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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 7943

Mr TUCKEY (12:42 PM) —There will be many people feeling much more comfortable now that the government has given up on playing politics with one of the biggest issues that will ever confront Australia and is at least addressing the components of reform that might deliver some positive outcomes for the Australian people with the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and cognate bill. Today when we open up one of our leading newspapers, the Australian, what does it tell us? ‘Food prices to surge under emissions trading scheme’. The story is by one of the paper’s leading journalists, Glenn Milne, who writes:

SHOPPERS face a jump in grocery prices of up to 7 per cent under Labor’s scheme to reduce carbon emissions …

Government members interjecting—

Mr TUCKEY —We have all sorts of deniers in this situation, but there are people sitting over there who think they know better than the grocery giants and everybody else quoted in this article. The article is very lengthy and I recommend that people read it. You will note it refers to the program, what is more, as the ‘emissions trading scheme’, not this smart alec rebadging called the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. In fact, the scheme that was defeated in the Senate the other day is a process whereby the government sells permits to pollute. In its Treasury modelling, Australian businesses are encouraged to buy certificates to pollute from China, Bulgaria and, most possibly, the Russian mafia. That is what it tells people to do. The originators of the emissions trading scheme were quoted in the Wall Street Journal the other day as saying that they could not see that scheme working on the scale proposed on an international basis, and one of their major criticisms was integrity.

Mr Sidebottom interjecting

Mr TUCKEY —It will be very good to see the member for Braddon—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms AE Burke)—The member for Braddon has had his chance.

Mr TUCKEY —He might want to bet me a year’s salary that there will not be corruption within international trade. We see the carpetbaggers of the Business Council now being criticised by the producers of the Business Council—and I will repeat that word for you if you like, carpetbaggers—over the fact that the people that are going to see themselves making the biggest amount of money out of an emissions trading scheme are the hedge funds, the financial factor and, of course, the screen jockeys. Every time they drive a Porsche down the road, who pays for that? The electors of Braddon, because there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Nevertheless, the government is now being given time to consider whether food prices will rise. The article makes reference to where the government would be, considering its position in opposition, if someone were standing up now saying, ‘Let’s put seven per cent GST on food.’ I well remember the debates in this place on roll-back. A leading economics writer said that ETS should have an extra ‘t’ in it—the emissions trading tax scheme. Prior to getting on to this other measure, which is worthy of consideration, the reality is that an emissions trading scheme will put up prices. The government says it will put up the price of electricity and will therefore give people in the lower income sector compensation. What does that prove? It proves that the electricity generator is going to buy the certificates and not reduce the pollution. I watch a member opposite, so inconsequential I do not even know the name of her electorate, shaking her head.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for O’Connor has been straying widely. I think that was uncalled for and I would like him to return to the bill before us.

Mr TUCKEY —Let me just point out to you, Madam Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No, you will not point out to me; you will go back to the bill, thank you.

Government members interjecting—

Mr TUCKEY —The member for Bonner does not understand that if the price of electricity goes up it is because the generator has purchased certificates to pollute and the pollution does not come down at all. Admittedly, and with some cost to the community, if they go into various renewable energy options the opportunities are much greater. I think it was the Leader of the House who referred to me as a dinosaur the other day, and even the member for Braddon, who has had a bit of a come-and-go experience in this place, will remember that I was talking up renewables when he was the member before he got beaten and re-elected. I was talking up hydrogen and all of the decent options that might deliver the Australian people cleaner, more efficient, cheaper energy then. You do not have to subsidise people from the public purse if the price of electricity is going down.

The member for Braddon is very keen on wind energy and, considering the benefits in employment that that might bring to his electorate, he is right to say so. Being a Tasmanian, he can say so because Tasmania has extensive hydro resources which can be used to back up the vagaries of the wind. Hydro has a virtually instant responsiveness. On the mainland, where the foundation for the electricity system, the base power, is coal, coal is not responsive. You cannot just put another shovelful of coal on the boiler at the moment when there is a variation in wind activity. Consequently, if any of the people in the government ever go and talk to middle managers of baseload, coal fired operations, they will tell them that they have not reduced coal consumption significantly as a result of the existing wind generators on the mainland. Why? Because they have to burn the coal in anticipation of wind variation.

