Senate debates

Monday, 27 November 2023

Regulations and Determinations

Competition and Consumer (Gas Market Code) Regulations 2023; Disallowance

4:10 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Trade) Share this | Hansard source

What is going on here is that the government has a different view to you. The government has an ambitious position in relation to decarbonisation. The government has an ambitious position in terms of the re-industrialisation of the Australian economy. The government has an ambitious position in terms of transforming our electricity and energy sectors. And we disagree with you—we disagree with the Greens political party—about the way that can be achieved. The approach advanced by the Greens political party—and who knows whether it will be supported by the Liberals and Nationals—puts at risk our transition to a cleaner economy. It puts at risk thousands and thousands of jobs in manufacturing firms who rely upon gas for their feedstock and for their energy source, firms that are working with the government through the programs we have set out to make the transition that they need to make, to do the investments that they need to invest in to make sure that they can make the transition that is required.

But this group down here on my right don't care about any of that. What they want is a simple slogan, social media posts and no substantive policy change. This is postmodern politics. It is saying what you feel, saying what you think. It is losing touch with reality that our job here is about what we can actually achieve and do, about what we can do. And the position that has been advanced in this disallowance is the politics of feelings, not the politics of facts. It's utterly disconnected with the reality for modern industry, utterly disconnected with what the objectives of the government should be here.

This time last year, gas suppliers were quoting contact prices of $35 a gigajoule compared to $10 a gigajoule in 2021, but that's what the code is designed to deal with: to shield households and industry from these unprecedented price rises. The government acted. It is not a form of action that would ever have been any government's preferred approach, but it is the right approach—that is, setting the price of gas at a reasonable price for industry and for households.

The exemptions are there in order to make sure that the government can achieve what it needs to achieve in making sure that Australians can meet their domestic gas requirements. That is the truth. You may not like it, you may scoff, but jobs and industry and the decarbonisation agenda rely upon making sure that industry has the capacity to secure the energy needs that it requires.

Gas is also an important pillar of our international relations. Australia's gas is fundamental for our North Asian partners, particularly Japan and Korea, in making sure they can (a) go through security for their industry but (b) also be able to go through the transition to net zero that their economies have to undertake. They actually have to have energy security in order to undertake the transition that they know they must undertake, and this approach undermines all of those objectives: energy security, low costs for households and for business, rebuilding Australian manufacturing, and our regional relationships and the energy security of our partners.

It is utterly irresponsible. It is not a surprise. What I am very interested to see is the position that the coalition adopt around this and whether they have the discipline and the capacity to marshal their whole caucus behind doing the right thing and voting down this reprehensible disallowance.


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