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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7880

Energy


Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:46): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Can the minister confirm that the Turnbull government's latest energy policy assumes investment in renewable energy will drop from 5,000 megawatts a year currently to 250 megawatts a year, and on what basis do you assume that renewable energy development will fall by 95 per cent?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:46): No, I can't confirm that, and I don't confirm that. What I can confirm is that, as a result of the National Energy Guarantee, prices will fall. The best estimate of the amount by which prices will fall is the estimate of the Energy Security Board, who estimate that the fall in prices to the average household will be between $110 and $115 per annum.

The PRESIDENT: Point of order, Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: The question wasn't about prices. The question was about the quantum of investment in renewable energy dropping from 5,000 megawatts a year to 250 megawatts per year. If he can't answer the question, perhaps he can sit down and hand it on to someone who knows the answer.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. The minister directly answered the question up-front and, as we have always done, ministers can enhance the answer provided they stay on topic, and the minister is on topic.

Senator BRANDIS: Thank you very much indeed, Mr President. So that is what this policy will result in. It will result in reliable energy supply, it will result in a reduction in the price of electricity supply to the average household of between $110 and $115 per annum, and it will enable Australia to maintain its commitment to its Paris targets. We adopt this policy not on the basis of a political document but on the basis of expert opinion, the expert opinion of the Energy Security Board, the board comprising the people who are better acquainted—

The PRESIDENT: Point of order, Senator Gallagher?

Senator Gallagher: Just on relevance again, the question actually is around the assumptions of renewable energy development falling under the energy plan, not the general vibe of the plan as it exists.

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Wong, I'm trying to listen to your colleague on her feet.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Senator Wong interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, both of you!

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order on my left! Senator Gallagher, the point of order you raise in relation to direct relevance doesn't hold, because the minister directly answered the question by not just saying he could not confirm but reiterating that he would not confirm the question asked by Senator McAllister. The up-front question was, 'Would you confirm?' He absolutely denied that he would confirm. Then, as is always the practice, ministers can enhance their answer providing they stay on topic, and the minister was on topic. So there is no point of order.

Senator BRANDIS: Lest there be any doubt about it, Senator McAllister, I reject the premise of your question, so be in no doubt about that. There is a great difference between the two sides of politics now on energy policy. It is a great difference and it could not be a simpler difference: the government is committed to reducing the price of electricity, and the opposition has no plan whatsoever to do so. In fact, because you have been outmanoeuvred by the Greens, because you are in a competition with the Greens, you are determined to follow their policy to increase the price of electricity to Australian households. That's the big difference between your side of politics and mine. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a supplementary question?













Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:50): Given that households are currently installing 1,000 megawatts of rooftop solar annually and the government plans to cut this to a maximum of 250 megawatts a year, can the minister explain to Australians why the government wants to stop them from installing rooftop solar?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:50): Senator McAllister, I don't know why you would say such a thing, because we have no such intention and the assertion you've made in your question is entirely wrong. It is entirely wrong. The National Energy Guarantee that the government announced yesterday is premised on an expansion of renewable energy—the growth of renewable energy—in the sector.

Senator McAllister, as I was saying to you a moment ago, we have a plan to reduce the price of electricity to Australian households by between $110 and $115 per annum to the average household, signed off on by the Energy Security Board and authored by the most eminent experts in the field in this country, and you have no plan. You have no plan to reduce the price of electricity to Australian households. What you have is a plan to outcompete the Greens on energy policy.

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a final supplementary question?



Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:51): How many jobs in the renewable energy industry have been sacrificed by the Prime Minister in order to save his own?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:51): None—none whatsoever because, as I said in answer to your earlier question, the National Energy Guarantee is premised on the growth of the renewables sector. It is a policy informed, as I said, by the Energy Security Board, whose appointment, by the way, was welcomed as recently as August of this year by your own shadow minister, Mr Butler, when he congratulated Dr Schott and Clare Savage on their appointment to the board and congratulated the government on such excellent appointments.

The fact is, Senator McAllister, that you don't have a plan and you know you don't have a plan to reduce electricity costs to households and this government does. And you won't have a plan because, as I said before, you are in this competition with the Greens to shore up the inner-city vote, which will guarantee you will not go to the election with a plan to reduce the price of energy. (Time expired)