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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6390

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (16:41): I can see the fight now between the Labor Party and the hard Left of the Greens, especially the one coming up in Tasmania. Who is going to go the furthest to the left to see what they can do to win a vote or two? It is about time some facts, some realistic points of view, were put forward in this chamber on this whole energy and carbon emissions reduction scheme. Let's go back and look at 2010. Remember the promise by the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard: 'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead'? Of course, in that election the coalition won 73 seats and Labor won 72 seats. But along came Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor. What did they demand—especially Tony Windsor? He demanded the cross-party, multiparty climate change committee, or whatever you want to call it, and out of it, driven by Tony Windsor, came the carbon tax we were never going to have. What did it do? It did absolutely nothing except put costs up for the Australian people to the tune of $9 billion in a year—and growing. It was going to go up every year.

Here we have a situation where we put the price of electricity up—and that's going to save the planet? That is absolute rot. Dr Finkel told us at Senate estimates what would happen if Australia reduced all of its emissions—the whole lot. What effect would it have on the planet? Basically nothing at all. Months ago, I brought to the attention of Senate, and so did my colleague Senator Macdonald, details of the new coal-fired power generation being constructed around the world—I know them off by heart. A unit is one generator and plants like Bayswater and Liddell in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales are four-unit generating plants. They have four generators, four cooling towers and so on. Eight months ago, China was constructing an extra 299 units of coal-fired generation to add to their 2,107 units already in production. Those 299 units will produce 670 million tonnes of CO2 a year—that's just the extra 299 that are under construction. Australia produces 550 million tonnes of CO2, so the extra coal-fired generators being built in China will produce more CO2 than the whole of Australia, through everything. There were 621 units under construction at the time: 299 in China, about 132 in India, 34 in Vietnam, 32 in Indonesia, some in South Africa, 10 in Japan and even some in Germany. In Australia we have a total of 73 units of coal-fired generation—just 73. Around the world, 621 units are being constructed, and somehow we're going to change the planet! It is ludicrous. All we do is shut ours down and put the cost up.

I will give you an example, Madam Acting Deputy President Kitching. When Hazelwood's coal-fired generator closed in Victoria, the electricity prices in Victoria went up 176 per cent, and they went up 102 per cent in New South Wales and 86 per cent in South Australia. We talk about renewable energy, and I have no problem with renewable energy. Renewable energy is a very good thing. However, it's got to stand on its own feet. Let me give you the examples. Senator Singh was talking about all these wind towers that we can build in Tasmania. Say that you construct one wind tower, just one—a three-megawatt-per-hour generator—and that that wind tower spins for eight hours a day, 365 days a year. Surprise, surprise—the owners of that wind tower get a $700,000 subsidy in renewable energy certificates before they sell one watt of electricity. They get $700,000 just because it's standing there and spinning for eight hours a day—not selling electricity.

What did they do in South Australia? They constructed these wind towers everywhere. I grew up down in Jamestown and I know that they're all around the hills there. Because of those huge subsidies, they can sell electricity cheaply into the grid. And what happened? The coal-fired power station at Port Augusta went broke and, along with that, the coalmine at Leigh Creek was shut down. I was at Leigh Creek in early June, and that town is on the slide, big time.

Senator Brockman: Jobs for workers gone!

Senator WILLIAMS: Yes, jobs for workers. I can't believe how the CFMMEU can ever support the Greens party or the Labor Party. They're the people who are against everything the CFMMEU believes in when it comes to mining, coalmining and coal-fired generation. So let's shut it all down! Then we know what happened next in South Australia: the lights went out.

Senator Brockman: The lights went out!

Senator WILLIAMS: But it gets worse, Senator Brockman. Who pays for these renewable energy certificates of $700,000 paid for each wind tower every year? Of course, under the Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent by 2020, or 33,000 gigs—we reduced it to that, thank goodness; it should have been reduced more—the law is that everyone who is hooked into an electricity grid pays for it, from a food-processing abattoir at Inverell, Bindaree Beef, to the poor old widowed pensioner who can't afford to turn the heater on in the middle of winter because she can't afford to pay the electricity bill, and every business and every household in between. That's who pays for it. For what? It's for the owners of those wind towers, mainly foreign companies, to take the money back overseas to increase their living standards and to reduce ours.

And what do they do in the face of emissions reductions? Virtually nothing! I was amazed when I visited a wind farm a few months ago—just one wind tower standing there. There are many, of course, but I'm just referring to one now. The tonnes and tonnes of cement that go into cementing that tower into the ground are unbelievable. And, of course, cement is a big emitter. Then there is the steel, the copper and all the metals in it. Some say the life of a wind tower is 25 years. Some say it takes 15 years of generating electricity before it even becomes carbon neutral—15 years! That wouldn't surprise me at all, given the steel and the cement that goes into it.

