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Monday, 20 March 2017
Page: 1386

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (15:32): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Education and Training (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to energy infrastructure.

This is in relation to something the impacts directly on my state, South Australia. We know we are in an energy crisis, we know that electricity prices are through the roof, particularly in South Australia, and we know that we need to find better ways to ensure stability and reliability for households and businesses. What the experts are putting to us, very clearly, is that, in order to bridge the gap and in order to make sure we can have cheap power that is reliable, we have got to invest in storage capacity—batteries. That is what the experts are telling us. They have been telling the government this for months and years. In order to do this, the government has been told very clearly, 'You need to change the energy market rules. You need to put everybody on an equal footing to ensure that you have settlement times from 30 minutes set to five minutes so that the advantage and the ability that batteries can provide the system can be valued and it can participate effectively in the market.' We all know that, when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing, it would be great to be able to store some of that power for when we need it most. You need to invest in that type of technology and change the market rules to allow that technology to take advantage of the situation.

What we heard from the Prime Minister last week was not what the experts have been putting to him. The Prime Minister decided to go down to Snowy Hydro, put on his chequered shirt and say that he was going to be a nation-building Prime Minister. He announced a feasibility study. He said, 'It might take four or seven years, but we might get there in the end.' Well, I am sorry, but South Australia needs a fix now—not in four years, not in seven years. We need the stability provided by battery storage to happen now. That means changing the market rules so that the big gas companies and the big coal companies cannot keep gaming the system, because they are locking out the ability for batteries and storage to participate fully. They are keeping prices high and they are locking out the technologies that we need in order to reduce prices and to increase reliability.

The Prime Minister has the power to make sure that the market rules are fixed so it is fair for everybody. No-one is asking for a leg-up for batteries and storage. They do not need that. They just need the market rules to be fixed. Rather than announcing that, the Prime Minister got all excited, put on his chequered shirt, went down to Snowy Hydro and said, 'In seven years I might be remembered as the nation-building Prime Minister'. Well, all he is is an eastern-states Prime Minister with no plan and no action. That is what we are seeing from the Prime Minister in response to South Australia's energy crisis.

Of course, he then sent his own energy minister to South Australia to have a whack at our state. We saw that awkward press conference between Josh Frydenberg, the energy minister, and the South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill. How awkward was it? Well, I must say, watching it from the other side of the screen, I do not agree with Jay Weatherill, the Premier of South Australia, on many things, but I thought he did a good job of standing up for our state against the relentless attack that we have had from the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and his pathetic energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, who has done absolutely nothing—zero—to help South Australia. We know that the industry is crying out for those rules to be fixed. It is in his power to do it and yet he continues to sit on his hands and do nothing.

It is the Prime Minister's fault that South Australians are left in darkness. It is the Prime Minister's fault that power prices are through the roof. Every time he ignores expert advice, he is letting the big gas companies off the hook to ensure that they can continue to screw households and businesses day in and day out. They are gouging the system and they need to be pulled into line.

Question agreed to.