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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 739


Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (15:07): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister's previous answer and I also refer to The Australian newspaper this morning which reveals that the highest price rises for electricity over the past decade occurred in the three states with the highest reliance on coal power and the lowest reliance on renewables: New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. How does the Prime Minister explain these massive price rises when he cannot blame renewable energy?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (15:07): I thank the honourable member for his latest hiccup on energy. The honourable member is trying to apologise feebly and shift blame away from what is a fundamental failure of the Labor government in South Australia. Let's be very clear about this. It is obvious from the AEMO's work; it has been obvious for a long time. If you go back to the work of the South Australia renewables council you will see this point about the vulnerability of the network as more renewables are introduced. It has been flagged for a long time, but nothing has been done by the Labor government. They put all of their hopes on continuing to suck more electricity out of Victoria, which ironically is generated by burning brown coal, the most emissions-intensive form of baseload generation in Australia. The reality is that this has been a failure of Labor Party government. It has been an exercise in incompetence, and all of the excuses in the world cannot get Labor off the hook.

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume his seat for a second. The member for Port Adelaide.

Mr Butler: Thank you, Speaker. I waited a while, but I wonder whether the Prime Minister could be directly relevant and might touch on the price rises in those three states.

The SPEAKER: I thank the member for Port Adelaide. The Prime Minister is in order. The member's question certainly did have a specific element, but it also referred to previous answers and the Prime Minister is on the policy topic.

Mr TURNBULL: Thank you, Mr Speaker. South Australia has, as the honourable member knows, the most expensive electricity in Australia and, worse still, it is the least reliable. It is not only putting businesses at risk and jobs at risk because it is so expensive; the fact that it is not reliable means that businesses have to invest in generator capacity—as they said when I was in the member for Grey's electorate in Port Lincoln—as though we were living in a Third World country where you have to invest millions of dollars in diesel backup generators to ensure that you have your fridges going and your business going. It has been a colossal failure of government by the South Australian Labor Party. How did they get into that problem? It is very simple: they introduced a very large percentage of wind power into the state, they failed to recognise that it has different characteristics to baseload power, they did not put in place the storage or the backup mechanisms to support it, and, frankly, they acted mindlessly and carelessly and incompetently, and South Australians are paying the cost. That is exactly the same approach that the Labor Party has taken federally with their reduction targets, with their renewable targets. They have not thought this through at all. They have demonstrated yet again their incompetence, their negligence, their complacency and the fact that they will always put politics and ideology ahead of the management and the careful discipline of government that Australians expect from those who seek to lead them.