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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7873


Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:23): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, representing the Minister for the Environment and Energy, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Turnbull government is delivering more affordable and reliable energy for Australian households and industry?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:24): I thank the senator for his question, and I take the liberty of congratulating him on the fine maiden speech that he delivered to the chamber yesterday. The Turnbull government is taking the next step in our comprehensive action to deal with energy affordability in Australia and to guarantee the reliability and security of our energy markets whilst also meeting our emissions reductions obligations. We understand that households and businesses have been doing it tough and are doing it tough. That is why we have a comprehensive range of policies to make sure that energy price pressure is a downwards pressure and downwards movement.

We're powering ahead with our new National Energy Guarantee. As you've heard from Senator Brandis, this is a guarantee that can deliver more affordable, more reliable energy, whilst meeting Australia's international commitments. It will help to drive the right type of investment in Australia's energy market and generation—investment that can mean that every business and every household can have confidence that, when they flick the switch, the power they need is there for them to succeed and operate. It does so, reducing emissions, but without the need for complex subsidies, taxes, trading schemes or new government bureaucracies. It's a technology-neutral approach that will ensure, as you've heard, continued growth in certain renewables but will do so without it being at the expense of dispatchable energy that is essential for success in the market. It builds on the action we have already taken: action to reform retail markets and ensure retailers give consumers the best possible deal; action to reform network and distribution markets to stop those operating the poles and wires from gaming the system to the tune of billions of dollars; action to reform gas markets to drive down the spot price of gas and guarantee that gas is there when required; action to ensure that we have new generation capabilities that are dispatchable, such as pumped hydro coming on stream. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a supplementary question?

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:26): Can the minister update the Senate on how business and industry have welcomed the Turnbull government's National Energy Guarantee?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:26): This proposal has been widely welcomed and endorsed. The Grattan Institute has described it as:

… the last piece in the complex jigsaw puzzle of a credible energy and climate change policy for Australia.

BlueScope have welcomed it as delivering 'affordability and reliability', with needs which 'are considered equally', and saying:

We welcome this new approach because it's fair.

The Chief Scientist, who Senator Wong referred to earlier, has described it as 'a credible mechanism' from 'the country's most authoritative voice in energy matters'. AGL has said that it is a serious proposal to address reliability and emissions reductions. Manufacturing Australia, who I would have thought those opposite would care about, have said that it recognises the importance of renewables to reducing emissions but also prioritises affordability, security and a diverse energy mix. That is strong support, which is why those opposite should get on board and recognise that this is the way to deliver affordability and reliability, and meet our international commitments. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brockman, a final supplementary question?

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (14:27): Can the minister outline how the National Energy Guarantee will meet our international commitments whilst lowering power prices for Australian families and businesses?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:27): Australia's emissions per capita are at their lowest level in 27 years, as indeed they are per GDP. The Turnbull government has committed, as their predecessors did, to strong, credible, responsible targets to reduce emissions by a further 26 to 28 per cent against 2005 levels by 2030. Unlike those opposite, who have an unrealistic and unaffordable 45 per cent target, ours is carefully considered, balanced and calibrated to make sure our economy still continues to grow, whilst making it amongst the greatest and most significant per-capita contributions in the world. The electricity sector represents around 35 per cent of Australia's emissions. That's why it's important that we make sure there is a credible policy, as the National Energy Guarantee is, to ensure electricity reform drives down emissions intensity. But this cannot be at the expense of the reliability of energy, which is why a comprehensive, coordinated mechanism that deals with reliability as well as emissions is so essential, and that's what we're delivering. (Time expired)