Tuesday, 13 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Matthew Warren, the CEO of the Australian Energy Council, the peak body of the electricity sector, said:
Right now, we couldn't do it worse if we tried. We're making everything worse. We're making prices higher, reliability more unreliable, and we're not delivering the emissions we're required to deliver.
Is Mr Warren correct?
I am not familiar with Mr Warren; I note what he says. But I think that anybody who follows Australian politics, particularly in the last few months, would be aware that we have had much public discussion about the need to put an end to what some people have described as the 'climate wars'—because over the last decade or more, most of which, I might say, was during the period of the Rudd and Gillard governments and during a period much of which Senator Wong was the minister for the environment and climate change, we have had a policy deadlock in this country. And we have seen the consequences of that policy deadlock play out on the floor of this very chamber. Senator O'Neill, what the Australian people want and what the Turnbull government is committed to doing is to put the climate wars behind us, to try and come up with a series of proposals which will be acceptable to this parliament and which will meet the three objectives of electricity affordability, reliability of supply and maintaining our international obligations. So, Senator O'Neill, I would not be going into the history of last decade, if I were you, for most of which, of course, your side of politics was in government.
Rather, Mr Turnbull, who has a deep understanding and great intellectual interest in this area, has now taken the leadership to put this period of policy failure behind us. That is why we commissioned the Finkel review, that is why we are considering the Finkel review and that is why shortly the government will be bringing forward proposals informed by the Finkel review.
No, I cannot confirm that, Senator. I will tell you what I can confirm, Senator—if you look in the charts of the Finkel report you will see it laid out before your very eyes—which is that in the period of the Labor government the cost of electricity to Australian consumers doubled. The cost of electricity to Australian consumers doubled.
I can also tell you, Senator, that since the election of the coalition government in 2013 the price of electricity to Australian consumers has stabilised. The period of rapid growth charted by Dr Finkel's report, and there for all to see, shows that under the period of Labor government the price of electricity to Australian consumers doubled. We put a stop to that, just as we want to put a stop to this area of policy paralysis. (Time expired)
Exactly! Given that it is the government's inability to deliver consistent energy policy that is to blame for the current energy crisis, will the government work with Labor to implement a genuine clean energy target?
I can tell you, Senator O'Neill, what we will not be doing, and that is embracing your idea of an EIS, because that will continue to put upward pressure on prices. We will be back to the same price escalation we saw during the period of the Labor government.
Thank you, Senator O'Neill. I understand the point of your point of order, but the Attorney-General did say that he could say what he would not be doing, and he indicated that he would not be working with Labor in that sense. I technically believe that the Attorney-General has been answering the question.
Thank you, Mr President. As you know, Senator O'Neill, Dr Finkel has recommended a clean energy target. Dr Finkel's report is being considered by the government through our normal party room and cabinet processes at the moment.
I can tell you what we will not be doing: we will not be working with you to introduce a scheme favoured by the Labor Party but rejected by this government for an EIS, because we know that that would put further upward pressure on electricity prices. We will not be doing that, but we will invite you, Senator O'Neill, and those who sit with you, when the government's response to the Finkel report is published and announced, to work with the government to put this period of policy confusion—much of it your creation—behind us. (Time expired)