path to establishing a network that is vulnerable to foreign attacks. Can you even imagine the chaos, Mr Deputy Speaker Vasta, which could ensue if the grid was essentially turned off for a week? At the very least, a review should be conducted into the national security implications of Labor's planned transition. I call on the government to follow the CRC recommendations and ensure that cybersecurity impact assessments be completed for all solar inverters being sold in Australia and that mandatory cybersecurity ratings be introduced for solar inverters.

We have previously enjoyed bipartisanship in stamping out foreign influence, and I hope that we can once again do so in this space. I call on the government to have the same courage as we did when we decided to exclude Huawei from Australia's 5G network.

Energy policy under this government has proven to be a complete mess. It's reflected in not just the record high prices following their promise to do the opposite and decrease prices by $275 a year or the increased possibility of blackouts or the added national security concerns but also this government's failure to continue on a credible transition plan. Last month Minister Albanese made a great big announcement about the federal government investing $3 billion in Western Australia's power grid. He promised money to improve the power grid in Geraldton and surrounding Mid West, which is currently not fit for purpose. Only a few short hours later that promise was crab walked backwards. Honestly, the level of uncertainty in the Western Australian power grid in regional WA is off the charts. The hydrogen dream in the Mid West is over if we cannot sort out our grid in the Mid West. I fear that the Mid West community and new industrial users have been sold a complete pup by the Cook and the Albanese governments. If it wasn't so serious, it would be laughable.

I acknowledge that the transition to a lower-emissions economy is one that many Australians want. They are concerned about the long-term impacts emissions are having on the climate and the environment. However, let's not be confused by what they want. They don't want a rushed transition that results in higher prices, less reliability and a system that is vulnerable to foreign attacks. A review into the national security consequences of this transition would outline the need for a balanced mix of technologies to feed the grid. The balance should include gas and zero-emissions nuclear energy. Not only will this make the system more reliable; it will also make it less vulnerable to foreign attacks.

11:41 am

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

I rise to speak against the motion put forward by the member for Grey and confess to being profoundly disappointed that this is the subject of debate in this House. This is a desperate attempt by those opposite to delay the rollout of renewable energy from a party who for 10 years fought tooth and nail against even recognition that there was an emergency arising out of climate change—head in the sand, denying climate change was even happening. They are grasping at straws today. The opposition claim to be worried about energy security. Well, my friend the member for Solomon pointed out some of the fallacies in their argument. They claim to be concerned about the use of energy assets manufactured overseas, yet they stand in the parliament and vote against the National Reconstruction Fund, the very measure that would enable more manufacturing in Australia. That fund is our government's commitment to $15 billion as a first step towards rebuilding Australia's industrial base. The Albanese Labor government wants Australia to be a country that makes things again, and that includes renewable and low-emissions technologies. The National Reconstruction Fund has earmarked $3 billion for these assets to be manufactured right here in Australia.

My electorate of Newcastle is poised to take full advantage of the enormous opportunities that come with renewable energy. We have a highly skilled workforce, world-class researchers, abundant resources and industrial expertise in the critical rail and port infrastructure that is needed to be a renewable energy superpower. That is where we see ourselves going forward. The University of Newcastle has in fact has developed an amazing printed solar cell technology that is ultra lightweight, ultra flexible, totally recyclable and cheap to manufacture. It is similar in thickness to just a chip packet, although a lot more recyclable, and it is manufactured using conventional printers. It could change the way that we use solar away from the typically cumbersome, large, nonrecyclable solar panels. I don't hear members opposite jumping up to be champions of that kind of technology.

I have returned from Denmark and Scotland recently, where I went to understand more about the offshore wind industry and how technology can be adapted for here in Australia. It is a trip that I paid for myself because I want to get better informed about an industry that is going to be part—a big part—of Newcastle's future. I suggest members opposite might want to get better informed too. We know offshore is going to play a vital role in the future of our nation's energy mix, and we want to be able to manufacture the components of those wind turbines. In cities like Newcastle, we want to be able to service that new energy industry. It's all an important part of this nation's future.

