Jun 14, 2017

Mr CONROY (Shortland) (15:31): What a hopeless performance by the minister. It truly was like being flogged with a wet lettuce. Sadly, not statesman like, the minister is all tip and no iceberg. The truth is that he dare not speak to the workers. The most disrespectful thing you can do to workers is to lie to them, and that is what the coalition government is doing, because change is coming. The great Hunter Valley produces one-third of Australia’s coal-fired power and the owners of those power stations have already set use-by dates: Liddell, 2022; Vales Point, 2028; Eraring, 2034; and Bayswater 2035. Those are the dates by which the companies have said they will close down. So the real debate here is how we look after the workers and ensure we get new investment. Those on the other side are doing a great disservice to those workers in those communities by pretending that nothing has to change. That contradicts their own language. Business as usual, which is their recipe, is a recipe for higher power prices and investment paralysis. Their own document, the Finkel review, has said that business as usual means a 10 per cent higher power price, which means households spending $175 more on average on electricity. That is the policy of the fossils in the Liberal party room. That is the policy of the member for Hume, and it is the policy of the member for Hughes: higher electricity prices—and he acknowledges it with a wave. He acknowledges with a wave that his policy is one of higher power prices and investment paralysis.

The graph that demonstrates the moral turpitude of those opposite is from their own documents. Their own Finkel report has a graph on wholesale power prices, and it demonstrates that in the four years they have been government—because they seem to forget that they have actually been in government for four years—wholesale power prices have doubled. That endangers manufacturing workers in this country and it puts greater cost of living pressures on households around the country. Why have they doubled? Because of policy uncertainty. The Australian Energy Council, the industry peak body, has said that policy uncertainty is equivalent to a $50 a tonne carbon price. This is the energy industry saying it, not us, not some mad hippies or mad greenies. The Australian Energy Council has said that the policy uncertainty under the government’s watch, under the four years of their stewardship of the economy, is equivalent to a $50 a town carbon price. That is a great tragedy, and we have an opportunity to end it in this place if we grasp the nettle and if we actually fulfil our obligations as legislators and embrace the Finkel review.

We have said that we have moved from our well-considered policy around an emissions intensity scheme—a policy we took to the last election and tested with the populace. We have moved to a clean energy target. We said: ‘It’s the second best option, but if it ends the policy paralysis we’ll embrace it. We’ve got an open mind about it. We’ll talk you through the details and hopefully get some legislation that everyone can agree with.’ That is because the industry needs certainty. But what do we get from those on the other side? We get climate change denialism and a rejection of markets. From the party of free markets, we get a rejection of markets. Instead, they want command and control. The government is building coal-fired power stations—what utter irresponsibility from the government. What do we get from them? We get quotes like this from the party room: ‘Malcolm could lose his leadership over this if he doesn’t listen to us,’ ‘Finkel in its current form is dead,’ ’20 MPs expressed serious misgivings,’ and, as another MP said, ‘It’s a slaughter.’ A lot of the usual suspects have not spoken yet. Another MP—hopefully not you, Mr Deputy Speaker Coulton, because I know you reflected on leaks from your party room—said, ‘This has shades of 2009 about it,’ which is when they last rolled the member for Wentworth.

I am calling on the Liberal-National coalition to embrace markets for once, to embrace bipartisanship and to end the policy paralysis and the uncertainty that is destroying our energy system. I call on them to come to us, embrace Finkel and provide a long-term solution to the energy crisis that they have created, that they have caused and that they are now denying.

© 2013 Pat Conroy | Disclaimer