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Tuesday, 5 February 2013
Page: 118


Mr MURPHY (Reid) (22:14): Members may recall the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray finds himself in a time loop, interminably waking up at 6 am on 2 February, no matter what he did the previous day to change his circumstances. As I watch the endless repeats of the opposition's tactics, I wonder if they are trapped in their own version of Groundhog Day. All we ever hear is an unending repetition of the same complaints, the same misleading statements and the same failure to understand that the Australian people have moved on from the Howard era.

Of all the changes that have occurred in the world in recent years, the huge and accelerating shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy as a means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions is amongst the most significant. Yet, if you listen to the opposition and their friends in state governments, this major shift is of no consequence and should even be wound back—because, if you believe the Leader of the Opposition, there is no firm evidence of global warming.

The rest of the world thinks otherwise. Recent figures for growth in renewable energy from the United States Energy Information Administration show that renewable energy output grew by 14.4 per cent from 2010 to 2011 and provided 12.7 per cent of net US electricity generation, an increase of 24.7 per cent over 2009, while electricity from coal declined by 4.2 per cent. Compared with the first three quarters of 2010, solar power in the United States expanded in 2011 by 46.5 per cent and wind power by 27.1 per cent. The international and domestic markets for polluting fossil fuels will decline, just as the market for renewable energy technologies, such as photovoltaic and solar thermal generators—areas in which Australian researchers lead—will continue to grow.

Similar figures apply in Australia, despite the actions of the backward-looking governments of Queensland, where solar energy plants have had their funding cut, and of New South Wales and Victoria, where, at the behest of the fossil fuel industry, obstructions have been placed in the way of wind power capacity. According to the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, the consumption of renewable energy, excluding biomass, recorded a growth of 21 per cent in Australia in 2010-2011. Part of that increase is from wind power, the output of which has grown by about 30 per cent each year over the last decade. Wind generated power now accounts for one-fifth of South Australia's electricity consumption and is growing.

The Australian Energy Market Operator, the AEMO, which manages Australia's electricity supply, recently investigated the feasibility of meeting, by either 2030 or 2050, 100 per cent of the demand for electricity from renewables. The AEMO found that the current national market for electricity is around 200 million megawatt hours and that, even with conservative assumptions, such as excluding national parks and following local planning laws, Australia can generate around 500 times that amount using renewable energy sources available in eastern and south-eastern Australia. Andrew Want, chair of the Australian Solar Thermal Energy Association, said that the AEMO report reinforces other studies, such as the 2010 Australian energy resource assessment, produced by Geoscience Australia and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, which found that Australia's annual incoming solar energy is equivalent to 10,000 times the nation's energy consumption. The Energy Research Institute at the University of Melbourne has found that we can replace the nation's fossil-fuelled energy system using existing commercially viable renewable energy technology within 10 years.

As the member for Wentworth has said:

I believe our long-term global goal is to very substantially reduce our emissions, a goal that will require almost all of our stationary energy to be produced from zero or near-zero emission sources.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that the present leadership of the opposition understands either the urgency of the problem of carbon dioxide emissions or that it is possible to do anything effective about it.