This is the sort of innovation that the Albanese Labor government wants to invest in—supporting local jobs, supporting local manufacturing and supporting local innovation. Overwhelmingly, when I was in Denmark, people told me just how relieved they were to have Australia sitting back at the table in all the international forums. They said how critical it was that we were focusing again on the need to decarbonise and that climate change was no longer a dirty word in our nation. They said how reassured they felt that Australia was now investing in renewables and low-emissions technologies to deliver on Australia's commitment to reach our target of net zero emissions by 2050. That's what people overseas are saying. They would be beside themselves to hear of this debate here this morning.

I want to assure the member for Grey that, as well as working to manufacture renewable technologies in Australia, this government feels that national security is an issue that is critically important. The Department of Home Affairs is actively addressing Australia's technology security policy settings. This includes managing the risk associated with vendors who could be compelled by foreign governments to act against Australia's interests. We're also working closely with the Australian Energy Market Operator on required updates to the Australian Energy Sector Cyber Security Framework, and we recently declared another 87 critical infrastructure assets as 'systems of national significance'. This means we can apply a robust set of enhanced cybersecurity obligations on the owners and the operators. We relentlessly focus on safeguarding our country against significant cyberattacks and are working with industries, states and territories, and other stakeholders to manage those emerging risks. It's time the opposition got on board.

11:46 am

Photo of Aaron VioliAaron Violi (Casey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Firstly I want to commend the member for Grey for moving this important motion. It is something that we should be discussing in this House. Cybersecurity, national security and energy security are so important. I was in the House for the member for Solomon's words. He's a very good man. Anyone who was raised in the wonderful town of Yarra Glen is a good person, so I'm sure it was just a slip and he must have forgotten, but he did say that in the nine years of the Morrison government there was nothing done on cybersecurity, which didn't seem right to me, because I remember there was a program called REDSPICE, which was all about cyber and intelligence, so I thought I'd better quickly check. Google's a wonderful thing. REDSPICE was a $9.9 billion investment in cyber and intelligence. I'm sure, as I said, the member for Solomon, my good friend growing up in Yarra Glen, made an innocent mistake, so I just wanted to correct that for him.

What we're talking about here is the transition to net zero, which is a long and challenging road. We shouldn't be glib about this conversation, but we need to make sure that we avoid unintended consequences, and that is a very real risk. We need to ensure that we have a secure and reliable energy network. So when we talk about the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre talking about the alarm of power being shut down for weeks, it is something we need to take seriously because the internet of things creates extra risk. It allows foreign operatives to not just hack into but to have backdoor access to many of our infrastructure networks, including solar.

One of the risks they talked about is that the entire power grid could be brought down, and it could take a week or two to recover. This isn't those on this side saying that; this is the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre who have raised this alarm. Let's think about some of the implications. Let's look at one area, like farming, an area that I'm very passionate about. It links directly to food security. If we lose power in the grid for two weeks, our food production stops. Farmers cannot pick their crops, they cannot keep them cool and they cannot transport them to distribution centres to then move them to supermarkets. That's one example of the implications for us as a nation: our food security would be at risk.

As we move to this digital world, we've got amazing opportunities in AI and quantum, but they also use a significant amount of power—to store that data, to run their algorithms—and that puts additional pressure on our networks. If we look at EVs as an example: as more people move to electric vehicles, they need the power for their cars to get around. The June storms of 2021 hit my community significantly, and I was three weeks without power. Many were three to four months without power. When you go that long without power, you understand how important it is that we have reliable and secure energy at all times. In our household, and in many households in Casey at that time when we didn't have power, we were fortunate that we had our gas so we were still able to cook and we were still able to have hot water, which meant we could stay where we were. But, again, as we transition from gas in homes to electrification, it means that there is more risk for homes in times of emergencies and blackouts, which is why it's so vital that we get these decisions right, because, once the horse has bolted, you can't lock the gate.

