MPI – Energy
Mr PITT: Firstly, can I go to the contribution for the member for Rankin. The member for Rankin is clearly a little bit under the weather, so we’ll give him leeway. I hope you feel better soon, Jim. I say to the member for Rankin: he knows a good scare campaign when he sees one. There was a very clear media statement today from the Treasurer and the Minister for Energy saying very clearly that if the divestiture powers are used in an area like Queensland, where the Queensland government owns everything—70 per cent of the generators and all of the poles and wires; there is only one retailer in regional Queensland, and it is owned by the Queensland Labor government—they can split into other government owned corporations. As someone who has lived in Queensland for the overwhelming majority of my life, I can say that was exactly how it was. The Far North Queensland Electricity Board, the Wide Bay-Burnett Electricity Board and all of the other boards were separate. They had their own maintenance crews, they did their own billing and they competed with one another for work. And what did the Queensland Labor government do? They put them altogether and they centralised all of their services, to the detriment of our people. We are here for consumers. We are not here for governments, and we are not here for big business.
Let’s look at why this legislation is necessary. The answer to that is very, very simple. Energy companies, particularly the big gentailers and people like the Queensland Labor government, are robbing billions of dollars from consumers for one reason: because they can. They are profiting from the pockets of people who cannot afford to pay, and they are predominantly our people. On this side of the House we are standing with consumers. The divestiture laws, if activated, are good legislation. They are strong decisions that send a very clear message to those people who are robbing consumers right across the country.
Now let’s look at who recommended it. This is not something that fell out of the sky. This is the ACCC. The ACCC made recommendations around divestiture. They made recommendations about ensuring that we get continuity and reliability of supply. The Minister for Energy, Angus Taylor, is working on that right now. For those on the other side who want a 50 per cent renewable target, here is your opportunity. Get in and tender with everybody else. Compete with everyone else that will put forward generation capacity for this country and, if you are cheaper and if you can meet reliability standards, I’m pretty confident you’ll get a go. You will be able to get out there and deliver what you want.
That big science experiment in South Australia under the previous Labor government for 50 per cent renewables resulted in two things: first, the most expensive electricity in the world; and, second, an incredibly unreliable system that relies on the electricity cord to Victoria. I’m happy to compare my resume with anyone on that side of the House, if we want to talk about power systems and energy—no problems at all. There are some very complicated technical issues around the design of our network and how it works. That includes systems security and stability, without which the lights will go off. So it is not just an ideological debate. This is an incredibly technical area that we need to get right.
Right now, the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Labor government have hooked some $2.2 billion from Queensland consumers. They made them borrow $5 billion to try to prop up their budget a couple of years ago, because they are simply terrible economic managers. On this side of the House we will implement the tough laws that are necessary, because they are necessary. If we look at the big three, they have had an increase in profits of over a billion dollars in the last three to four years. Every single business I know would like to have that sort of increase in their profit margin.
I say again: they are doing this because they can. They are profiting from people who cannot afford to pay. What will be the result? If those opposite are successful in the next election and they implement their power policies, I can tell you right now what will happen: we will lose the aluminium industry. We will lose the last remaining foundries in this country. We will lose those businesses that are very highly dependent on the cost of energy, and they are usually people who would support those opposite. That is where they garner their members. They are members of the ETU. They are members of the AWU and the metal workers union. People on the opposite side of the House are not supporting those who would typically support them. They cannot be trusted with the national economy and definitely not with energy.