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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7456

Mr IAN MACFARLANE (Groom) (12:03): I rise to support this motion which expresses concern about the South Australian government's decision to slash support for its remote areas energy scheme, which subsidises off-grid generation for isolated communities. I note the member for Wakefield is leaving before I have a chance to mention the subsidies that go into his electorate. I would have thought the member for Wakefield would have stood in total shoulder-to-shoulder support with the member for Grey, seeing as the industry in his electorate—he was not going to mention it, but I will mention it—the car industry, the General Motors Holden plant, is probably the most subsidised industry in Australia, and with very good reason. Where there is a need, industries should have support. You cannot choose between your children. You cannot say an industry in the seat of Wakefield, which absorbs billions of dollars of taxpayers' money in the forward estimates—

Mr Champion interjecting

Mr IAN MACFARLANE: billions—trust me, I gave them the money, I know exactly how much they get. Mr Deputy Speaker, you cannot say the car industry in Wakefield is worthy of subsidies but the opal industry in Coober Pedy is not.

Mr Champion: But there was reform as well.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE: Mr Deputy Speaker, I am happy to engage the member for Wakefield in a debate on the car industry. I suspect I know a little bit more about the economics of it than he does. If he wants to start, I am happy to accommodate him. What concerns me about the South Australian Remote Area Energy Supplies Scheme is that, at a time when we are seeing unprecedented rises in electricity prices around Australia, it will add 100 percent—perhaps 120 percent—to the cost of electricity for businesses in the regions in question. The member for Wakefield was quick to point out that households will not be affected, and don't we know that that is all that matters to the Labor Party! They are only ever worried about the vote; they are never worried about small business. The former Leader of the Labor Party put it simply when he said that the Labor Party was not a party that known to support small business, and isn't that the truth!

Government members interjecting

Mr Champion: You're verballing him now. He's not even in the building anymore; he's not here to defend himself.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE: They were his words; they were Kim Beazley's words. He said, 'The Labor Party is not a party of small business', and this is just another example of the Labor Party deserting business—in this case, in remote areas of South Australia.

Mr Champion: Maybe I should quote Black Jack McEwen to you.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE: I thought Black Jack actually supported industry in Australia.

Mr Champion: He loved subsidies—don't worry about that!

Mr McCormack: He loved farmers.

Mr IAN MACFARLANE: In amongst the chaos coming from the other side, I am going to persist with the point that the Labor Party is now saying to small business in remote areas that they need to pay triple, if not quadruple, the price of electricity that people have to pay in the inner-city Adelaide suburbs that the member for Wakefield tends to talk exclusively about. People in regional and remote Australia are part of the wealth production of Australia. You cannot say, 'If you live in the city, you're a better wealth producer than if you live in the country.' I would suggest that the member for Wakefield, when he goes up to Coober Pedy, calls in on Olympic Dam on the way back and sees how much wealth is produced there. I suspect it is a little bit more than he gives them credit for.

The insidious nature of electricity price rises lies in the fact that there is very little that people can do to avoid using electricity. Those opposite suggest that people just turn off the lights, save electricity and be more efficient. But I suggest that the prices for electricity that people in remote areas are already paying means that they are exceptionally efficient with electricity; they do not leave extra lights on. The next thing those opposite will be saying is that those people should turn their air conditioners off, but I am sure that when the member for Wakefield takes up the member for Grey's invitation and travels up there on a moderately warm day of around 45 degrees he will be tonguing to walk into a room where the air conditioning is switched on. I suggest that the owners of that room put a little coin slot in the door so that the member for Wakefield can pay his share of what he thinks is fair to charge people in regional areas for electricity.

It is worth noting that in Western Australia the state government provides a subsidy to remote customers of around 20c per kilowatt hour. Even the Labor governments in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Tasmania see the value in doing this. I commend this motion to the House. (Time expired)