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Thursday, 19 October 2017
Page: 8084

Senator BROCKMAN (Western Australia) (15:19): I also rise to take note of answers given by the Attorney-General to questions asked during question time today. I'm not sure I have an energy policy id, but I'll try and find it later. The Labor Party are playing their usual political games in this place and in this policy space because they're incapable of delivering anything else or anything that looks like a policy. The National Energy Guarantee is designed to ensure that Australian families and businesses have access to reliable and affordable electricity whilst meeting our international commitments. For too long, governments, federal and state, have seen fit to meddle in the Australian energy market, picking winners through a vast regime of subsidies and regulation. The coalition's National Energy Guarantee brings to an end the government subsidies for energy, bringing us back to a technologically neutral energy policy which will allow energy providers to invest in the reliable base-load capacity that Australians need whilst meeting those important international commitments.

There was an interjection during the excellent contribution of Senator Reynolds that the government should be investing in batteries. No, actually—the government should never be investing in batteries or any particular technology. What we should do is have a technologically neutral policy, which we have for the first time in a long time. This policy will provide power generators with the certainty they require to invest in the latest technology, be it batteries or the next generation of low-emission, high-efficiency coal—or who knows? Perhaps one day Australia will see investment in fourth-generation nuclear. Thorium power inches closer to commercialisation. It will no longer find itself at an unreasonable competitive disadvantage in the future, and we may see investment in that area. Similarly, we may see a breakthrough in fusion technology. Who knows what the future will hold in 10 or 15 years? That is why we need a completely technologically neutral policy. We don't want to pick winners. We need to let the energy market make those decisions on a source of supply whilst maintaining reliability. We can't have the blackouts. These cutting-edge low-emissions technologies can produce cheap, reliable energy for Australia for generations to come. It is not acceptable that a country as prosperous and energy-rich as Australia faces a second summer in a row of potential brownouts, blackouts and energy rationing in South Australia and across the eastern seaboard. Reliable and cheap energy is the cornerstone of Australia's economy, and virtually every sector is completely dependent on the provision of this as a basic part of operating.

Those opposite us have done nothing in this space. We saw the Leader of the Opposition out yesterday playing games again, manipulating numbers to suit his own agenda while offering no solutions whatsoever. It's clear that Labor has no plan for energy. Senators opposite prefer to sit on their hands as their colleagues in South Australia and Victoria take a wrecking ball to energy infrastructure, with no plan to address the shortfall in base-load capacity. Those opposite bemoan the demise of the Australian manufacturing sector, once a pillar of our economy. Yet how can we have a manufacturing sector unless we can deliver reliable and affordable electricity? When it comes to energy security, Labor simply cannot be trusted. Whilst senators opposite will no doubt jump up and down bemoaning the end of the grandiose regime of renewable energy subsidies that have strangled our energy sector, I remind them of the words of the Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, who this week described our plan as 'a credible mechanism'. That's what the sector needs. It needs credibility, it needs security of policy and it needs an end to the game playing. Don't just take Dr Finkel's word for it when it comes to subsidies; perhaps also listen to the words of our colleague Senator Di Natale, who said: 'It's cheaper to build wind power than to build coal-fired power.' If this is true then there's no reason not to end the subsidies.

Only the coalition government has a plan to ensure Australians have access to reliable and affordable electricity while continuing to meet our international obligations for emission reductions. Labor have no plan for reliable energy. They refuse to prioritise affordability and reliability, ignoring the advice of energy industry experts. They are addicted to the reckless renewable energy targets that would drive up prices and undermine reliability. (Time expired)