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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4174


Mr LINDSAY (1:38 PM) —We have the government wanting to impose a great big new tax on the mining industry and drive it out of the country and we have the member for Newcastle bringing back the ETS, which will do a similar thing. Now we have two great big new taxes, which the current government wants to impose on the Australian community, driving a dagger into the heart of the sector that most supports the Australian economy. It is extraordinary.

However, there is some positive news, which I hope the government will take note of, in relation to the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 and related bills before the House. Today Townsville Enterprise and MITEZ, the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone, have issued a media release announcing the solution to the north-west’s energy needs. It is a renewable energy solution, which is called for in the bill we are discussing before the parliament today. It is truly a magic solution to what is needed to support both the government’s and the opposition’s quest to have a 20 per cent renewable source of energy by 2020. North Queensland leads the way again, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, and we have the solution. Of course it does not come without the need for a few dollars and I will go into that in due course.

The bills we are debating today create Australia’s newest renewable energy commitment. It will be in two segments: the large-scale renewable energy and the small-scale renewable energy schemes. The large-scale target is obviously for accredited power stations including wind, solar, biomass and hydro. The small-scale scheme will provide small-scale technology certificates for the installation of solar panels, solar hot water systems, wind turbines, small hydro systems, heat pumps et cetera. The certificates generated will continue to be managed by the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator. Of course the bills contain penalties for bodies who do not meet the requirements of this legislation.

I want to tell the House about the coalition’s achievements on renewable energy. The former government, of which I was a member, introduced Australia’s first MRET, mandatory renewable energy target. At the 2007 election the coalition affirmed our commitment to what is in the bill today, a renewable energy target of 20 per cent. Our credibility is there for everyone to see. The Rudd government on the other hand not surprisingly have broken a number of promises in this area and have created great uncertainty within the industry. I think so far the Rudd government have broken 47 of their promises. It is an extraordinary track record. Of course it does not surprise us that there are broken promises in the renewable energy area as well.

We had an $8,000 solar rebate, which was an excellent initiative and very popular. Yet in the 2008 budget the Labor government decided to means test it. That was just the first of a number of broken promises in this area by the government. In June 2009 the Rudd government scrapped the rebate entirely without giving the industry or Australian households any notice. And we have seen that happen again in the Home Insulation Program where the program was scrapped without any notice, and businesses have been going out the door backwards and failing because the government was unable to manage that program effectively. In June 2009, Labor also scrapped without notice the coalition’s successful Remote Renewable Power Generation Program. This program had worked to help provide solar or wind power units to Australian families and businesses not connected to the power grid. It was such a shame to see that taken away from those people who needed the support of that program.

The uncertainty for the energy sector was compounded in the Rudd government’s approach to renewable energy legislation in 2009. When the government presented this legislation in 2009, you will remember it demanded it only be considered with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation. It was coupled to that bill. The coalition reasonably and sensibly proposed that the two different legislative packages should be separated. The government stood its ground and, of course, after more backflips eventually realised it could not hold the passage of the renewable energy legislation hostage to the fate of its CPRS. It adopted the coalition’s amendments to decouple the legislation—and well done in the Senate. I guess that is an indication of the effectiveness of the Australian Senate.

The renewable energy package was presented to parliament in 2009. The coalition successfully made a number of amendments to the legislation. As well as decoupling the legislation, the coalition sought an exemption for the aluminium industry. There is now a 90 per cent exemption for new renewable energy targets in this sector. The government also accepted our proposal—sensibly—to ensure that heat pumps installed in homes are included in the renewable energy target at the current allocation rate.

What is the coalition’s position? This legislation is currently before the Senate economics committee, which is due to report by June 2010. The coalition still have a number of concerns about the legislation. It is important to get renewable energy legislation right. The government should wait to hear the recommendations of the Senate inquiry and listen to the concerns of the energy industry.

