February 06, 2024

It's with real pleasure I take this MPI. Before the member for Fairfax scurries off, I want to make an offer to him. He was at Norah Head, and I'm happy to drive him from here to my electorate to talk about offshore wind and so he can explain to my constituents why he's opposed to 3,000 good paying jobs building those wind farms, why he's opposed to the 1,500 ongoing jobs operating those wind farms and why he's opposed to the Tomago aluminium smelter that needs that cheap, clean energy to keep going. While he's there, he might want to talk about his plans to put not one but two nuclear power stations on the shores of Lake Macquarie, which is his real ideological obsession. Fair dinkum, guys—no-one can talk more about ideological obsession than this guy, a guy who is obsessed about nuclear power.

This is the truth about what is going on: those opposite stand opposed to 3,000 jobs in my community. They stand opposed to cheaper and cleaner energy in my electorate, and they will be condemned not just by history but by the electors in my community. Come anytime you want, member for Fairfax. I'll even buy you a coffee—maybe a beer—so that you can talk to people about this.

The truth is that the Albanese government knows that poor community engagement from transmission and renewables development does threaten the rollout of cheaper, cleaner and more reliable energy, and that's why it's taken strong action to fix a problem those opposite created when they were in power. For 9½ long years they were happy to rollout renewable infrastructure, but did they do any community engagement? No, not in the least. That's why we're taking strong action. That's why Commissioner Andrew Dyer has released a strong report, and we've accepted, in principle, all nine recommendations to address community needs. In fact, the CEO of the National Farmers Federation, when asked about the report, said, 'This report is a great thing.'

We recognise that regional communities do deserve and should be consulted about renewable energy infrastructure. I'm a proud representative of a regional area, and our communities do want to be engaged and consulted. That's what this government is doing, and the consultation around the Hunter offshore wind zone is an example of that. We saw a comprehensive consultation process with 40,000 letterbox drops; seven community drop-in sessions, all over the coast; and over 1,900 public submissions. The result of that consultation was support for the zone but a reduction in the zone from 2,800 square kilometres to 1,800 square kilometres. My electorate has the longest stretch of coastline of the Hunter offshore wind zone, and that consultation moved the closest point in my electorate from 10 kilometres offshore to 30 kilometres offshore—and I welcome that. But my constituents are strongly committed to renewable energy and offshore wind because it delivers cheaper and cleaner energy and a stackload of jobs. I can honestly say, hand on heart, I have not had a single constituent contact me after the final declared zone was released, because my community's concerns were addressed. The truth is that we need this power if we are to invest in cleaner and cheaper power.

The hypocrisy of those opposite is manifest, because what did they do when they were in government? That is the real test of political parties: what do they do in government? The now shadow Treasurer, the member for Hume, when he was a minister, said of transmission lines: 'The development of interconnectors and transmission is critical to bringing new generation capacity into the energy system, while shoring up reliability and affordability across state borders,' and 'We are backing every transmission project in this country, every single one of them.'

What did he say about offshore wind? He said: 'Enabling the development of an offshore electricity sector will deliver significant local benefits to all Australians,' and 'International experience shows that offshore electricity sectors coexist with other offshore sectors and activities, such as fishing and shipping industries.' Those are the words of the member for Hume, the now shadow Treasurer. And what did their energy spokesperson, the now departed member for Fairfax, say about offshore wind on 25 October 2022? He said, 'Offshore energy infrastructure has the potential to create significant investment and job creation opportunities, as well as to contribute to Australia's future energy security,' and 'the coalition supports the ongoing development of Australia's offshore wind industry.' That's what their spokesperson said this term.

But the truth is that they are hopelessly split on this. Only today we had the member for New England, the brains trust of the National Party, who said that wind turbines are 'filth.' This is his party's commitment to renewable energy. The truth is it's not about whether it's the right zone or not; they are opposed to renewable energy—full stop; they're opposed to action on climate change—full stop; they're opposed to cheaper electricity—full stop; they're opposed to thousands of jobs in the Hunter—full stop. Then we had Senator Nampijinpa Price, who said, 'Nothing angered me more than the sight of wind turbines.'

This is the real position of those opposite, because what do they actually want to see? What do they want to see instead of cheaper, cleaner energy? What do they want to see instead of the 3,000 construction jobs that will be created and the 1,500 ongoing jobs? What do they want to see? They want to see nuclear power stations from shore to shore. That's their true position. The truth is that if they get into power what we'll see in the Hunter and Central Coast, according to independent analysis, is nuclear power stations at Lake Munmorah, nuclear power stations at Vales Point and nuclear power stations at Tuggerah, Eraring and Bayswater.

The Switkowski report made it very clear that there are four criteria for nuclear power station location: proximity to existing electricity infrastructure; proximity to load centres; proximity to transport infrastructure; and access to large quantities of water. The truth is that you can't have a domestic nuclear power industry in this country without putting them on the shores of Lake Macquarie, the shores of Lake Munmorah, the shores of Tuggerah Lake, and up the valley at Bayswater. That is the truth of what they're arguing for. They're arguing for nuclear power stations in my community.

If you want to talk about social license, come up to my community and talk about nuclear power, because you will get the response you deserve up there. That's what the National Party and their fellow travellers in the LNP in Queensland, who really run the opposition, will get. Not only do they lack a social license, not only will people be lining up to say, 'No, not in my community'; they should also explain the prohibitive cost of this, because that's what kills nuclear power.

According to the latest CSIRO report, when the levelised costs are included, which take into account the need for more storage and transmission development for wind and solar, wind and solar are $112 per megawatt hour, and nuclear power is north of $500 per megawatt hour. So what they're arguing for is power that is 4½ times the cost of cheap renewable energy, which is made completely reliable with transmission and storage.

The member for New England, the brains trust of the opposition, also talked about the English example. I'm glad he brought up Hinkley Point C. Hinkley Point C is a power station that was promised to be built with the equivalent of A$34 billion. Guess where the costs are now: not $35 billion or $36 billion but $89 billion, more than doubling in price since 2015.

If you want to argue for more expensive power, go to the National Party. If you want to argue for fewer jobs in regional areas, go to the National Party. If you want to argue for decimating manufacturing, go to the National Party, who are running the opposition, which is a fact-free zone. All they do is listen to Sky News After Dark, another fact-free zone. Any independent expert will tell you that nothing they say is based in fact, and I'm very happy for the next election to be a referendum on renewable power versus nuclear power. I'll be on the side of cheaper power. I'll be on the side of cleaner power. I'll be on the side of re-industrialising the manufacturing sector on cheaper power, while those opposite are arguing for expensive, unreliable power that lacks a social licence.