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Wednesday, 28 November 2018
Page: 11876


Mr LAMING (Bowman) (16:06): The clear message from this afternoon's debate is that Australians want reliable energy, that they want it to be affordable and, obviously, that they see responsibility as being an important part of that, but not at the expense of the first two. The coalition is really the only one that has a definitive plan to take on the major energy retailers. I think that's something we really should be able to agree on right across this debating chamber. We need a price safety net in place as soon as possible, and many would like to see that even before 1 July next year, but certainly a downpayment on 1 January.

Of course, we're backing investment in reliable energy generation, and there is a short list of projects to ensure that occurs. We're requiring energy companies by 1 July to be investing in genuine, reliable electricity generation years ahead so we don't find ourselves caught the way we were in South Australia. Most importantly, we're just going to try and stop the rip-offs. I'm not going to traduce the Labor Party's policy of battery subsidies. That's not an unreasonable policy to add to the mix. The question really is just how expensive it is for the benefit it achieves. What's probably more important to the average Australian householder is just getting energy prices down. This side of the chamber won't take the risk that prices keep going up. You've got to remember that it's not just about getting prices down but about stopping them continuing to go up, as they did over the Rudd-Gillard era almost without control—in fact, power prices almost doubled. You don't have to go back very far—it was only 15 years ago—to when Australia, apart from the major hydro economies like Iceland and parts of Scandinavia, had some of the lowest household prices in the world, thanks to our backbone of coal-powered generation. We have now slipped right up, for no reason, moving through the pack to be one of the most expensive household power economies in the world. The best example of that is South Australia, which is the third-most-expensive household power in the world.

What Australians are going to be asking when the next election comes along is which of the two parties is going to stop the rip-offs and which of the two parties can get prices down? We've got time to make sure that we have an environmentally responsible power policy, but we've only got months to sort out the rip-offs that low-income families and pensioners, particularly in Queensland, are being subjected to. The Australian Energy Market Commission found that customers on standing offers might well find themselves paying huge amounts more money than they really should be. We need to stand up for small businesses, which, according to the AEMC, could be paying even more—$3,000 a year—then they need to, particularly in Queensland, as I'll explain later.

This is outrageous. We should have done something about this years ago. Labor could have done something about this nearly a decade ago but didn't. They didn't move on it. In the last 12 months, we have a record of securing more gas for Australians, getting spot prices down, reining in the power of the networks and getting better deals for households. Now, because of our pressure—we're not wielding a big club—we are making sure that energy retailers are acting on behalf of customers for a change, because up until now they've simply shrugged their shoulders and said that they act in the interests of their shareholders. We saw AGL protecting customers on standing offers by implementing a price safety net from 1 January next year. That's going to make a huge difference. More than 150,000 families and 27,000 small businesses will benefit.

In contrast, Labor's approach means that you're going to be paying more for your power for longer. While they can go on about super high renewable energy targets and emissions reduction targets, they've yet to explain to the Australian people how they'll achieve it. I can say that it's going to be noble to have some of the largest emissions cuts in the world, but Labor must articulate how they're going to do it, without shutting down industry, without impeding transport and without hurting some of our largest employers. One thing for sure is that, when we looked at the issue five years ago, the initial energy reduction proposals for Paris were based on how much GDP drag they would create. We knew that, if it went to a 26 per cent reduction by 2030, it would have minimal, if any, drag. We knew that, if it went to 28 per cent, it would start to have a GDP drag each and every year. When Labor are proposing 40, 45 or 50 per cent, they'll need to look Australians in the eye and talk about how they will achieve it.

That big fat tax is coming. Australians know that. They've got a gut feel that it will be five times the size of the previous Labor carbon tax. They've got a gut feel, because they listen to the member for Isaacs, the member for Port Adelaide and the member for Shortland all equivocating around the fact that there is a carbon tax coming. We know that in Queensland they've profited for too long on the misery of households, where we've had 65 per cent of our baseload, government owned, transferring huge amounts of profits, $2 billion a year, into gold-plating, and them faking the size of their actual deficits each year. That kind of damage should stop. Queensland are the most irresponsible jurisdiction, and they need to give Queenslanders a break.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The discussion has concluded.