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Monday, 21 June 2010
Page: 3799

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (5:04 PM) —As I was saying before the break, Family First support renewable energy because we believe renewable energy will be an important component of the future energy mix. Family First do make a clear distinction between our support for renewable energy and our views on an emissions trading scheme. Obviously, there should be a different driver between the two of them because the emissions trading scheme was a policy that was based on the assumption that increasing carbon dioxide emissions are the leading cause of global warming.

The bill that we have in front of us, the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010, will help to prop up the artificially created renewable energy market even further. In Australia, we generate electricity at a very low cost using coal as the main energy source. For example, coal-fired electricity is manufactured today at about $30 per megawatt hour but solar and wind renewable energy costs upwards of $60 to $70 a megawatt hour. As you can see, the cost of electricity will go up by 100 per cent to 200 per cent if only renewable energy sources are used to generate electricity to keep our lights on and to keep us warm in winter. That is double the cost.

If you asked Australian families, ‘Do you want renewable energy?’ most families would of course say yes. But if you asked Australian families, ‘Would you pay 100 per cent more—in some cases 200 per cent more—for your power bill to have 100 per cent renewable energy?’ most families would say, ‘No, we can’t afford it.’ Can you imagine how much the cost of food and goods and services would go up if electricity prices went up by 100 to 200 per cent? What about businesses that will need to pass on the impact of higher electricity prices? This will flow on again to food and other goods and services. Guess who pays again? That is right: Australian families, not the Rudd government. Australian families are already footing the bill for subsidising new renewable energy markets and now the Rudd government wants to introduce more changes to the renewable energy market that most likely will hurt families even more. Why should mums and dads foot this very expensive bill and effectively pay a subsidy to private companies as they embark on risky renewable energy schemes?

Mums and dads, not the Rudd government, are basically footing the bill by bearing all the investment risk of risky renewable energy schemes; yet, if there are any profits down the track, mums and dads get no benefit. It is the private investors who make the killing, not the mums and dads—who have to foot the bill. Why should mums and dads bear the risk? There is no accountability and it is a huge gamble. Why should the government put all the risk onto mums and dads, especially given that mums and dads will foot the expensive bills to prop up these private companies for years but will not stand a chance of reaping any of the benefits or profits? This is an important issue which the Rudd government has simply failed to address, and it is probably why the Rudd government has decided not to bear the risk itself but to pass it on to mums and dads.

Last year I stood up here and said that I was really concerned that the winners from these big renewable energy targets would be the bankers and brokers and the losers would be mums and dads who would be left to foot the bill. What is more, because of the renewable energy policies of this government we are seeing wind farms popping up all around Victoria—in many cases right in people’s backyards. How would you like to wake up every morning to the sight of a great, big wind turbine on your front lawn? I was told a week or so ago that we need to install two great, big wind turbines every day between now and 2020 just to reach the target. That is a heck of a lot of wind turbines, and they are coming to someone’s backyard soon.

Only last week I received an email about a lady who lives next to the Cape Bridgewater wind farm near Portland. She said that she and her family experience incredible headaches, nausea and dizziness from low-frequency noise, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as a result of having this wind farm so close to her property. Her entire family has to move away from home three nights a week in order to get some sleep at night. It is having a huge effect on their health, and this is from 29 turbines. Some people are surrounded by hundreds. What do the opposition have to say about this? Last year they stood up here in the chamber and beat their chests and said that the renewable energy bill was bad policy and that it was flawed, and then guess what? They voted for it anyway. That is right: they said one thing and did something else. What a cop-out. The National Party were the biggest disgrace of all. The National Party sold out the Australian public and sold out the bush when they supported the renewable energy targets. Today I listened with interest to one of the National Party senators giving the hint that they did not support the renewable energy targets last year. I might remind them that on Thursday, 20 August 2009, Senator Boswell stood up and said:

It was a difficult decision to support this legislation, because it does increase the cost of electricity.

That is what the National Party senator said in 2009. That is why they sold out the families in the bush when they supported the renewable energy targets last time: they knew that electricity prices would be going up. They sold out industries such as the food-processing industry, which now has to bear higher costs because electricity is more expensive. It is unreal that the Liberal and National parties have the gall to say they are worried about renewable energy targets when they are the only reason we have a 20 per cent renewable energy target in the first place. Family First is the party that had a commonsense approach to renewable energy. Unlike the coalition, we did not leave our principles, morals and values at the door. Family First voted against the renewable energy targets because the targets were wrong. The targets punished mums and dads and put all the risk on them. Now we have a bill which is going to help the big companies even more and will most likely hurt mums and dads as a result. I will not be selling out Australian families and the bush like the Liberal and National parties did.

I call on the coalition to show some backbone and ticker and stand up for what is right. These renewable energy targets will hurt ordinary Australian families and the bush. As I was saying before, to reach the targets of 20 per cent by 2020, you would need to build two wind turbines every day between now and 2020. Whose backyard do you want these in? Whose backyard does the National Party want these in? Whose backyard does the Liberal Party want these in? You cannot continue to stand up here and say that you are for families and for the bush and then sell them out in the chamber, like you did last year and like you are going to do again today. It is wrong.