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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7890

Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (15:25): I certainly wouldn't accuse the government of being flat-footed on energy; in fact, they've been very fleet of foot, because they've had so many policies over the last couple of years. I think we have to go back and look at some of the history of this. We know that, as Prime Minister, Tony Abbott promised that bills would reduce by $550, yet we know how much they've gone up under this government. We know that under the time line that we can see from Finkel, the government and the Prime Minister and indeed the energy minister were out there advocating for this. They were in the party room advocating for this. They did another PowerPoint presentation advocating for Finkel. It sounds like they went back yesterday and leapt onto their latest plan. We also recall the gas crisis that we've had over the last couple of months that still the government haven't solved. We also saw them, a couple of months ago, talking about Liddell and saying that Liddell power station had to be extended. So they certainly haven't been flat-footed; they've had plenty of policies, but none of them have actually worked.

The saddest thing I've heard in the last 48 hours about this policy is them saying that it was carried by acclamation. It was this mob that clapped this policy. And it's a fig leaf of a policy. It is an absolute joke. They have no credibility. And they've had to roll out the board to give them some credibility because they have done so much damage to their own standing on policy on this issue.

I think it's worth looking at what their motivation is in this. Effectively, in trying to come up with a policy, they've had zero regard for families; they've had zero regard for jobs. But what they have focused on in this policy is keeping the right-wingers on their backbench happy and coming up with a political message that they want to use for an election campaign. This has got nothing about long-term policy for Australian families and jobs. They're all trying to keep their backbench happy and come up with a political message. That is actually what they have been focused on with this policy.

The fact that they've had to attempt to use the security board to provide that fig leaf of credibility shows you how desperate they are. But that's actually the start of the unravelling, because it has been those members that have undermined their claims on costs; it has been the security board members that have undermined their claims when it comes to modelling. This is why the policy will start to unravel, and this is why those right-wingers on the backbench—those ones who are pro coal; those ones who want to live in a previous lifetime—are going to start to realise that they've been hoodwinked, and that is when these problems of the government are going to emerge. The Nationals will be the ringleaders in this, but so will some of those backbenchers in the Liberal Party. So it's a policy that was designed to basically hoodwink the backbench—to give those pro-coal backbenchers something that they wanted to hear so that they could back this policy in. It actually is a very sad outcome that they just sat there and clapped this through without questioning the modelling behind it or the details, because obviously those have been lacking.

It really is a farce when you think that, in question time, the Prime Minister wouldn't even guarantee a 50c-per-week reduction in 2020. Senator Brandis, heroically, tried to deflect that question. But, in question time in the House of Representatives, Prime Minister Turnbull wouldn't even guarantee that 50c reduction. To make matters worse, the very people who advised the government on the new energy policy say that there hasn't been any modelling done to gauge the real price impact of their plan. That just shows you how farcical this is and how desperate this government is.

We also know that for many months now the Labor opposition have had the hand of bipartisanship out and have been prepared to work on a clean energy target, and it speaks volumes that this government wouldn't entertain that. They were dictated to by their backbench. They did not want to end the climate wars. They did not want to have a long-term bipartisan policy that would benefit families, that would benefit jobs and that would benefit the economy. Their focus is on politics. The focus is on trying to keep the backbench happy. But it is going to unravel, because the motivation for this policy is not the Australian people. It is not about providing the outcomes that Australian families and communities need, nor is it focusing on jobs and reliability.

Question agreed to.