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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7877

Energy


Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:34): My question is to the Minister for Regional Development, Senator Nash. Can the minister advise the Senate how the government's National Energy Guarantee will improve energy reliability and affordability across regional Australia?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:35): I thank the senator for his question. The availability of reliable and affordable energy is absolutely critical to the success of Australia's regions. If we want to see our regions continue to grow, we need to provide confidence to businesses and families that the lights will stay on and that energy prices will remain affordable. Our regions are enormous contributors to Australia's economic growth. Australia's agriculture, forestry, fishing and mining industries, which are predominantly located in regional Australia, made up more than half of our merchandise exports last year. The gas and electricity that power our capital cities is produced in regional Australia. If we can't keep the lights on in regional Australia, our whole economy will suffer. That's why the National Energy Guarantee is so important.

This government is putting an end to years of energy policy failure and is providing certainty, reliability and affordability in the energy market. Our plan will put downward pressure on power bills and improve reliability by increasing investment in dispatchable energy supply. This will ensure that the local vineyard, the local IGA and the local baker can continue to grow their businesses, employ more people and grow our regions. As I said, people who live in the cities should thank regional Australia every day for their way of life. It will mean that local households can spend less money on electricity and more money out there supporting local businesses in their regions. Our plan will make sure that we can provide reliability and certainty, and we will help power our regions forward.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fawcett, a supplementary question?



Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:36): Can the minister outline what other action is being taken to improve reliability and to reduce the cost of energy?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:37): The coalition is implementing a range of reforms to improve reliability and to reduce cost. Further to the announcement that we saw yesterday—which was very well received—we have secured an agreement from energy retailers to provide better, clearer and more information for households and businesses. We have secured agreement from gas companies to ensure there is enough gas for Australian consumers before any gas is shipped overseas. We have abolished the limited merits review, which allowed network companies to game the system and push up power bills. We've increased the scrutiny of the energy market with more funding to the Australian Energy Regulator and the ACCC to ensure that customers get a fair deal. And we have initiated an immediate one-off cash payment to almost four million Australians of $75 for singles and $125 for couples to offset rising power bills for the most vulnerable in our community.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Fawcett, a final supplementary question?



Senator FAWCETT (South AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:38): Can the minister explain what the consequence would be of failing to implement the government's National Energy Guarantee?


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Local Government and Territories and Minister for Regional Communications) (14:38): Yes, I can. The consequence would be a return to the catastrophic policy uncertainty we saw under Labor. Over the last decade, Labor has adopted more than a dozen energy and climate policies from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the emissions trading scheme, the citizens' assembly through to the carbon tax—we all remember the carbon tax! The then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, promised there would be 'no carbon tax under a government I lead'—one of the biggest broken promises that we saw from the Labor Party.

The last time Labor was in office, electricity prices doubled, increasing by 101 per cent. People can pay higher prices under Bill Shorten, who wants $66 billion in higher subsidies and in more subsidies under his emissions reduction target compared to zero under the coalition. Zero! Whether it was Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard doubling energy prices, or Jay Weatherill causing rolling blackouts, Labor cannot be trusted on energy policy. (Time expired)