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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 54


Senator LAMBIE (Tasmania) (16:01): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Education and Training (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Lambie today relating to the Renewable Energy Target.

The renewable energy scheme, or the RET, almost shut down heavy industry in Tasmania and caused the loss of up to 10,000 jobs and billions of dollars to our economy. One of the reasons I resigned from Palmer United and became an independent was because of a poor RET deal endorsed by former US Vice President Al Gore. The RET system effectively puts in place a $3 billion tax, paid by every electricity user in Australia, and is a direct threat to the financial security of every Tasmanian business, worker and family, without one benefit or positive effect on the world's average temperature or the environment.

Mr Abbott got it wrong for so long, supporting the RET, but he has changed his mind and is finally right: the RET scheme should be scrapped. The government must do everything in its power to ensure that Australia's electricity, gas and power prices—given all the natural wealth and resources we have been blessed with—are the cheapest in the world. If we do not do that, one thing is absolutely guaranteed: Australian workers, wages and living conditions will decrease rapidly in comparison to the rest of the world. The only hope our grandchildren and great grandchildren have of enjoying the relatively high living standards Australians experience today is to have the cheapest and most reliable electricity and power in the world. That will allow our businesses to make healthy profits while employing Australian workers and competing with overseas businesses, who are not paying their workers the same rates as Australian workers. These overseas competitors to our businesses do not have to match the high and expensive environmental and workplace safety standards that we have in our country. Compared to Australian businesses, these overseas competitors underpay their workers and cut corners on workplace health and safety and on environmental standards. The only way our manufacturing and primary industries will be able to compete against the rest of the world is to use the natural resources we have been gifted and blessed with—coal, gas and uranium—to provide guaranteed reliable, cheap power for our pensioners, families and businesses.

In Tasmania, both the Liberal state government and the Labor opposition party have badly and incompetently managed our hydro system, which of course is a reliable renewable source of baseload power. Indeed, hydro is the best source of renewable power, because it is reliable, not intermittent, and able to provide cheap electricity. Tasmania almost ran out of electricity because of criminally poor management of the levels of water in our hydro storage dams by our Liberal state government. Because all the water was let out of our dams, we were forced to set up and run diesel generators—according to a letter I have received from the Acting Premier—at an estimated cost of $64 million and supplementary gas generation at an estimated cost of $47 million. Under the current RET system, the majority of our state's energy, even though it is renewable, does not count and is not allowed to contribute to the national total for the renewable energy target, so we have never been properly paid for the renewable energy that is generated in Tasmania. We have been dudded billions of dollars by the Liberal and Labor parties, who set up and run the RET system, but our businesses have all been made to pay tens of millions a year in an unfair RET tax.

Sadly, a fact that is never acknowledged in the RET debate—and that I tried to highlight in my questions to the minister today—is this: even if mainland Australia caught up to Tasmania, with 95 per cent renewable energy, it would not stop the world's climate from changing. Our RET system and forcing Australian pensioners, businesses, workers and families to pay, artificially, an extra $3 billion a year for their energy will have zero effect on the world's climate and the world's average temperature, which sits between 14.5 and 15 degrees Celsius. Geological records and ice core samples show that world's climate naturally changes over hundreds and thousands of years, and in the past the world's average temperature has been much hotter and much colder than today's average temperature, without any input from man-made CO2. Australia's RET and its expensive and unreliable energy, and forcing Tasmanian pensioners to pay more for their electricity, will not stop climate change. Let us scrap the RET, save Australian jobs and reduce our cost of living for pensioners, businesses, workers and families. That needs to be done now.

Question agreed to.