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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2089

Mr RAMSEY (GreyGovernment Whip) (16:13): As I look at this discussion of a matter of public importance, I was searching everywhere for Nick Xenophon, but I couldn't see his name in there. There must be some awful polling coming out of South Australia for the state Labor Party, I'd suggest. It is interesting, though, because the matter of public importance goes to policy certainty. I'm not too sure what the member for Port Adelaide was on about, whether he was trying to dent the reputation of the coalition government or blow up his mate Jay Weatherill. But some proposals coming out of South Australia from the Weatherill government have been the cause of the problem.

The motion goes to policy certainty. There's nothing more certain than blowing up a perfectly good coal-fired power station with more than a 15-year life left in it will plunge the state into darkness. It's certain to massively increase wholesale electricity prices. It's certain to lead to the state having to spend well over $500 million just to keep the lights on. In fact, it's certain that it will consume more diesel for the new generators that have been hastily installed to try to keep those lights on. The Premier is on record as saying that South Australia's electricity grid is a giant experiment. Well, that's another certainty. It's an experiment that's gone horribly pear shaped. And it's down to the Premier. It's down to the team that sit on the other side of this House. South Australia has become the laughing-stock of the rest of the nation, and I don't appreciate it very much, nor do my businesses appreciate having to pay ridiculous prices for electricity that their competitors interstate can get on a much more equitable basis.

In 2012 I met with the AEMO commissioner in Adelaide. I said to the commissioner at the time, 'If we close Port Augusta too early, if it is closed before we are ready to make the transition, South Australia will be in deep trouble.' The commissioner assured me: 'It will be okay because we're upgrading the interconnector to Heywood. It'll be okay, Mr Ramsey, even if Port Augusta goes offline.' It wasn't okay, because the week it closed the wholesale prices in South Australia doubled. It wasn't okay at all. So I was doubtful, and I was right to be doubtful.

What has happened? Nationally we've had a 20 per cent renewable target by 2020, but we did a little better than that. But it was not area specific, and this is a policy failure. Consequently, state governments could seek to maximise installations within their boundaries, which is exactly what South Australia did. It chased down wind investment. In fact, Jay Weatherill had a target of 50 per cent, and he was successful. South Australia is now close to that amount. But doing so has led to surging, intermittent electricity supplies, which have undone the business case for base-load generators in South Australia. In that period of time, we got rid of the coal-fired power station and we've had no reinvestment in new base-load generation. There has been no reinvestment in the Torrens Island gas turbine and no investment for new base-load generators at all.

The member for Adelaide talks about certainty, and he wanted to reflect on the member for Warringah when he spoke, without any reference to his Prime Minister, who promised never, never to have a carbon tax under a government which she led. Where is the certainty in that? It was certainly a promise that was trashed pretty quickly.

We more than met our Kyoto Protocol targets, if we're talking about certainty on climate change. We will meet our Paris targets, and we are making positive contributions at the federal level about reducing the price of electricity in Australia and increasing its reliability. We've reduced the price of domestic gas by passing import restrictions that we have not had to implement, because the Prime Minister sat down with the retailers and they increased the supply of gas. We put $110 million on the table. I would note the member for Wakefield said that Jay Weatherill was building a solar thermal plant with molten salt storage in Port Augusta. He hasn't put any dollars into it—no dollars at all. It's the federal government putting $110 million into it.

We are backing Snowy 2.0. I had the opportunity to go down and have a look at it a couple of weeks ago, and it's a very impressive operation. It will make a considerable difference to Australia. We're backing two pumped hydro projects in my electorate, in the Upper Spencer Gulf. We have convinced retailers to contact their uncontracted customers to give them up-to-date prices and move them into the current format. Most importantly, we will establish the National Energy Guarantee, which will ensure we will have not only renewable energy but base-load energy.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Coulton ): Order! This discussion has concluded.