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Backing away from "hands-on" policy.

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Carmen Lawrence - Backing Away From Hands-On Policy… Friday, 19 October 2001

ALP News Statements

Backing Away From "Hands-On" Policy… Carmen Lawrence - Shadow Minister for Industry, Innovation and Technology

Media Statement - 18 October 2001

Labor Shadow Minister for Industry, Innovation and Technology, Dr Carmen Lawrence, today accused the Coalition of backing further away from "hands-on" engagement with industry concerns, after the release of details of the Coalition's energy policy.

Commenting after Senator Nick Minchin announced the Coalition "Backing Australia's Resources and Energy" policy earlier today, Dr Lawrence said that the Howard Government's hands-off approach to energy policy over two terms in office had led to a situation where some parts of Australian industry were now experiencing successive summers of electricity shortages, and price increases for electricity of up to 80%.

"There has been no forward thinking in the Coalition's approach to energy supply and infrastructure in the past, and the policy announced today adds nothing to their already abysmal record," Dr Lawrence said.

"All we see is a tissue-thin policy announcement by Senator Minchin designed to cover up past failures. The policy fails to show any concrete movement toward reforming Australia's energy infrastructure, nor do we see any definitive announcements about the national electricity market, energy and greenhouse issues or reform of infrastructure planning and regulation.

"For example, where is the Coalition's matching support for Labor's pledge to provide up to $20 million as a capital grant toward the construction of a new electricity interconnector for South Australia?" Dr Lawrence asked.

"It is ironic that Senator Minchin has claimed that the Coalition will "continue … cooperative work with the States and Territories…" to support energy markets, when he has consistently impeded the COAG Energy Ministers' Council in their attempts to fix urgent problems in Australia's electricity infrastructure, and in order to avoid criticism for his inaction from his home State, South Australia.

"The policy document released today shows just how that "cooperation" would work, stating that the

Coalition will continue to "pressure the States to drive further reforms", proving that Senator Minchin really meant it earlier this year when he said that problems with the electricity market were "one for the States to work out".

"Senator Minchin even tries to take the credit for the current review of the National Electricity Market, claiming that the Coalition "provided the impetus for…the Council of Australian Government's Review of Energy Market Directions".

After being forced by State and Territory Ministers to agree to the review, Senator Minchin's only "impetus" for the independent review so far has been to ensure it is anything but independent, by appointing his Coalition mate, Senator Warwick Parer, as Chair of the review, despite previous conflicts of interest in this area!

At this time of such rapid technological and economic change, Australian industry needs a Government that is prepared to get engaged with the job of understanding and reforming Australia's energy infrastructure, so critical to Australia's future prosperity.

"A Beazley Government is capable of such engagement - another Howard Government will only continue the destructive impact of their own short-sighted policies," Dr Lawrence concluded.

Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.