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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7888

Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (15:15): I rose yesterday after question time and we'd only had about an hour and a half to digest the announcement made by the government about energy. I suggested that, on the face of what we'd seen, this was a half-baked plan that was barely worked through. I said that because yesterday in question time, over in the other place, it became clear that the government had not prepared a regulatory impact statement and had not undertaken any actual modelling of the proposal that they were bringing before the Australian people. Indeed, if you looked at the fine print of what people were willing to say in their media interviews, all of these finer details, including the commitments around the intensity of emissions and the commitments around reliability, were to be worked up in the lead-up to COAG. It started to look like this was something they cobbled together because of a deadline that was coming upon them this year when the Prime Minister said we would have energy as the defining debate in this parliament. It's nearly Christmas and I suppose they had to do something, but they really weren't ready to go out yesterday. Nothing I have seen since this time yesterday has given me any reason to change my mind.

The government's been keen to talk about experts and to talk about the role of Dr Schott and Mr Pierce in particular. They are both people for whom I have great respect. But both Dr Schott and Mr Pierce actually blew the whistle on this show yesterday because Dr Schott did an interview last night and she was asked, 'Will prices go down? Is the government right when it claims that prices will be reduced by $115 per household?' She refused to endorse the claim. She refused to endorse it for the sensible reason that there has been absolutely no modelling done that could possibly support such a claim. I am extremely surprised that the government has been willing to go out so strongly on this question because I do believe it will come back to haunt them. Mr Pierce was similarly candid. What did he tell the media? He said that there'd been a range of scenarios that had been modelled and they produced, unsurprisingly, different results. Some of those results were as little as just $25 a year in savings for households in 2020. These experts that the government has been so keen to rely on have been disarmingly candid in their assessment about this plan and it reveals what I remarked earlier: there is no plan yet. There is a bunch of vague ideas that are going to be worked up in the lead-up to COAG.

Today in question time, I sought to ask the government about their approach to renewables because, all around the world, investment in renewables is growing at an incredible rate. The IEA reported earlier this month that, globally, renewables accounted for almost two-thirds of the new power capacity in 2016. Where are the biggest markets for renewables? They're in China, India and the United States. They are the three big markets in our region and the three big partners for Australia. Those countries, the big economic players in our region, are moving towards renewables so why wouldn't we ask the government to explain what this plan means for renewables investment in this country? Senator Brandis chose not to explain. He ducked the question. He refused to engage with my premise—fair enough—but he provided no alternative premise. In fact, I have not heard one single member of the government provide any credible explanation of what is expected for renewables investment on the basis of this new scheme that they've brought forward. It's not surprising that there are no details, but why bring such a half-baked proposition before the Australian people?

I will say one final thing. There is going to come a time when these details are going to have to be put into the public domain. You can't go on like this with a series of slogans forever. At some point you're going to have to turn up at COAG and, I'll tell you what, state premiers are not going to be forgiving. That will be on both sides of the aisle. There are a bundle of contradictions in the proposition that you've brought forward.

You've told the conservatives in your party room that this might deliver on their great hope there will be new investment in coal. You've told everybody else that, sure, this will deliver on the emissions reduction targets that we made in Paris and, not only that, the energy sector will do its fair share and we won't leave it all to the trucking sector or the farming sector. And you've told the Australian public that prices will come down. I'm looking forward to seeing you square that circle, because on the basis of what we've seen I don't believe you can. (Time expired)