Tuesday, 13 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Last Friday, the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, provided his review of the future security of the National Electricity Market to the Council of Australian Governments. The review has been welcomed by industry, unions, environmental groups and the community sector. Will the Turnbull government commit to using the Finkel review to end the policy uncertainty that is delivering higher bills, higher emissions and less secure power and deliver a coherent plan for Australia's energy sector?
I am bound to say—through you, Mr President—that is a very welcome sentiment coming from Senator Carr. That is a very welcome sentiment indeed, and I am delighted—slightly surprised but delighted—to have heard it coming from you, Senator Carr.
The government wants to thank Dr Alan Finkel for his very fine work in seeking to come to terms with what the Prime Minister has described as a wicked problem. What we have to do is address what some people have taken to calling the trilemma of affordable energy prices and electricity prices, reliability of supply and meeting Australia's international obligations, particularly the very ambitious international obligation we assumed at the Paris climate change conference—one of the highest, most ambitious per capita emissions reduction targets in the world, which would see Australia's emissions fall by 26 to 28 per cent off 2005 levels by 2030. But, as well as that, we need to ensure that we do not have a repeat of the fiasco that we saw last year, for example, in South Australia, where poorly considered policy and overreliance on one element of supply—that is, the renewable sector—without sufficient backup or redundancy in the system allowed that state to go into blackout.
So what we are going to do is going to study Dr Finkel's report very carefully. I can tell you, Mr President, that we, this morning in our government party room, had a very impressive presentation from the minister for energy, Mr Frydenberg, in relation to the Finkel report and the options and policy choices that he has presented. The government will be making decisions. It will be making those decisions in the near future, and we look to the Labor Party's support when we do. (Time expired)
Speaking of wicked problems, within hours of the review's release, Senator Abetz had accused the Chief Scientist of using 'creative assumptions'. Does the government have confidence in its Chief Scientist and, if so, has the Prime Minister advised Senator Abetz?
Senator Carr, the government has great confidence in Dr Finkel. We admire his work. As I said in response to your primary question, we thank him for his work.
I am aware that there are colleagues in my party room, including my friend Senator Eric Abetz, who have a different view. I am aware of that. I always find it strange and very difficult to understand why it is that you people in the Labor Party feel so threatened by that—that the expression of different points of view in a party room is a bad thing. We in the Liberal Party and the National Party welcome the contributions of all points of view. We welcome the contributions of those who take an iconoclastic point of view as well as of those who take a mainstream point of view. (Time expired)
Senator Carr, I do not know why you waste the Senate's breath asking questions you already know the answer to. Of course it is not the government's position. The government's position is as articulated by the Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, and by the cabinet and the ministry.
But, nevertheless, there are different views in our party room. We are not embarrassed about that. We do not run away from that. We do not seek to hide it; we welcome it. We welcome the fact that in the Liberal Party and the National Party we have a culture that is hospitable to the expression of a variety of views on important public issues. Apparently, unlike the party that you represent, Senator Carr, we think that from the variety of different voices engaged in a discussion we are more likely to arrive at the best outcome. So we welcome all voices in this debate, but in particular we welcome the work of Dr Alan Finkel.