I remember when the carbon tax came in that, even though the cement industry received a 95 per cent discount, we were going to bill the cement industry an enormous amount of cost because they produced cement in Australia. We produce about 10 million tonnes of cement in Australia. When we do, we produce 0.8 of a tonne of CO2 per tonne of cement. In China, they produce one billion-plus tonnes of cement a year. When they produce one tonne of cement they produce 1.1 tonnes of CO2. So let's shut down the cement industry in Australia, have it all processed and produced in China, where they produce more tonnes of CO2 per tonne of cement than in Australia, and somehow that's going to save the planet. No, that simply puts workers out of the jobs and shuts businesses down. This is the whole crazy thing.

I will ask a simple question here about new coal-fired generation. What do you think they are going to burn in those new coal-fired generators around the world? You've got it, Madam Acting Deputy President—they're going to burn coal! You guessed it! Spot on! Go to the top of the class! They can burn coal from Indonesia or from China—brown coal, high-ash, poor-quality coal—and put out a lot more CO2 emissions. Or they can actually buy coal from Australia—the older black coal that's far more efficient. But no, the green religion, the green movement, linked with the Greens and the Labor Party, doesn't want to see any coalmines expand in Australia. They want to see the coal-fired generators around the world use poor-quality coal from China, Indonesia and other countries that will put more emissions into the planet's atmosphere than using Australian coal. How stupid is that?

It annoys me immensely that here we are in a country—I will give an analogy, Mr Acting Deputy President Leyonhjelm. Welcome aboard. Mr Acting Deputy President, go and check out the price of diesel around the world. If you go to Iran, diesel is 7c a litre. It's about $1.55 in Australia today, with the low dollar and higher world price of oil. Go to Saudi Arabia and the price of diesel is 13c a litre. Ask why. I will tell you why: because those countries are wallowing in oil. Wherever you dig—well, not quite—you strike oil. They've got big supplies of oil; hence, their fuel is so cheap. Compare that to Australia. What are we wallowing in? We're wallowing in energy: gas, coal, uranium—you name it. We'd have more energy per capita than any other country in the world. But what are our electricity prices? They are exorbitant. This is brought on by the renewable energy target, forcing coal-fired generation out of production, reducing supply, forcing prices up and many other things, like some of the things the state government have done.

Back in 2011, the crazy Labor government in New South Wales brought in the gross feed-in tariff, paying 60 cents per kilowatt hour to generate, while the bill was only about 22 cents per kilowatt hour. What a way to cream the system and make money. Wealthy people could put photovoltaic solar panels on their homes and get paid a fortune while the poor people paid for it. This is the Labor Party policy. You've got the gold plating of poles and wires, and the return is ridiculous on that. You can blame every state and every federal government of all political persuasions of the last 10 to 15 years for the price of electricity in Australia. Here we are now making an absolute effort to bring the prices down.

One thing has to happen for sure: the supply of electricity has to increase. We need baseload reliable supply. But, no, the green religion, as I call it—the Greens extreme-left socialists, fighting for that green space with the Labor Party—has a simple theme: 'Come follow me and I'll lead you to the land of poverty.' It's all about shutting down our businesses and reducing our living standards. As far as emissions around the world go, it makes no difference at all. If you were concerned about emissions, we'd be selling good-quality coal out of Australia to these new coal-fired generators being built, many of them in Asia, which would put less emissions into the atmosphere. But, no: talk about a coalmine being opened, and the green movement and the environmentalists will be going through the courts and so on. GetUp!, the lefty socialists, are pouring their money in and promoting the green religion so that we can't help the planet when it comes to emissions by giving them good quality coal.

It's amazing how living standards are under threat because of the price of electricity in this country. I know an abattoir very close to us where we live at Inverell that is now paying $70,000 a week on its electricity bill. It was $80,000, but they got a better deal. Luckily, the prices have been coming down a little bit. What are their competitors in Brazil and America paying? Nothing near that. But they have to compete on the world stage, with the costs going up all the time. I won't even get into the payroll tax. As for those over there—the fight for the green religion between the Labor Party and the Greens—they are going to go to a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030 and reduce our emissions by 45 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. It's not going to do a thing except help send the country broke, make us less competitive on the world stage, put people out of work and shut businesses down.

