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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7168

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (15:51): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Attorney-General (Senator Brandis) to a question without notice asked by Senator Hanson-Young today relating to energy policy.

I rise to speak in relation to the answers given to my questions to the Attorney-General, Senator Brandis, representing the Prime Minister. They went, of course, to the issue of the government's new-found obsession with socialising the coal industry, spending billions in taxpayer money to prop up a failed and floundering industry and keep coal burning longer, making our climate more dangerous, and, indeed, pushing up electricity prices rather than pushing them down. And this comes today, when we've heard that the government is now adopting a dirty energy target rather than a clean energy target. Including coal in this energy target will do nothing to ensure the electricity grid is stable and energy is reliable and nothing to push down prices.

The government are relying on a huge falsehood. The Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment and Energy have been carrying on for the last week about the report by AEMO, the energy market operator. The Prime Minister and energy minister have suggested that in this report, which they do every year, AEMO argued the Liddell coal-fired power station needed to stay open; otherwise there would be an energy crisis. Of course, that wasn't true. The Prime Minister and the energy minister are wilfully deceiving the public, wilfully deceiving the parliament and carrying on with a huge lie and falsehood about what this report said, because it never said that. In fact, what it did say was that there are a number of things that could be put in place, and need to be put in place, through a proper plan for dealing with the energy transition—like demand management, ensuring we have proper settings for battery storage and, of course, certainty for the energy industry. One of the key drivers of the current crisis is the government's inability to get their heads out of the sand and start focusing on giving the industry certainty with a proper energy plan and a price on carbon.

We know that the government think distorting facts is the only way they can win this debate, because renewable energy, of course, is immensely popular amongst the Australian population. People know that if it's done well—if the government gets out of the way and stops propping up coal and spending billions in taxpayer money subsidising the coal industry—renewable energy, battery storage and demand management systems can produce cheaper electricity and help save the planet on the way through.

We heard this morning from the former head of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Oliver Yates, speaking directly to this point: that the politicisation of this issue by this government is driving electricity prices up, driving inaction on climate change and making it harder for the industry to get on with delivering energy certainty and reliability. He said that the AEMO report that government is relying on never said that we were going to end up with a critical crisis and that we would run out of power in 2022—that it was never said, despite what the Prime Minister and the energy minister have been out peddling and trying to make people believe for the last week. They're spreading misinformation, wilfully deceiving and making a mockery of what should be a very, very important government report and document that could give a blueprint for how we move forward in this place.

This is all because this government is absolutely obsessed with propping up coal. This new dirty energy target will push electricity prices through the roof and make reliability for households and businesses much harder. We know this because the experts are telling us. The market operator, the CSIRO, AGL and all of the energy companies are crying out for certainty and a proper plan, and all we get from this government are lectures about how wonderful coal is. This government has its head in the sand, and it is time that it started speaking the truth, rather than continuing with the lies.

Question agreed to.