Senate debates

Thursday, 13 May 2021


Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Amendment (No New Fossil Fuels) Bill 2021; Second Reading

12:16 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table an explanatory memorandum, and I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

I rise to introduce the Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Amendment (No New Fossil Fuels) Bill 2021.

The Bill would have the effect of prohibiting Snowy Hydro from:

- Developing or constructing or being involved in the development or construction, of new fossil fuel-based electricity generation capacity;

- Acquiring, purchasing or otherwise investing in, or being involved in acquiring, purchasing or investing in, new fossil fuel-based electricity generation capacity;

- Operating, or being involved in the operation of, new fossil fuel-based electricity generation capacity.

And by this, the Bill explicitly defines that new capacity does NOT include:

- Fossil fuel-based electricity generation capacity that derives from assets or facilities that a Snowy hydro-group company owns, controls or operates immediately before the day the amendment commences.

- Fossil fuel-based electricity generation capacity that derives, or will derive, from assets or facilities that a Snowy hydro-group company is required to construct, develop, acquire, purchase, invest in or operate under a binding contract entered into by a Snowy hydro-group company before the day the amendment commences.

There are two separate problems.

On one hand we know we have to wind down our existing fossil fuel generation capacity, and Snowy Hydro owns a number of gas-fired power stations already.

The Greens have a clear position on this, that the transition to 100% renewables needs to be completed within the next decade if Australia is to do its fair share of limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But this Bill does not address that.

What this Bill seeks to do is prevent the government from making the problem worse.

Because this government has made clear its intent to invest in new fossil fuel-based electricity generation in the middle of a climate emergency.

Whether it be the $30 million proposed in the Budget to go to Twiggy Forrest's gas-fired generator in Port Kembla, or Snowy Hydro building a new gas-fired generator in the Hunter, this government only knows how to double down on fossil fuels.

The timing of this Bill is critical.

Minister Taylor, upon receipt of the Report of the Liddell Taskforce, made clear that the private sector had until the end of April to invest in 1000 megawatts of new dispatchable capacity.

That deadline has passed, and while the government has given money to two new gas-fired generators in NSW, they are yet to rule out Snowy Hydro going ahead with their proposed Hunter Valley plant.

No one wants this gas plant.

The Liddell Taskforce, which the Minister set up to look into the closure of the Liddell coal-fired power station, did not make a recommendation for 1000 MW of new capacity.

In fact the study that the Taskforce asked the energy market operator for said that the capacity gap in 2025 would only be 215 MW.

But let's concede that this gap exists. Well what has the private sector done between that announcement last year and now?

Origin have announced a 700 MW battery at their Lake Macquarie site.

Neoen have announced a 500 MW battery in the Central Tablelands.

CEP Energy have announced their intent to build a 1200 MW battery at Kurri Kurri, the exact same site that Minister Taylor has proposed for his gas-fired power plant.

But is that going to stop Minister Taylor?

The Minister has made clear that he's not interested in dispatchable capacity unless it comes in the form of gas.

Don't worry that Reputex has found that it is cheaper to replace Liddell with renewables and batteries than gas.

Ignore the clear statements from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency that there is no more room in the carbon budget for new fossil fuel infrastructure.

It is sad that this Bill needs to be introduced today.

The public owns Snowy Hydro.

We hold 100% of the shares.

This government has the power to tell Snowy Hydro to stop investing in new coal and gas fired power plants and make this Bill redundant.

If Minister Taylor and Minister Birmingham wanted to, they could tell Snowy Hydro to invest in new batteries or renewables in the Hunter instead.

But we have a government who is not interested in representing the will of the public.

A government not interested in addressing the climate emergency and keeping Australians safe.

Not interested in representing the over 70% of Australians who want us to be a global leader in climate action.

What we have is a government that is interested in providing billions in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.

In helping out those massive multinational companies like Chevron and ExxonMobil, which off-shore billions in profits while paying zero in company taxes and making millions in donations to the major parties.

And those super-rich billionaires like Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer and Rupert Murdoch, who think they can buy elections and make decisions about the future of Australia instead of us, the people.

And that is why we need this legislation.

This government has proven itself completely incapable of addressing the climate emergency, so it falls to this parliament to hold them accountable.

We cannot let this government invest in new gas, we cannot let this government build new gas infrastructure.

We know we must rapidly bring down carbon pollution if we have any hope of keeping a safe climate for all the people of this planet, and this Parliament must hold the government to that responsibility.

I commend this Bill to the Senate and call on all members in this place to support it.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.