MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE - Energy


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (16:54): The Labor Party seek to have 50 per cent renewable energy. They seek to reduce Australia's carbon emissions. But I might just start on this point, because I see a number of children in the gallery. I just want to mention to the Senate, as I have mentioned before, that Australia produces less than 1.2 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. That is a fact. You won't hear it from the Greens political party because they never tell the truth in things like this. So I asked the Chief Scientist: 'If Australia stopped its emissions by 1.2 per cent—that is, if we stopped every car operating in Australia, if we turned off every light in Australia, if we shut down every factory in Australia, if we turned off the lights in every school in Australia and reduced our emissions by 1.2 per cent—what difference would that make to the changing climate of the world?' And the Chief Scientist said, 'Virtually nothing.' So this focus of the Labor Party and the Greens on reducing carbon emissions to, so they say, save the Great Barrier Reef is a complete falsity, a complete farce. The Chief Scientist acknowledges that nothing Australia does will have any impact on the changing climate of the world.

Sure, when every other country reduces their emissions and gets them down to 1.2 per cent like Australia, Australia should do that too. Australia is a good citizen of the world. We attend conferences. We agree that everyone will try and reduce their emissions. And Australia has a target to reduce emissions, signed up to in Paris. You might have heard about the Paris Agreement. We agreed that we would reduce our carbon emissions by 26½ per cent by 2030. And do you know what? We're one of the few countries in the world that is going to meet its targets and meet them well. Why do I know that? Because we've almost met them now, a couple of years ahead of the target date. We've done that by encouraging people to do the right thing. We're not going to legislate for a 50 or 80 per cent renewable energy target, because all that does is put the price of electricity up. It makes everything that happens in your home more expensive—because you need electricity for your refrigerator, for your lights, for your TV, and for your heater if you happen to be in the southern parts of the country.

What has happened is that the electricity companies have been ripping off the consumers. And one of the biggest rip-off electricity producers is the Queensland Labor government. I looked at the list today to see how many Queensland Labor senators were appearing in this debate, because I wondered how they would explain the hypocrisy of the Labor Party. The Queensland Labor government has just approved a licence for new coal-fired power stations and new coalmines in Queensland. I congratulate them for that. Coal is plentiful, it's cheap and it brings Australia huge amounts of income from our exports. And the way they build coal-fired power stations these days, there is very little emission of carbon. So the Queensland government's done that. The Labor Party people in the Queensland government acknowledge that coal's good. In fact, royalties from coal keep the Queensland government budget afloat. Yet when you come down to Canberra the same Labor Party wants to ban coal. They don't want any coal at all. They're promising to shut down the coalmines in the years ahead of us. Never mind about all the workers who would lose their jobs if that happened. Never mind about states like Queensland, who only exist because of the royalties from coal. They don't worry about that. They're only interested in trying to gain some political advantage in the leafy suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, where they can tell whatever mistruths they like.

I remember that, before the Batman by-election, Mr Shorten, the Labor leader, went to Batman and said, 'We're totally opposed to Adani.' A few weeks later he was up in Townsville, where I live, where Adani has its headquarters. He was telling everyone there, 'Adani's a great company, and we welcome their investment in coal in Queensland.' So, you cannot believe anything the Labor Party says. In fact, the most common saying in Australia these days is simply this: Labor lies. And you'll find that time and time again. Unfortunately, there are no Labor senators listed on the speaking list today—and I can well understand why, because how could they explain the hypocrisy of Queensland Labor supporting coal while federal Labor, of which they're a part, are not supporting it?

As I've said, the biggest rip-off in Queensland is the state government owned—that is, the Labor state government owned—energy supplier. They run all the distribution of energy, particularly in North Queensland, where I live. They make huge profits each year—Ergon, the Queensland state government's business entity. And what do they do with those profits? They pay them to the Queensland government as dividends. Now, if you wanted to reduce electricity prices in my state of Queensland, you would simply get the Queensland state Labor government to tell their energy supplier, Ergon Energy, to reduce their prices. That way, those of us in Queensland would pay less for our electricity. It would mean, of course, that the Queensland government wouldn't get as much of the profits to try to balance their budget. So, you see, Labor is completely in shambles over energy policy. I heard the previous speaker asking why we weren't supporting the NEG, the new energy policy that the government was talking about some months ago. In those days, Labor was totally opposed to it. Today, suddenly, they think it's a great idea, and they want to introduce it. How hypocritical of the Labor Party.

We've promised as a government that we will get prices down. It's already started to work. We've reined in the power of the networks, which has secured better deals for about 1.6 million households. The retail prices in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales will come down because of the activities of the federal Liberal-National Party government. Our pressure on the energy companies has already lowered power prices for AGL customers on standing offers, and AGL will protect customers on standing offers by implementing a price safety net. Victorian and New South Wales AGL customers will benefit from a 10 per cent discount on their usage charges. That's because the Liberal-Nationals federal government has put pressure on those big companies.

We've long said in this government that the lower power prices would happen. We've made that happen, and I expect that more will happen from the big energy companies. They've had it too good for too long, and this government is pressuring them into reducing their prices. We have an energy plan that's been put into place—it's actually working as we speak—as opposed to Labor's plan, which is all over the place, and it depends on whether you believe in what Queensland Labor are proposing or in federal Labor. Nobody quite knows what the Labor Party is going to do. All we know is that you'll pay more for your power under Labor, that you can't trust Mr Shorten to keep the lights on, as the last Labor government in South Australia showed, and that it's quite clear that Labor is on the side of the big energy companies, because it owns the one in Queensland. You can't trust Labor to take a big stick to the energy companies to stop those rip-offs. That's why the coalition government's energy plan is workable and is working. (Time expired)

Back to List