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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5471


Senator BOSWELL (6:36 PM) —I listened very carefully to Senator Brown, and when I realised that he was prepared to move an amendment to increase the RET from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, it sent shivers down my spine. I think it is time that people actually understood how this system works: a megawatt hour of gas costs about $50 to produce; a megawatt hour from a photovoltaic cell costs $200; and a megawatt hour from wind costs $100. So, to make renewable power work, it has to have a huge subsidy, a subsidy of somewhere around $50, $60, $70. Who pays that? Not Senator Brown. Not the Greens. It will be the hospitals that will have to find another $2.7 million to cover their rent. It will be the industries that do not quite get to the break-even point with electricity. It will be the Murray Goulburn dairy companies. It will be the abattoirs in rural and regional Australia. This is not a gift; this is not just a windmill pumping wind that is cheap. It costs a lot of money. And when that money has to be paid by people who produce jobs, people who actually employ, people who have to compete against imported products—or even exported products, if they want to export—it kills their advantage. There is no such thing as free renewable power. It is very expensive. And it does not actually do anything, or much, to get rid of the CO2.

The Productivity Commission has never been a friend of the National Party. We call it ‘Dr No’. Australia’s leading research body, the Productivity Commission, says RET schemes would ‘not achieve any additional abatement but impose additional costs’ and would ‘most likely lead to higher electricity prices’. It also says they would encourage a new corrosion of politics by signalling ‘that lobbying for government support for certain technologies and industries over others could be successful’. That is the Productivity Commission. So, Senator Brown, don’t come in here and say you can create jobs by putting the cost of manufacturing up in Australia. Yes, you can create jobs—but, for every job you will create, you will lose jobs. Australia’s great advantage is cheap energy. That is why we employ people: because we have cheap energy. We have primary industries, we have cheap energy and we have mining. Those are three of our natural advantages. Putting the price of power up is going to take one of those advantages away. It is also going to impact on mining and it will certainly impact on primary industry. So, to all those people who think that green power is a wonderful thing, I say: yes, it gets rid of a bit of CO2—there is no question about that—but, by gee, it is an expensive way to do it. Any idea of putting this up to 30 per cent is quite bizarre. I am surprised that you would even go down that track.