Senate debates

Thursday, 15 December 2022


Days and Hours of Meeting

1:30 pm

Photo of Jenny McAllisterJenny McAllister (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | Hansard source

This parliament has a big job to do today, because the opportunity today is to debate the legislation that will underpin the government's energy price relief plan. I don't know who needs to hear it in this chamber, but we have a serious challenge ahead of us. The illegal invasion of Ukraine has produced a global energy crisis the likes of which we haven't seen for 50 years. It may suit others to ignore that or to pretend that that is not the case, but actually it's a pretty significant global event. We're not immune to the consequences of those events, and it's for that reason that we have been working in a methodical way through the issues that they present to Australian households and particularly to Australian manufacturers—who, if any of you had been listening, have been pointing out this problem to us and to you and asking for a response.

Of course, the Liberals' and Nationals' engagement with this issue is entirely disappointing but entirely predictable, because actually they had 10 years to come up with an energy policy—10 years to grapple with the very significant technological and economic changes that were confronting our energy sector. And what did they do with those 10 years? They certainly didn't land an energy policy at any point in that period. They did two things. These people have never seen an issue that they weren't willing to politicise or to wield for partisan point-making. There is no issue that they're not willing to use for narrow partisan advantage. Every time over the last decade and in this new parliament that the opportunity to act in the national interest has been presented, they have chosen not to do so. They have chosen petty, narrow electoral interest, whipping up fear and picking fights instead of solving problems.

The opportunity is here today to solve some problems and to engage with the debate. We could be debating it now. We could have started some 30 minutes ago. But we haven't done so, because you have chosen to debate the process instead of to debate the issues. We say: let's get on with it., because what's required here is actually a sensible debate about the issues that confront us. You can choose to deal yourselves out of that debate. You can choose to proceed in the way that you have so far by refusing to engage, by denying that issues exist and by hiding the presence of issues from the public, as your minister did prior to the last election, hiding the increase to power prices. It's not this government's approach. This is a government that's actually willing to work with state and territory premiers and chief ministers. It's a government that's actually been willing to convene meetings of the energy ministers five times since the election. What did Minister Keane, a Liberal minister from New South Wales, say about that? He observed that it was pretty novel and they achieved more in that first meeting than they had in the previous four years. You know why? It's because the approach taken by this government is one that actually seeks to solve public policy problems rather than to pick fights to occupy media space. It's a different approach. I accept that. It's a different approach to the one that you all adopted when you were last in government. But it is an approach that is actually designed to operate in the national interest rather than in partisan interest.

So you have a choice today, and everyone in this chamber has a choice today. You can vote for price relief—you can vote for a set of arrangements that will achieve an orderly market or you can obstruct. All the evidence so far is that you will continue to obstruct. (Time expired)


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