What do you do in the circumstances headlined by the power regulator in South Australia, who pointed out that this rush to wind generation in South Australia—to 30 per cent of total supply—will be very dangerous in days of very high temperatures because they have to be shut down? That is not necessarily a problem for Tasmania either, but that made headlines in the Advertiser. It was not some carbon sceptic or someone else; it was the bloke who regulates their power industry saying, ‘Be careful.’ One must therefore look at where the greatest benefits arise.

The first speaker today on this legislation, our shadow minister for climate change, Mr Hunt, identified to the parliament some amendments we think are most important, and one of them relates to emerging technologies. There is a grave fear amongst those people that, in an overall sense, have better ideas than wind; I have made my case there. The coalition had a full-day seminar last Monday with 10 separate presenters on renewables. All of them said, ‘Be very careful that wind does not rush in, knock off all the renewable energy certificates and leave better renewable energy options outside.’ Therefore, money should be reserved for those emerging technologies.

As I have already mentioned, one of those is tidal power. When one gets to tidal power in the Kimberleys of Western Australia, just in one inlet—according to the World Energy Council—there is the potential to generate 4.2 gigawatts of electricity. That is a very large amount of electricity; in fact, it represents 120 per cent of the existing generating capacity of WA.

The point I want to make that is missing from this legislation—and, in fact, from our policy at this point in time—is the need to sell certificates to people who implement major energy savings in the electrical transmission system. The Chinese are doing this and they will be able to sell Australians renewable energy certificates, because they are putting in high-voltage DC transmission lines. I give an example: to pump gas from the Pilbara to Perth uses 225 megawatts of electricity energy equivalent. That is 700,000 tonnes a year of emissions. The gas does not get there on its own; it has got to be pumped. They are the figures. When we get it to Perth, we turn 30 per cent of that gas into electricity. Yet, if that electricity were being generated up in the Pilbara and brought to the point of consumption by way of a high-voltage DC line, the emissions would be reduced by 200,000 tonnes a year.

If you are going to be able to receive certificates for putting a renewable energy generator in, then why not be able to receive certificates for a HV DC transmission line? And, by the way, there is one of those HV DC lines—as the member for Braddon probably knows—crossing Bass Strait. The Europeans are talking of putting one all the way to Iceland. They operate under water and underground and they transmit energy with practically no line losses at all. Every other form of transmission wastes a lot of electricity in the process of getting it from A to B. Maybe the member for Braddon, considering the way his state benefits from an HV DC line, might get up in his caucus and say, ‘Listen, fellas: why can’t someone who invests $1 million a kilometre for a terrestrial HV DC line—you can bury them for the same price as having them up in the sky—also receive certificates?’

A fact of life is that people can choose to invest in that. It opens up the opportunity for many better renewables—for instance, anything to do with solar. The further you get out in the desert, the hotter it gets and the better. The Europeans are going into the Sahara Desert for that purpose. What do we need to get that power to someone who wants to use it? High-voltage DC transmission lines. Really, through this renewable energy legislation, we should be giving people who invest in that type of technology, be they a state energy operator or anyone else, the same access as someone who builds a wind farm or a tidal generation farm or a solar facility. I draw that to the attention of the House. I will be prosecuting it in our party room tomorrow. I make the point that that is a very significant reform that could be included in this legislation. It is sort of—there is a word for this—the wool that brings the whole thing together. It is the interconnection of a lot of opportunities with renewables that are not viable because the source of the renewable energy—hot rocks, you name it—is too far away from where people use it.

I am aware that there are time constraints. I am pleased to say the member for Braddon did not use all of his time, so I have used the extra bit up and will now cease my arguments. I am in favour of this legislation, with the amendments that the coalition has foreshadowed. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the government saw that there are opportunities in all of this? Their attitude to a perceived problem is to put a tax on it. I say that there should be an investment of government moneys in the HV DC systems and others, and much of this other stuff will come on board. The $24 billion of $900 cheques, if invested in the electricity generation and transmission system, would have delivered a 20 per cent reduction without increasing the price of food or electricity or the price of doing business.