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Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Page: 6443

Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (15:51): I rise to speak on the need for certainty in energy policy in Australia, and nowhere is this more important than in my electorate of Paterson. Certainty in energy policy is needed so that pensioners in Paterson are not sitting in the cold and dark, with a rug over their knees, rather than putting the heat on, so high is the price of electricity under this government. Certainty in energy policy is needed for businesses in Paterson, for manufacturers in Paterson, who employ the vast majority of our workers, who keep our economy strong and who are being held to ransom by high gas prices. And certainty in energy policy is needed for the workers in my seat of Paterson, many of whom are employed in the energy sector—the people who work in our mines, our power generators, who need to know what the future holds.

We need to know what this government is going to do. In four years, what have you done? You have shown absolutely no leadership on this and you have managed to erode every piece of good work that had been done. We need to face the fact that we are in transition; we must do our best to make it a just transition for all Australians. We on this side of the House are sitting down with stakeholders—business groups, environment groups, unions, consumer groups—and talking sensibly and seriously about the Finkel review, while those on the other side of the House bicker and squabble in the party room and probably pass around a lump of coal. Today we have extended the hand of bipartisanship, but they are too busy fighting in the party room and they know they cannot get the support from the people that they really need.

Certainty in energy policy is needed so that we do not see a repeat of 10 February, when at Tomago Aluminium, in my electorate of Paterson, we were forced to cut back production so the lights and the air conditioners of New South Wales would stay on. I hope you enjoyed that! Tomago supplies a quarter of Australia's primary aluminium, and it uses 12 per cent of the state's electricity. It supports at least a thousand people in my electorate, nearly 2,000 if you take contractors into account. As the heatwave hit on 10 February, Tomago had no choice but to cut production by 30 per cent. We need to create certainty for the likes of Tomago—for energy users, for energy retailers and for energy generators. Our manufacturers cannot keep paying the gas prices they are paying, either. And, finally, there has been a little glimpse of common sense from across the aisle. Our pensioners cannot keep paying the electricity prices they do either, and yet we are all faced with these increases.

In my electorate, we have seen one aluminium smelter close, in Kurri Kurri, and I do not want to see another one close because you lot cannot get your act together. Let me remind you: you have been over on that side for four years. What the hell have you been doing? Not very much. The energy crisis could lead to manufacturers closing their doors, and that is not good. It has already led to the doubling of wholesale energy prices over the last three years. What Australians, including the people of Paterson, want is energy policy certainty so that we can have lower prices, so that we can have investment in energy generation—that is really the key—and so that we can have lower pollution.

It is so important, because, as we said, we want to be on the right side of history on this. I do not want our grandchildren to say, 'What were you doing in parliament, Grandma, all those years ago when you were supposed to be making good decisions about our planet and you were sitting there not making the decisions?' You on the other side will go down as being not just on the wrong side of history but on the wrong gulf of history. I wonder who will play each of you in the movie. I tell you what: it will be a horror show.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): The member for Paterson will address her remarks through the chair.

Ms SWANSON: Sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sure someone good will play you in the movie, sir. Labor has said that we are open to being bipartisan and working with the government, because Australians deserve to have lower electricity prices. All Australians—all of us—need a plan for cheaper, cleaner and more secure power, and the Finkel review is a good place to start. Our leader has said, 'We want to work with you.' We need to end this. Seriously, people in Australia want an end to this. They watch the news of a night. Their children go to school and learn about this, and they say, 'When are we going to have something real done?' We are supposed to be leaders and adults, and so far all we are seeing is terribly immature behaviour from a group of people who do not want to face the facts about our world. I say to this lot: get over yourselves and put some energy back into the energy debate that is so sorely needed in this country—not just for yourselves but for everyone.