I would like to take you back to the good news I alluded to at the beginning of this contribution—the blueprint for future development of the North West Queensland Mineral Province based on the Mount Isa to Townsville  Economic Zone. There has been terrific work done by MITEZ and TEL. This blueprint has all of the facts on which the recommendations are based, from which the government can clearly take heart that what is being proposed is in fact what will happen if these recommendations are accepted. Analysis by BIS Shrapnel estimates that the North West Queensland Mineral Province could provide scope for 900 megawatts of renewable energy projects by 2015-16. According to the same report, the entire clean energy corridor in North Queensland could end up providing 3,750 gigawatts of clean energy per year, which would be eight per cent of the government’s renewable energy target as proposed in the legislation before us. But more than that, by 2020 this could even rise to 20 per cent. The entire renewable energy target proposed in this legislation could be supplied by the North West Queensland Mineral Province energy corridor between Townsville and Mount Isa. What a great opportunity for Australia. What a great opportunity for North Queensland.

The north-west has significant geothermal sources out near Mount Isa. It has some of the best solar radiation sources in Australia. It has biomass which can produce electricity and it has very significant wind in western Queensland. However, we need a 275 kilovolt transmission line to connect Townsville to Cloncurry. In that way, power could be fed into the grid and into the National Electricity Market from all along that corridor. Also, power could be taken off that transmission line to supply energy to the various major mining projects along the way, and there are many of them. It is a no-brainer. The state government particularly needs to invest in a transmission line so that this whole concept can become a reality and what a magnificent reality it would be.

The projects I am talking about would generate 1,200 new jobs and deliver $190 million in direct and indirect output by 2015-16. By 2019-20 the output would be around $450 million. Creating these renewable energy projects would go a long way to meeting the energy demands of North Queensland, a rapidly growing area. These projects could make a direct contribution to achieving the 20 per cent renewable energy target. One of the most important projects for renewal energy investment is the construction of a 275 kilovolt AC transmission line.

The chief economic development bodies in the north-west—Townsville Enterprise and the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone—along with all regional councils and the Queensland Resources Council rate these projects as a top priority for investment to ensure the region continues to prosper and contribute its full potential to the Australian economy. In that sense, I have arranged meetings with Townsville Enterprise and MITEZ here in Canberra next Monday to allow the groups to make a presentation to the government and to the opposition—the alternative government. I thank the ministers and shadow ministers who have allocated time to make sure they hear about this magnificent project. A letter from Richard Mackie, General Manager Australia-South Africa Windlab Systems, sent to the Mount Isa to Townsville Economic Zone Inc. states:

Windlab Systems has identified an area with very good potential for wind farming north of Hughenden in the Townsville to Mt Isa corridor … in the long term, benefits to the region could be even greater as there is likely to be enough area with a good wind resource to host well in excess of 600MW.

That is an enormous amount of power. It continues:

Construction of an AC electrical connection between Townsville and Mt Isa is however essential to realising the economic benefits of the proposed windfarm. The current closest connection point at almost approximately 250 kms from the project site is prohibitive to the project.

That is why we need the new transmission line to go across the north. We also have a letter from Marshall Mackay, CEO of Australian PhytoFuel to MITEZ:

We are aware of a number of other renewable energy projects that have the potential to operate along a corridor if the AC Link is implemented. Individually, these projects, including PhytoFuel, will add marginally to the energy needs of the region in combination they have the potential to supply a significant proportion of the areas to energy requirement. In the absence of the AC Link none of this potential will be realised.

So the clear message to the government, to the alternative government and to the state government is that this corridor can produce 20 per cent of renewable energy required under the legislation we are debating here today, but to do so it needs a transition line to be built from Townsville to Mount Isa.

In a press release dated today headed ‘The north offers the government renewable energy option’, Townville Enterprise make it very clear that there is a compelling case for the installation of an AC transmission line between Townsville and Mount Isa. That is why they have that particular project as their top priority in the development of the north. The North West Queensland Mineral Province could become a world leader in renewable energy generation if we take up this green option to increase the supply of power between Townsville and Mount Isa. This is vital. The government must listen to what the north is saying and I certainly commend this project to my colleagues on both sides of the House. I hope that we will see this in the not-too-distant future so that we can produce all of this green energy and satisfy the renewable energy target that the parliament will likely pass later today.