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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 489

Regional Australia: Energy


Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:55): My question is to the Minister for Regional Development, Senator Nash. Can the minister outline what the coalition government is doing to ensure that regional businesses and households have access to cheap and reliable energy into the future?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:56): I thank Senator Back for his question and acknowledge his very keen interest in energy issues in Western Australia. The first thing this government did was get rid of Labor's unfair carbon tax, which hit the hip pockets of businesses and households across regional Australia harder than anywhere else. This coalition government is going to have a practical, balanced, sensible approach to reliable, affordable and secure energy supply. That is what we are about on this side of the chamber. Unlike those on the other side, only those of us on this side of the chamber and not Labor are going to be focused on energy security. We have said that the national energy policy should be technology agnostic. It is security and affordability that matters, not how you deliver it—something, unfortunately, those on the other side continue to fail to understand. Unlike Labor, the coalition government is listening to people out there in those communities across this country who are telling us that they are worried about their cost of living, and it is only this coalition government that is going to help them alleviate their concerns and do something, unlike those opposite in the Labor Party. We are making sure that we have appropriate targets so that we can reduce our emissions and at the same time ensure we have a reliable, affordable, secure energy supply.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator NASH: They are jumping up and down on the other side now, because they know that their policy is going to do nothing for the country and is going to do nothing to give energy security to regional communities.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Back, a supplementary question.




Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:58): I do thank the minister for that comprehensive answer. Is the minister aware of any risks or impediments to delivering the energy policies that regional communities need to thrive and to prosper?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:58): I certainly am, and it will come as no surprise to those on this side of the chamber when I say that the risk and impediment is the Labor Party, with their ideologically driven 50 per cent renewable energy target. They do not care about energy security—they do not care about the people whose cost of living is going to go up. They want all coal-fired power stations to be shut down. Indeed, the opposition climate change and energy spokesmen, Mark Butler, was quoted as saying that Australia needs a mechanism for the orderly and planned closure of coal-fired power stations. What is that going to do to costs? We see the ideologically driven Western Australian Labor Party moving towards a 50 per cent target—apparently now they have backed down, but who can believe that? Who can believe that WA is not going to head towards that 50 per cent target? Under Labor our children are going to be doing their homework by candlelight.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Back, a final supplementary question.



Senator BACK (Western Australia) (14:59): Is the minister aware of any alternative energy policies and how these might impact on regional communities?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:59): I am indeed. Those alternative energy policies from Labor are going to have a massive negative impact on regional communities. What do abattoirs need? They need power. What do milk processors in regional communities need? They need power. Colleagues, what do wineries need in regional communities? They need power. What do bakeries need in regional communities? They need power. What do schools in regional communities need? They need power. What do hospitals in regional communities need? They need power. Who is not delivering it? The Labor Party. The only industry the Labor Party is supporting is the candle making industry and even they need power!

Senator Brandis: On that fine note, I ask that further questions be placed upon the Notice Paper.