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Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Page: 10044


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongLeader of the Opposition) (14:28): My question is to the Prime Minister. The government is now in its fifth year in office. In that time, seven coal-fired power stations have closed, removing over 4,000 megawatts of capacity. This is equivalent to nearly six million households' power, or more than enough energy to power every home in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Why has the government done nothing to replace the energy which has been progressively switched off since 2013?

Mr Chester interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport will cease interjecting. He's in an unfortunate spot. He's yelling into my ear as I try to hear the question.

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:29): The only complaint the Labor Party has had about the closure of coal-fired power stations is that there haven't been more of them. They've wanted to close more of them, and more frequently.

I made the observation earlier that the great mistake that has been made in energy policy has been to replace dispatchable baseload coal-fired power with variable renewable power. In the course of doing that, not one person on the Labor side in government, either in the federal government when they were here or in state governments, paid attention to the need for storage or backup. No attention was paid to that at all. It is my government that has set out to build the largest battery in the Southern Hemisphere, Snowy Hydro 2.0, which will make renewables reliable.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr TURNBULL: I hear all the laughing and carry-on on the other side. The Leader of the Opposition described Snowy Hydro 2.0, the largest single renewable project in the country's history since Snowy 1, as 'just a stunt for helicopter trips'.

Mr Dreyfus: That's right!

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs is warned!

Mr TURNBULL: There he is! The member for Isaacs calls out, 'That's right!' That's the vision you've got in the Labor Party.

So, basically, the Labor Party have learnt nothing about energy. Every step we've taken to benefit Australian consumers, they've either sneered at or opposed. When we called in the electricity retailers and secured, for thousands of Australian families, cuts of hundreds of dollars in their electricity bills, that was a 'stunt'. When we took action on gas, they claimed they had no responsibility for creating the problem until they finally fessed up to it.

And what about the limited merits review? This is a very interesting one. This is a case where the energy companies, the owners of the poles and wires, have been appealing to the courts, with the privilege not granted to other utilities, to get their rates that they can charge up and above what the regulator says. It has resulted in over $6 billion of higher charges. It's plainly wrong. We've brought in legislation to abolish it. Labor actually said they supported it. But, when it got to the Senate, what did they do? They kicked it off to a committee. They could have passed it through the Senate and given relief immediately.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

Mr TURNBULL: And then, when we go to AGL and say, 'Look, the most obvious way to avoid this blackout, to avoid Australians having to pay this blackout bill, is to keep that power station going for longer', they attack us over that too. They have no plan and no vision for Australia's energy. (Time expired)

Ms Plibersek interjecting

The SPEAKER: I have asked the member for Sydney to cease interjecting on a number of occasions, as I do most days. She is now warned.