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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2082

Ms PRICE (DurackAssistant Minister for the Environment) (15:42): Finally Labor have put forward an MPI that I agree with. But the longer this debate goes on the more I realise it has nothing to do with national energy; it is actually to do with the South Australian election. Nonetheless, it is a good topic for us to talk about. Here today we are talking about one of the greatest challenges that the world faces today: how do we maintain the delicate balance between conserving and protecting our environment and growing our economy? Those opposite would have the Australian public believe that we on this side don't care about the environment. They think all we care about is blowing it up and digging it out. Well, that's not so. We on this side want the environment to be better today than it was yesterday. That is what Australia wants and that is what our policies are going to achieve.

But what about those opposite? We've heard a lot about what Nick Xenophon wants and doesn't want. But, since the factions inside the Labor Party successfully lobbied for the 50 per cent renewable energy policy to become official state and federal Labor policy, we have seen Labor repeatedly throw caution to the wind on really important issues like energy policy, conservation, land management and water resource management. Every normal clear-thinking person in Australia—you know it and I know it—wants renewable clean energy because they know it is a good thing. But this industry needs to be slowly, methodically and responsibly developed and maintained, otherwise we'll see a repeat of the blackouts in South Australia—and nobody wants that.

If we all took Jay Weatherill's advice, our country would have the most expensive energy power in the world, our economy would collapse, our wages would stagnate and our way of life would be in tatters. We all know that, including those opposite. We know that this irresponsible approach by South Australian Labor will be tested in the South Australian election on 17 March.

Energy generation accounts for 36 per cent of our carbon emissions and is clearly a significant contributor to our total emissions. Getting the policy right is crucial for meeting our Paris commitments. The arguments proffered by those opposite are, sadly, ignoring some inconvenient facts which make their case untenable. Our emissions today are the lowest they have been on a per capita and GDP basis for some 30 years. We're investing record amounts through ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation in renewable energy projects, many of which are in my electorate. I'm particularly proud that we are trialling innovative projects in regional Australia which will help to ease the burden on regional communities, because we know that those communities are the most affected by unreliable and expensive power. Five Mile Community, an Indigenous community in my electorate of Durack, has received $500,000 from this government for an off-grid solar water treatment and power plant, a little but very important project that will give that Indigenous community clean drinking water and renewable power to power their homes instead of running a very expensive and unreliable gas generator. We've recently granted $20 million to the Pilbara Minerals project through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This will help to develop a lithium mine south of Port Hedland, lithium being the prime ingredient in lithium batteries, something that we'll all need a lot of as we transition to renewable energy technologies. In Emu Downs in Badgingarra, also in my electorate, we've invested $5.5 million through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to build a 20-megawatt solar farm on the wind farm already located there. See? We love wind farms, especially in Emu Downs. In that same funding run, 11 other solar farms were approved for funding all around the country. This has led to us seeing, in the last quarter, the largest drop in overall emissions in four years.

But those opposite don't care about the facts; they just care about the Batman by-election or, as it happens, the South Australian election, including worrying about Green votes. This whole MPI exercise is about out-greening the Greens and also having a crack at Xenophon along the way. They don't care about these issues that affect regional Australians. We know that regional Australians are disproportionately affected by the cost and also that those who are involved in the fossil fuel industry are predominantly employed in regional Australia. They don't care about these things, because they turned their back on regional Australia some time ago and haven't been back. The party that used to care about shearers and labourers is no more.

On this side, we get regional Australia, we understand regional Australia and we care about regional people in Australia, especially those on the land who are constantly dealing with the effects of climate and weather events, often more than their city cousins. I understand there's a need for strong leadership on this issue, and I'm very proud that this government is providing the right leadership, the strong leadership to tackle these very complicated issues.