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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 531

Energy Security


Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (14:10): My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Why did the Australian Energy Market Operator, the federal regulator that reports to this minister, force blackouts on South Australians last night when there was sufficient spare gas generation capacity at Pelican Point—

Honourable members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Port Adelaide will resume his seat. Members on my right will cease interjecting. The Minister for Trade and the Minister for Health—

Mr Frydenberg: Why don't you do that again?

The SPEAKER: I would like to hear it in silence. The member for Port Adelaide has the call.

Mr BUTLER: Thank you again, Speaker. My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Why did the Australian Energy Market Operator, the federal regulator that reports to this minister, force blackouts on South Australians last night when there was sufficient spare gas generation capacity at Pelican Point, which the federal regulator refused to turn on?






Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongMinister for the Environment and Energy) (14:11): Christmas was seven weeks ago and I am getting my present now! I mean, seriously! As the Prime Minister just said, the problem in South Australia was a lack of supply. The fact is—

Mr Dreyfus: You are delusional.

The SPEAKER: The member for Isaacs will leave under 94(a).

The member for Isaacs then left the chamber.

The SPEAKER: I say to all members that I cannot allow continued disruptions of question time. They decide whether they leave under 94(a) by their actions. The minister has the call.

Mr FRYDENBERG: Wind power fell to 2½ per cent of supply yesterday in South Australia. At times, it can provide up to 80 per cent. So the whole problem was the failure to provide sufficient wind. The only wind blowing in South Australia is the hot air of the Labor Party. I suppose the member for Port Adelaide thinks that the market operator could have fixed the blackout last September, where 1.7 million people lost their power. I suppose he thinks the operator could have fixed the blackout last December. I suppose he thinks the operator could have fixed the blackout in January. And now we have got one in February.

The member for Port Adelaide asked a serious question about what the market operator thinks about the system in South Australia. The reality is—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr FRYDENBERG: This what the market operator said last year before the blackout:

Initial challenges are more acute in South Australia, due to the combination of its generation mix …

The fact is that they have the world's highest proportion—

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order?

Mr Burke: On direct relevance. The question goes to a decision taken by the market regulator yesterday. The comments made last year cannot be relevant to the refusal to turn on additional power yesterday.

The SPEAKER: I have listened carefully to the minister and to the point of order. He is a fair way through the answer now. He is well within his rights to refer to comments by the regulator, but the Manager Of Opposition Business is correct in saying that whilst he is able to do that the question also asked about actions yesterday. The minister will need to address himself to those or wind up his answer.

Mr FRYDENBERG: The reality is that the market operator and the market condition actually appointed to the failure in South Australia because there is this increase in the generation of intermittent power. But I spoke yesterday and this morning to the market operator. You have not. The market operator has made it very clear he disputes Jay Weatherill and the federal Labor Party trying to blame the umpire for the bad game that they have played when it comes to South Australia's energy needs.

We all know, in Jay Weatherill's words, this was a big experiment. This big experiment has failed the people of South Australia. They pay on average more than 40 per cent more than the national average for electricity. We have seen big energy users be pushed out of business as a result of this experiment. We have seen these blackouts across the state, which have occurred multiple times. The fault lies with the Labor Party, their ideological approach and their refusal to support blue-collar jobs because they want to win green votes in the city.