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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1177

Renewable Energy Target


Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:03): My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann. Can the minister inform the Senate what the impact on the economy would be of another state-based 50 per cent renewable energy target?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): I thank Senator Smith for that question. The impact on the economy of another state-based 50 per cent renewable energy target would be very bad. It would be bad for jobs and it would be bad for families. It would be particularly bad if such a proposal were implemented in our home state of Western Australia, because Western Australia is an energy island. Western Australia is not part of the National Electricity Market. If events like those in South Australia were to happen in Western Australia, there would not be an interconnector to save businesses and families in Western Australia faced with energy blackouts.

That is, of course, why WA Labor's commitment in this election to introduce a renewable energy target of at least 50 per cent is so reckless. How do we know that Labor is committed to a 50 per cent renewable energy target in Western Australia? Firstly, the shadow minister in Western Australia, Bill Johnston, told an environmental law conference last week:

The Labor Party's target is at least 50 per cent by 2030. We don’t believe that that is going to push up prices … we believe it will be done on a competitive basis and, as I say, I think setting a target leads to policy action and I think there are a lot of policy actions that are required.

Then of course, last week, we had an exclusive in The Australian under the headline, 'WA Labor to push for 50 per cent renewables target', saying that Labor in WA was poised to announce that it would set a 50 per cent renewable energy target. All of us in this business know that these stories do not appear by accident; they are planted. But yesterday, we found out for sure that Labor in WA is committed to a WA renewable energy target of 50 per cent. Why? Because this is what Mr McGowan said:

There will be no renewable energy target, at a state level, under any government I lead.

Government senators interjecting

Senator CORMANN: Now, who has said that before? (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Smith, a supplementary question?




Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:05): Why is affordable access to a secure supply of energy particularly important for my home state of Western Australia?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:05): I thank Senator Smith for that question. As I flagged, it is particularly important for Western Australia because Western Australia is an energy island. Senator Macdonald and I were on the Senate fuel and energy committee and we took a lot of evidence—Senator Macdonald might remember—in Western Australia in relation to these matters. Under the last Labor governments—the Gallop and Carpenter Labor governments—families and businesses in Western Australia suffered blackout after blackout. This 50 per cent renewable energy target that the Labor Party in Western Australia wants to commit to, should Mark McGowan be successful at the next election, would damage the Western Australian economy. It would hurt energy security and it would drive up the cost of energy for families and for business, which would mean less profitable and less successful businesses in WA, fewer jobs and higher unemployment. That is why people in Western Australia should not take the risk of a McGowan Labor government. (Time expired)


Senator SMITH (Western AustraliaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a final supplementary question. What approach is the Turnbull government taking to ensure energy policy supports stronger growth and more jobs?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:06): The commitment of the Turnbull government is to pursue policies that make sure that we can have access to affordable, reliable and secure energy supplies in a way that still helps us meet our emissions reduction targets. That is the way to go, not this green ideological pursuit that Labor has embraced in the pursuit of Greens preferences in inner city seats in Perth and around Australia, not this ideological approach which will drive up the cost of electricity for families, drive up the cost of electricity for businesses, make it harder for businesses to be successful and make it harder for businesses to employ more West Australians. That is not the way to go, we know for absolutely certain. Remember when Julia Gillard said 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'? Well, immediately after the election, we got one. Mark McGowan is hiding his true intentions before the election because he knows how unpopular his policies under the Renewable Energy Target are. (Time expired)