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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 113

Mr BROADBENT (4:19 PM) —I will come to the issue of the action the federal government has taken, and that may enlighten the member for Adelaide. However, I put to you that a leopard never changes its spots, will not change its spots and cannot change its spots. I refer to the member for Kingsford Smith—a nice guy, a good bloke—who is affable and friendly and has shown himself to be highly talented inside and outside this building. However, as the member for Adelaide said, ‘given power’ will he not remember his roots? Will he not remember the previous positions he has taken on matters of the environment? Will he not remember his documented attitudes? Will he not remember the zeal he had for the environment? Will he not remember that from those positions he is currently at odds with his own party? Will he not remember those things if he ever deigns to become the minister for the environment in a new government?

I raise that because my constituents in McMillan and the constituents of Gippsland are concerned about exactly those issues: with his close relationship with the Greens and their policies, what will happen if the member for Kingsford Smith becomes the minister for the environment? People in Gippsland may not all work in a power station, but every one of them knows somebody who does. They know that they are the generations of people who have supplied the baseload power for Victoria and now for Australia. They feel threatened by the member for Kingsford Smith’s previous attitudes and his attitudes today. When you set a target you need to know the consequences of that target for the nation, for the nation builders of Gippsland and for the generations not only of the past but into the future. The Greens keep saying, ‘The dirty coal power station at Hazelwood,’ but it is the only power station at the moment that is recycling all its water out of the Hazelwood pond.

Let us start looking after and appreciating the assets that we have. The assets are those workers who are connected to the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council, and I know some of you will be listening today and if you are not listening, because you are about to do your shift, your wife, your friend, your daughter or your son will be listening. The banner holder for the Australian Labor Party is the member for Kingsford Smith, Peter Garrett. I tell you the workers shake in their shoes because they know that the Labor Party and the Greens have a mind-set to close down Hazelwood power station, put restrictions on Loy Yang and rely on the gas-fired power station that is running practically full time now because of a lack of water in the Latrobe River.

The Labor Party, under the member for Kingsford Smith, would be zealots and the workers know it and they are concerned about it. When the workers come to vote they will let the Labor Party know in no uncertain terms that they see what was their own constituency, what is their natural voting pattern, as an actual threat to their jobs, because the Labor Party has set a target without heeding the consequences of what it would mean to the power industry in Victoria, in the Hunter or at Collie in Western Australia.

These workers know and their management knows that their jobs are on the line on this issue and we have to have regard for that. This economy, as the member for Wentworth, the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said, has to be managed. It does not just happen; it has to be managed. A major part of the growth of the economy in Australia has been the relative access to reasonably priced electricity for every household. There is a lot we can do. There is always more to do as a nation in reducing our consumption of power and resources. I am sure that not only has the government has done a lot already but it will be doing more into the future.

But I am going to support the people in the Gippsland Trades and Labour Council and they are going to know that they have somebody who is standing in this place who has recognised that their interests are important and who is not acting just for the sake of opportunistic political zealotry and just for the sake of the green votes in the cities. We have an important role to play as parliamentarians to protect our own constituency and to make sure that they have jobs and futures. You say: ‘But the minister has said climate change is a real issue. The member for Adelaide has said we need immediate action.’ Here is the immediate action. We have taken not only immediate action but past action and you have to ask: would the Labor Party have done any better? Would the Labor Party have done anything different to that which the Howard government has achieved? I put to you that the answer is no. I know, as the Prime Minister read out the other day, that we have done all of these things. Do I need to go through them again?

The Renewable Remote Power Generation Program has been established. A further $123 million was announced on 14 August last year, bringing total funding for the program to $328 million. In 1999 the Photovoltaic Rebate Program was introduced. A further $150 million was announced bringing the total funding to $202 million. In 2004 there was the energy white paper, which was so important to the seats of Gippsland and McMillan, and which was very important in giving the power industry and those who work within that industry a guide to the future. In that white paper, the government announced that $75 million had been provided for the Solar Cities trials. Adelaide was announced as the first solar city in August 2006; then Townsville, on 26 September; Blacktown, on 13 November; and Alice Springs, on 16 April 2007. In October 2006, $75 million was allocated to a large-scale solar concentrator in north-west Victoria under the $500 million low emissions technology development initiative. On 1 November 2006—the member for Adelaide might like to note—$14.5 million was allocated to solar energy projects under the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.

The Australian government have provided industry grants of over $28 million for geothermal energy projects and recently announced the Geothermal Industry Development Framework. These grants include the following. In 2007 we gave $5 million to Petratherm Ltd to further develop its groundbreaking approach of using geothermal energy at its site in the Flinders Ranges. The government awarded $1.2 million to Proactive Energy Developments Ltd for a project that aims to develop an innovative regenerator for the production of low-cost, zero-emission electricity from geothermal reserves. In 2006 we gave $2.4 million to Geothermal Resources Ltd for a project in South Australia to map granites to assess geothermal energy potential. In 2005 the government gave $3.9 million to Scope Energy Ltd for a proof of concept project.

I can go on and on. All of these things have been so important in the climate change debate. We were already in there, we were already acting, we were already looking forwards to what we would do with these issues. While the government have been acting, all the state Labor government have done is carp about and criticise what we were doing. Geodynamics Ltd in 2002 got $6.8 million to develop a deep underground heat exchanger to harness hot, dry rock geothermal energy. In 2000 the government granted $790,000 for exploration of hot, dry rock resources in the Hunter Valley. It just does not stop. The Howard government has a proud record and this motion obviously was not sensibly based.