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Tuesday, 14 February 2017
Page: 951


Mr CONROY (Shortland) (15:41): I am glad the minister is here because I have got a simple question for him: does he even turn up to cabinet anymore, after his last disastrous foray into an emissions intensity scheme which lasted 24 hours before he was rolled by the true powerhouse of this government, the Deputy Prime Minister? Seriously!

Ms Macklin: And the member for Warringah!

Mr CONROY: And the member for Warringah, and Senator Bernardi. Seriously, I have had flights that have lasted longer than his policy proposals have lasted in this government! And that is truly tragic for this nation. It is tragic for this nation because the events of last week have demonstrated that we need a serious discussion about energy policy and this mob is incapable of providing it. We saw AEMO's failure in South Australia to direct the turning on of the Pelican Point second unit, which would have avoided load-shedding. We saw AEMO force curtailment of the Tomago aluminium smelter—a smelter that uses the equivalent of one million homes' worth of electricity—endangering the jobs of 1,000 workers. My friend the member for Paterson will talk about this later, but I spoke to the CEO on Friday afternoon, and he was gravely worried about the future of that smelter because of the lack of energy policy by this government.

This is how serious this debate is. We have 14 groups calling for a genuine policy discussion in this area, including the Aluminium Council, the Energy Council, AiG and BCA. But all we get from that side is bringing lumps of coal into question time, and inaudible guff from the Deputy Prime Minister. We do not get a serious policy debate because all they care about is petty politics.

We, on the other side, have a well-thought-out, reasoned policy around an emissions intensity scheme—a policy backed by the Australian Energy Market Commission, AEMO, CSIRO, the chief scientist, state governments, AiG, AGL, Origin, the big energy users, Danny Price and the Grattan Institute. Who supports their policy of building new coal-fired power stations with public subsidies? Well, I have got six names: the MCA, the DLP, the IPA, Ray Hadley, Tim Blair, and Malcolm Roberts and the tin-foil-hat brigade! Oh, and The Australian newspaper. Those are the sum supporters of this mob's awful policy. And the tragedy is: not a single commercial player will invest in coal-fired power stations in this country because it is uneconomical; it is a dud investment that will not last.

What is the result of this policy uncertainty? What does Danny Price say in modelling commissioned by the Australian Energy Market Commission, the AEMC—a government body commissioning modelling from the government's own favoured energy sector modeller? He found that their policy would cost $15 billion more for consumers—$15 billion more! And when we saw the minister's policy backflip after 24 hours, after being rolled by the Deputy Prime Minister, he said: 'This shows a lack of spine.' He means that they, the Liberal Party, are the party of increasing electricity prices and reduced energy security. And that is the great tragedy of this mob. By playing petty politics, by not being serious about this, all we have is higher energy prices and greater uncertainty. And the fact is: not another power station will be built in this country.

Mr Butler interjecting

Mr CONROY: And the shadow minister reminds me that their great white hope is now storage technology through ARENA. This mob spent the last three years trying to abolish ARENA, and now it is their great white hope. All they do now is call out individual members on this side as somehow betraying workers. I will not be lectured by this mob on support for workers. I will not be lectured by the Liberal Party on how to support workers and their jobs. This mob are a fraud.

I am proud to represent a region that was built on coal. My neighbours are coalminers—I can see the biggest coal-fired power station in this country from my home—and they know change is coming. I talk to workers in the energy sector every week, and they know that not a single new coal-fired power station will be built in this country, and that is why we need policy certainty.

Mr Craig Kelly: Build more coal!

Mr CONROY: That is why we need sensible policy discussion, where we look after workers and communities. All we get over there is empty rhetoric from climate change fossils like the member for Hughes, who does not accept climate change is coming. In the end, who will suffer? It will be the workers and communities of this country who will suffer because of this policy malaise. They are the ones who will see greater blackouts because the government, led by a shell of a man, will not engage in a serious economic policy debate about energy policy in this country. Sadly, our country will be poorer for it.