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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8527


Mr TIM WILSON (Goldstein) (18:24): As the member for Goldstein, I will never get those last five minutes back. Deputy Speaker, what are we talking about today? We are talking about what we are going to do, as a parliament and as a government for this country, to make electricity prices more affordable. In the words of the new Prime Minister, we are for Australians. We are on their side.

Let us remind ourselves who is affected by the debate around energy: it is, of course, the pensioners, who go from payment to payment, fortnight to fortnight, making sure that they can afford to pay their contribution towards their energy bill. In many cases, including in the electorate of Goldstein, they have to live in a single room of their house during winter or summer, because they can't afford the heating or cooling for the whole home. They understand the consequences of electricity prices. They understand, in their lived human experience, what it means when you have bad government policy—the legacy of our opponents—that has driven up electricity prices year after year.

We are talking about those businesses in the south-east corridor of Melbourne, across Dandenong, that, for instance, consume a large amount of electricity as part of their activities. There are the die-casting businesses that contribute components to our new defence industries, as well as car component manufacturers all across the world who have to liquefy different types of metals as part of their die-casting process, or who consume huge amounts of energy in producing their products, and who have experienced year-on-year increases in their wholesale electricity prices—and, in some cases, have had to sign contracts of 200 or 300 per cent over future years. These are the people who experience the human consequences of high electricity prices. And it flows on to the number of people they can employ, the jobs they can create and the opportunities they can provide for constituents within the south-east corridor of Melbourne, and that is replicated across the whole of this great nation.

This dates back particularly to the era where the former Labor government dramatically increased the obligations on the Renewable Energy Target, forcing highly expensive, unreliable energy into the market. We have continued to live with the legacy and the commercial consequences ever since. And the focus of this government has been: how do we deal with the consequences and the legacy of bad Labor policy? It's like dealing with the consequences after the long era of tariffs and protectionism, where the market has become so distorted and so perverse, rewarding the wrong incentives and doing little to reward the best, lowest cost outcome for consumers. The task for this government has been: how are we going to address this and fix this?

While we have been doing it, and dealing with these real consequences for the Australian people, what have we seen the irresponsible opposition do in the meantime? They haven't said, 'We've learned from our errors and mistakes or from the punishment pensioners have experienced because of our bad policy.' They have not turned around, admitted their errors and accepted responsibility for the consequences of their policy. They have said: 'No, no, no; we know better. We're going to double down. What we are going to do is turn around and say: "No, no; the Renewable Energy Target isn't big enough. Rural obligations aren't big enough. We're going to keep forcing in electricity, regardless of whether it's cost-competitive or not, whether it's reliable or not, or even whether it cuts greenhouse gas emissions or not."' Those opposite have put ideology ahead of the practical application for Australians. We have seen them make increasing commitments to cut their emissions without any understanding about how that's going to be done. And that is not just in the energy sector. They have no understanding of the impact it will have on agriculture, land use and land clearing policy, the impact it will have on transportable energy, or the impact it will have on future emissions in the industries where so many of the people that they claim to represent—that they falsely claim to respect—work.

At every point, this government has said, 'We will seek to solve these problems for the nation and for the people of Australia.' What we face at a state level is obstruction from the Queensland and Victorian state Labor governments. Now is the time to put an end to it, and we are doing so. (Time expired)