PMB – Energy

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Mr PITT (Hinkler): Deputy Speaker Gee, as you know, this is an important issue for the people that we represent, because right now they cannot pay their power bills. It doesn’t matter whether you are representing the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker; it doesn’t matter whether you are representing a large organisation like Alcoa; it doesn’t matter whether you are in the outback, on the coast or in the city—quite simply the cost of electricity in this country is far too high. We find ourselves surrounded by natural resources, by gas, by coal and by water. We can utilise those resources, as we have done in the past, to generate cheap and reliable electricity. But we find ourselves surrounded by decisions, particularly driven by state ideology, which are not based on engineering and physics.

South Australia is the prime example. You do not need to go and reflect; you do not need to engage a consultant. You can simply look at South Australia, which is the test case for this nation. A 50 per cent target for intermittent wind and solar has resulted in the most expensive electricity in the world, and it is unreliable. As an engineer, I know one thing: if you can find me a solar panel that will generate in the dark, I will be 100 per cent supportive. But what we find now is that the mix of our generation capacity simply has not been planned well enough, and all governments should accept responsibility for those decisions and those errors.

We find ourselves in a position where we have an ageing fleet of coal-generated power stations across the country, and we should absolutely place the responsibility for that where it lies. That responsibility lies with state governments. This is not a Federation issue. The National Electricity Market, in my view, has been a complete failure. It has not driven new investment, but it has made some organisations and some state governments very, very rich. They have robbed money from consumers. Look at the Queensland state government: they own every retailer in town north of Gympie. There is only one. It is owned by the Queensland state government. They own all of the poles and wires. They own 70 per cent of the generators. They are robbing $1.1 billion every single year from the pockets of electricity consumers in my home state, in my home town and in my electorate. They should be accountable and responsible for those decisions. They set the price. It is not the federal government.

We find ourselves in the position where action needs to be taken. I commend the Minister for Energy, Angus Taylor, on the decisions he has taken already to focus on price and reliability, because without them the lights will go out. It is that simple. I spoke in this place in 2015 against the Renewable Energy Target for a couple of very simple reasons. My view—and can I say in my considered, educated, skilled and qualified view—was that it would put up the price of electricity and it would be paid for by the poorest people in this country: the ones who cannot afford to put solar on their rooftops, the ones who rent, the ones who do not get the opportunity to reduce the price that they pay every single year. And that has been the case. We find ourselves in a position now where our economy, where our nation, where our businesses, where our people and where our seniors cannot afford to pay their bills. That is not helping us to drive jobs growth. That is not helping the nation, it is not helping the economy, it is not helping businesses and it is certainly not helping our exporters.

I have a foundry in my electorate which has been there for over 125 years. The biggest issue they have right now, in terms of their viability, is the ability to pay their power and gas bill. They have been training apprentices and trainees for over a century. They have been the driver of people with skills and with trades into our economy for over 100 years, and they find themselves on the brink of disaster because they cannot afford to continue to pay.

So in this place we need for put aside our ideological views. We need to stand up for what is necessary to build a better country, and that is cheap energy. Intermittent wind and solar have their place, and there are lots of places where they will help and reduce the cost, particularly where there is an engagement, for example, with diesel generation, because that is a stored fuel. But we should take those opportunities where the physics and engineering say that it will drive down the price. You cannot run this country on an intermittent supply through wind and solar. It doesn’t matter what you may or may not believe in terms of your ideals—this is purely engineering and physics, and we have to make decisions based around those things. As a government, we need to decide how to drive that, and if the states don’t want to get on board then we should dismantle the National Electricity Market.

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