There are some amazing quotes on this proposal by those opposite—the green army, we can call them, over there fighting the Labor Party—especially by the extreme left and the Greens. In May 2015, CFMEU president, Tony Maher, said:

… an increased Renewable Energy Target of 50 percent by 2030 will increase the cost of electricity for manufacturing and ordinary households while being a poor tool to reduce Australia's overall warming emissions.

How true. In January 2017, Ben Davis, secretary of Bill Shorten's branch of the AWU, said:

… the rush away from coal and gas-fired electricity power stations … is a little unseemly in its haste because we are potentially crucifying hundreds of thousands of manufacturing workers.

How true that is. Putting the price of energy up in a country that's wallowing in energy, sending businesses broke and having people lose their jobs—that's a great way to go! While coal-fired generation is being built all around the world in most countries, we have stuck to our 73 units, and of course the green religious movement is trying to shut them down. On 25 June 2018, the Business Council of Australia said:

The emissions target of 26% is appropriate and achievable. 45% is an economy-wrecking target.

How true it is. On 27 November 2015, the National Farmers' Federation said the ALP's proposed target of 45 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 would hinder agricultural competitiveness and economic growth. The Minerals Council of Australia said:

The minerals sector is concerned at the Federal Opposition's proposal for a 45 per cent reduction in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.

The target is not based on detailed economic analysis of its impact on growth, living standards and energy costs.

The proposed target has the look and feel of an ambit claim.

That is the point. Over there in the Labor Party and the Greens, you don't care about growth, you don't care about jobs, and you don't care about the cost of living and living standards. You've done it before. In 2010, then Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, ' There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead,' and what came about?

On 27 November 2015, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: 'Labor's newly announced proposal to double cuts to emissions to 45 per cent by 2030 with a long-term target of net zero emissions by 2050 was not backed by a credible plan that protects economic growth.' This is the thing: you are going down a path of saying: 'Let's all go back to the Stone Age and live in the caves. We'll give you three sticks a week to cook your food and keep yourself warm.' Then you'll wonder what's going on with living standards. That's what you're doing—you're taking living standards and reducing them in Australia. If it were going to achieve something, you'd understand it. But, as Chief Scientist Dr Finkel said, it's going to achieve nothing. It is amazing: three human beings, simply breathing for a year, produce one tonne of CO2. China, with about 1.4 or 1.5 billion people, produce almost as much CO2 as the whole country of Australia, including our industry, just through the population breathing—not doing anything else.

It will get worse. The green religion will attack agriculture and they'll attack transport, nothing surer. It will be interesting to see what senators Gallacher and Sterle have to say when they say, 'Let's go after the transport industry.' A big country like ours has to transport so much agricultural produce and everything else, and they say, 'Let's hit that up big time with taxes and costs and shut it down. There is talk about winding back our sheep numbers and cattle numbers to save the planet. This is outrageous. People have to eat, you know. The first rule is: if you don't eat, you die, with other things in between.

Dr Finkel said that, at 1.3 to 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions, we're not going to change the planet. This is simply a political game being played by the left-wing green movement. There is a fight for the green vote between the Greens and the Labor Party—the Greens so-called partners in crime when it comes to this. As I've said before, the CFMEU have donated money to the Greens. The CFMEU stands for the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. What do the Greens say? They hate construction—we all know that. We can go and live in the caves. Forestry—they hate forestry. They don't want timber jobs. They want to see every tree stand. They want to shut them up in national parks and let the bushfires burn them, killing the animals as well. Mining: well, as I always say, the only people the Greens hate more than the farmers are the miners. They hate mining. And then there is energy.

The CFMEU has donated money to the Greens party of New South Wales. That is unbelievable. That a union would donate money to a political party that opposes everything that union believes in is just incredible. When it comes to the CFMEU—or the WMEU, with the maritimes now tied up with them as well—where do you stand on coal-fired generation? Where do you stand on coalmining over there? No, you are silent; you are mute. In Victorian by-elections, 'No, there'll be no coalmines there.' When we get to Queensland, the opposition leader and others will say, 'Yes, we're big supporters of coal.' It depends where they're speaking. Who do you believe? What is the truth? What are the facts? This whole energy argument has been an absolute farce.

As I said—and I agree with what Dr Finkel said at Senate estimates—if we think that we are going to change the planet we are very, very wrong. While others are producing more CO2, building more coal-fired power generation and putting more vehicles—what is it, five million extra vehicles go on the road in China a year, as they raise living standards?—we're going to change everything. No, we are not. What we are going to do is reduce our living standards here, make us less competitive around the world, wind up businesses and cause unemployment and the effect on the climate will be absolutely zilch— (Time expired)

Debate adjourned.