Friday, 17 November 2023
Questions without Notice
My question is to the acting Prime Minister and the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Senator Wong. This month millions of Australian households and small businesses are receiving further instalments of energy rebates as part of the Albanese government's Energy Price Relief Plan. Can the minister please tell us how many Australians will be benefiting from these rebates? Also, how is the Energy Price Relief Plan helping Australians with the cost of living?
Thank you to Senator Grogan for her question and her interest not only in the issue of climate change and how we respond but in how we also deliver real cost-of-living relief to Australians who we know are doing it tough. Our No. 1 priority is addressing inflation and cost-of-living pressures, and that includes through our Energy Price Relief Plan. First, we acted immediately to cap coal and gas prices. Second, we're partnering with states and territories to provide targeted bill relief. This started in July and is helping five million households and one million small businesses—
all of which you opposed. You wanted five million households and a million small businesses not to have energy price relief. In many jurisdictions, for those eligible for rebates, rises will be completely offset with direct bill rebates.
Now, we do know energy prices have spiked as a consequence of international events, including Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine and the global energy crisis which followed. That is why those on this side of the chamber and our government developed a considered plan to lessen the impacts on Australians. In fact, the ABS has said that electricity prices would have increased nearly 20 per cent without the government's intervention.
Opposition senators interjecting—
That's what those opposite actually wanted. That is what would have occurred under them—20 per cent higher. You know who voted against every single dollar of relief to families and business? The coalition—the Liberal and National parties. If they had their way, Australians would be paying 20 per cent more. So remember that when they have the nerve to talk about cost of living.
So, five million households and one million businesses—that's very impressive. Thanks very much to the acting Prime Minister for that great response. We also know that most social housing was built over 20 years ago, before the introduction of minimum energy efficiency standards. Can you tell us how the Albanese government is investing to lock in lower power bills for social housing residents?
The Albanese government has an energy savings plan of $1.7 billion to help families and businesses across the country make upgrades and improvements to save on energy costs. That includes $300 million to support upgrades to social housing, which, as the senator rightly points out, is often older and lacks energy efficiency. Those who have the least capacity to deal with price rises also have the least capacity to enable energy efficiency, so these programs are to deal with that social challenge.
It's estimated that upgrades for around 60,000 properties will save up to a third of their energy consumption, and work is already underway in some states, including Victoria. This week plans to upgrade energy efficiency in nearly half of the public housing stock here in the ACT were announced, and partnerships with remaining states and territories will be announced in the coming months.
We continue to see some wild and impractical suggestions around energy policy, including around nuclear energy. Can the minister explain to the Senate why the government is not pursuing this particular policy and how the Albanese government is focused on responsible and realistic actions on lower power and energy bills?
I'll be very brief. We know that those opposite's only policy when it comes to energy is nuclear. We know that the only company to have a small modular nuclear power plant approved in the United States has cancelled its project. Guess why? It was because of rising costs—a 53 per cent cost blowout. Yet again, we know that those opposite are ideology over evidence. They're always negative, and they always want to pick a fight, but they're never able to come up with any answers.