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Tuesday, 21 August 2018
Page: 7967


Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (16:18): I have to confess that I've given the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt.

Mr Brian Mitchell: Why?

Ms TEMPLEMAN: I know, it was a mistake. When he was rejected by his colleagues yet again to drop his energy policy, I just thought, 'Oh, he's weak. He's a bit bemused. He's sort of sad.' But now it is an inescapable truth: he has no principles and he has no beliefs. It's not that he's ditched them. They obviously weren't there to begin with. What we're talking about today is power, and that's exactly what is going on, on the other side of the chamber. This is about power. It's a Prime Minister whose only belief was the belief in power—power for himself—throughout his political career. Clearly, there were never principles involved.

Then we turn to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. This is a man who changes energy policy so fast that you don't really know which one they're up to. Is it the emissions intensity scheme? It is the Renewable Energy Target? Is it NEG 1? Is it NEG 2? Is there a NEG 3? You have to wonder what his legacy is going to be as energy minister. Let's think about it. As environment minister, this is a man who has effectively cut the highly protected areas of Commonwealth marine parks in half. He has halved them. This is the largest area in the world limited to recreational fishing that is now being re-accessed by commercial operators. Perhaps the most disturbing thing of all is that the government has now established a massive trawling area immediately alongside the Great Barrier Reef. Longlining will now be permitted north to south through the Coral Sea. That's a decision made by this minister that is bad for the reef and bad for recreational fishers. We are going to restore the damage that that minister has wrought.

Let's think about him as heritage minister, because that's another portfolio he has. This is the heritage minister who has failed to act to save the colonial gem Thompson Square in Windsor. Right now, under cover of night tonight, they are preparing to dig up convict-built brick barrel drains that are 200 years old. They're unique; you can't find them anywhere in the country. All this is so the New South Wales government can slap a bridge through the place—one that won't even solve our traffic needs. This is a minister who just sat back and let this happen. It's the oldest public square in the country, and he will be responsible for its demise.

So is it any wonder that all we have is confusion, indecision and inaction? What is the consequence of all of this? Clearly we have policy paralysis, but that isn't the worst of the consequences. The worst of it is that everyone who opens their mail and pulls out their power bill tonight is going to see skyrocketing power prices. That's the real consequence. It's a consequence of the chaos that's occurring on that side of the chamber. There's no point shaking your head, member for Wide Bay, because the Nationals have had their fair share of chaos as well. People are desperate for relief from power bills. Perhaps that is impossible for the Prime Minister and some of those opposite to understand. Perhaps they've never struggled to pay their power bills. But every one of us understands that our constituents are struggling.

There is a confession by the other side that there is a crisis, and that gives me perhaps some idea that there is some tiny little understanding of it over there. In March last year, the Prime Minister said, 'We are facing an energy crisis in Australia.' So there is recognition there, or at least lip service to recognition. A year ago—this is one of my favourite quotes from the Prime Minister, actually; it really sums up where we're at—he said, 'That's why I say our policy is based on engineering and economics, not on ideology and politics.' What a joke that is! The crisis has emerged under this government. People weren't talking about power prices in 2010, nor in 2013. As old power stations have gone offline, as they've reached the end of their life, this government has had no framework in place to allow investment to occur.

Talk to farmers, small businesses, manufacturers, pensioners, single parents and families—they are all struggling. Yet the only plan we have from this government is a plan to talk about themselves. That's all they're doing. We know that, even when something is put in place, this government will put in something that is inadequate. It will not deal with power prices and it will not deal with the issue of climate change. That will be the legacy that this government leaves us.