Senate debates

Thursday, 23 August 2018



5:03 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

From Labor and from Liberal, Senator Macdonald, the two parties who have failed in this area consistently over many decades. Part of the instability in the current government and the previous Labor government has been because their complete wedding to the neoliberal economic ideology poisoned their approach and meant they put the market before the community, time after time. With essential services you have to put people and the community first. As neoliberalism has become more and more discredited, and as free market fundamentalism has been shown to deliver more and more harm, suffering and inequality in our communities, they have been unable to agree internally on new approaches. We've seen that play out—alongside good, old-fashioned hatreds, which are part of the human condition and are not unique to any part of the political spectrum—and it's a key reason why we've seen such political instability from both of the traditional parties, the parties of the political establishment, over the last 10 years. And that has led to policy failures.

So, this motion, which I support and acknowledge the validity of, nonetheless does need to be put in the wider context of the wider failure of our entire political system, going back many decades. This is just one example amongst many of how our political system is broken and how it needs transformative change—not just a bit of tinkering at the edges, a new person in the driver's seat or a slight change of management; it needs a complete overhaul. The motion does recognise that Australians deserve real leadership on energy and it is clear, every day, that they will not get it from this coalition government. The big question mark on this, and many other issues, is whether they will get it from a Labor government. The story, time and time again over many decades, is that the Labor Party will say one thing in opposition and do a different thing in government. An extra reason you need more people from other parties in the House of Representatives is to keep them honest. If Labor does get into government, I'd have to say they could not possibly do a worse job than the current mob. I think most Australians would agree with that after today, of all days. But just going from somebody terrible to somebody not quite so terrible is not really good enough, and it's part of the reason Australians are disillusioned with the political system in its entirety.

We need to make the change as significant and transformative as possible, and part of the commitment and role of the Greens in doing that is to get major change. This motion talks about real leadership on energy. I would like to see that meaning leadership that takes us in a brand-new direction away from the failed neoliberal and market-first approach that we've seen from both Labor and Liberal over many years now. That's the sort of transformation we need, but, as a bottom line, the first clear thing we need is any sort of coherent energy policy at all from a government so that investment and business can have some certainty and those of us who want to push for better policies can have a framework within which to operate—rather than just trying to engage with incoherent chaos, which is all we are seeing from the Liberal-National Party at the moment.

I don't think anyone holds terribly much hope that we'll see improvement regardless of who ends up in the Prime Minister's seat after tomorrow. Energy policy is just one of the many failings of this government, and its failure is not a political failure on its own; its failure is in how it has failed the community and how it has failed the public—those rising energy costs and the impact they are having on so many people. And there is the inability to recognise the new approach that could be taken, which quite a number of people—plenty of independent people outside the Greens, including a wide range of economists and energy experts—have all put forward. It has to be based on a clean-energy future and it has to be based on government recognising it has a significant role to play—not just trying to leave to it the market or a privatised or corporatised system. This needs to be significantly changed. That's the sort of leadership we need on energy.


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