MPI – Power Prices

Thursday, 25 May 2023

Mr PITT : In the 2019 election, the Australian people heard all about the bill that Australia couldn’t afford. And they knew it was the wrong bill. They knew they didn’t want that bill. They didn’t want to see that bill. They couldn’t afford that bill.

But, I’ve got to say, unfortunately, we got it wrong. The bill that the Australian people can’t afford is the bill being provided by this federal Labor government and this Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, because electricity prices are not going down. They are going up. What is going up is taxpayer-funded subsidies—that is all.

We’ve seen, today, news on the default market offer saying that the cost of electricity will increase by 20 per cent plus, across the board, on the east coast. But, in a matter of some inconvenience—I know it’s inconvenient for those opposite and for the government—quite simply, that is just one increase. It doesn’t include all the other increases that have already happened. We saw the Australian Bureau of Statistics say that, in Brisbane, in the March quarter alone, electricity prices in the south-east had gone up by 32 per cent plus—already—plus this 20 per cent increase.

But, as to the idea that it will be fixed by a taxpayer-funded subsidy in a one-off bill—or maybe a second bill; perhaps it’ll be split over two quarters; who knows!—the reality is: it is only for selected individuals; it is not across the board. It is not a reduction in electricity prices.

Power prices are out of control. That impacts the entire economy because, if you are a farmer and you have irrigated agriculture, the cost of your production is going up and up and up. If you are using fertiliser, as they all will be, the cost of that is going up and up and up, because it is directly linked to the cost of energy. So, from the production of food all the way through to cold rooms and to delivery, whether it’s from one of the majors or not, this is costing every Australian more, whether you are in business, whether you’re running a medical practice, whether you have a warehouse—it doesn’t matter. The increases in electricity costs are flowing straight through to the cost of living.

The impact is enormous. We’ve seen reports in the last few days that the humble loaf of bread is up by as much as 70 per cent. People cannot afford to pay these types of increases—they simply cannot.

And what did we see from the Minister for Climate Change and Energy in his press conference this morning? Well, we saw him howling at the moon about nuclear! I mean, the questions were quite ridiculous: ‘What will you do with the waste? Where will you put the waste? How will you manage the technology?’

Well, I’ve got news for the minister: the Australian people are getting this anyway. As to the AUKUS arrangements on nuclear submarines, you will put the waste in exactly the same place as you will put the high-level radioactive waste from a nuclear sub in 30 years time when those things come to the end of their operational life. The technology is already there. It is being delivered in Australia. Almost everything about nuclear technology has to be provided as part of the defence agreement, apart from the location. The idea that you could put a nuclear reactor in a very sophisticated tin can 200 metres under the ocean, full of Australian submariners doing a great job for our country, but you can’t put it on a block of concrete in the most stable nation in the world—well, that is just hypocrisy. And those opposite know; they absolutely know—

Dr Leigh: Where? Where’s it going to go?

Mr PITT: I’ll take the interjection, because what we know from those opposite is they seem to be not committed. You are either in on this deal or you are not. You will deliver all of the things you need for technology around nuclear because it is a necessity for the agreement. So face up to facts, those who are opposed. This debate is over. It will be delivered in Australia.

We hear about costs from Labor’s long-term plan. It’s a long-term alright because, quite simply, 28,000 kilometres of transmission, which has a direct return, a fixed-price return, that is paid for by electricity consumers—do you know how far that is, Madam Deputy Speaker? That 28,000 kilometres sounds like a number, but there’s a thing for caravanners and those who travel around Australia called the ‘big lap’. The big lap is a circumnavigation of Australia onshore, and it’s 15,000 kilometres long.

Effectively, you will have to build transmission almost twice a circumnavigation of this country. And somehow you’re going to do that in what time frame? Not very long—without easements, without approvals, without environmental approvals, without an approval from anyone else that you need; whether it’s local government or state government, it doesn’t matter. The money you have put aside, $20 billion—even AEMO says that is nowhere near enough. It does not cut it. You are tens of billions short. The only thing it can do is drive up the price of power, because it is a regulated cost paid for by electricity consumers. It will impact every single user in Australia. From small business to big business, from pensioners to those hardworking taxpayers, they are getting robbed by this Labor government.

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