There is definitely more we need to do to manufacture in Australia, absolutely. When 60 per cent of installed smart inverters are being supplied by Chinese manufacturers, and they're bound by the CCP national intelligence laws, that creates a risk. It creates an absolute risk that we need to address, and this government needs to ensure that there is a cybersecurity impact assessment, to look at these risks and understand where they are and what we can do to make sure that we've got that reliable energy in Australia. It's very easy to set a target. It's a lot harder to achieve that target, while ensuring that we've got cheaper prices and reliable power and, when we turn the switch on, the light comes on. It's the first, principal responsibility of all governments.

11:51 am

Photo of Jerome LaxaleJerome Laxale (Bennelong, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I disagree with the motion. Every Saturday night thousands of locals head to Eastwood for a night out with their friends and family. Just before last year's election, a so-called activist stepped into the middle of Eastwood town centre, holding a sign that bore an offensive message directed at Chinese Australians. He sought to provoke not just any crowd but particularly Bennelong's Chinese Australian community. This environment, where Chinese Australians were targeted and attacked, was an environment fuelled by the anti-China rhetoric of the Morrison government. Research by Per Capita and the Australian Asian Alliance in 2020 revealed that Chinese Australians experienced increased levels of racial attacks, with one person interviewed naming the Morrison government's megaphone diplomacy as a reason for this increase.

With this motion today, we see the Liberals once again happy to use Australia's migrant communities to make a cheap political point. Again, they do not care what consequences their words and ideology have for multicultural Australia. This was a situation that the Morrison government was happy to create, but clearly the Liberals didn't learn anything from the message that multicultural communities sent to them at the last election. Yet again we see them happy to use words which will impact our local Chinese Australian communities, in a ham-fisted attempt to slow down progress on our much-needed transition to renewable energy. This motion is so offensive and so absurd. Nearly every connected device in our homes and workplaces is either wholly or partially made in China, yet the Liberals would have us believe that it is only solar panels and inverters that pose a threat to our national security. They just so happen to be the same types of technology that they are ideologically opposed to as well.

Their opposition to renewable energy is not only flawed in its logic but also deeply damaging to our collective vision for a clean energy future right here in Australia. Renewable energy solutions are vital in combating climate change and securing cleaner, cheaper energy for generations to come. Instead of working with the government to aid this transition, those opposite are choosing to target these products, in a misguided attempt to derail what Australians voted for at the last election. To make matters worse, the Liberals, on their antirenewables escapade, again are choosing words that will impact Chinese Australians. It is unjust and it is dangerous.

Make no mistake: this government believes that we should be making solar panels and inverters here. That's logical. That will grow our economy and secure our energy future. And that's why we're investing record amounts in local manufacturing—something, of course, that the Liberal Party voted against.

The Liberals have resurrected their nuclear fantasy in opposition, in another attempt to oppose renewable energy. They made no progress on nuclear power in their nearly decade in government, but their radioactive opposition to clean energy knows no bounds. Now, with this motion, they're happy, again, to throw local Chinese Australians under the bus, in another attempt to demonise a perfectly viable, affordable and safe energy source. When former Prime Minister Morrison wanted to score cheap votes, he attacked China in a way that impacted Chinese Australians, and, just last week, we heard the reports of the member for Cook telling the Liberal party room to 'hold the line', as he spoke out against this government's attempts to restore our relationship with our largest trading partner. Then, last year, when the Liberals realised they'd left Australia with a national housing crisis, instead of proposing solutions or even voting for the government's solutions, the Leader of the Opposition stood up in this place and decided to blame migrants for the problems that the Liberals had created. This motion is just another attempt to slow down our transition to green energy production, and it again uses our migrant communities to do so.

This motion shows that the modern Liberal Party is out of touch with modern multicultural Australia. This motion is an absolute disgrace. The politics of the Liberal Party are an absolute disgrace. And my message to the Liberal Party is this: stop using migrant communities to score political points. Stop making Chinese Australians a target as you give oxygen to your conspiracy theories.

Both my parents were born overseas, and I've seen them live a life of being mocked because of their accent and their surname. For as long as I'm in this place, I'll stand up and defend migrant communities, not only in Bennelong but across Australia, from the same happening to them.

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

I thank the honourable member for his speech. There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.