Matters of Public Importance | Energy

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

We on this side of the House know the absolute importance of a responsible national energy policy. We are responsible for fixing the mess that those opposite and their state counterparts have made of energy and electricity in our nation.

No-one knows the devastating impact of failed Labor policies more than a member like me, because I lived through the disastrous and dangerous blackout in September of last year. Clearly, those opposite do not quite understand what it means to lose energy security and reliability. I really do not think they do, from that response.

When we lost our power last September in South Australia, it meant people's lives were put at risk—like each and every police officer who was standing in the middle of an intersection in peak-hour traffic, in the rain and the wind, directing traffic because every single traffic light was out across metropolitan Adelaide. It meant that patients in Flinders Medical Centre who were in intensive care had to be transferred to Flinders Private Hospital because the backup generator failed at Flinders Medical Centre—not particularly funny, I say to those opposite. It also meant that families, elderly people and people living alone had to endure a long night of darkness.

This was the result of Premier Weatherill's great experiment. As he said:

We are running a big international experiment right now …

We have got a long, skinny transmission system and we will soon have 50 per cent renewable energy, including a lot of wind and … solar.

He also said:

We want to get as close to 100 per cent renewable power as possible …

We know there are challenges here … But with big risks, go big opportunities.

Well, we now know the result of this big experiment: it was an absolute disaster for my state and it put people's lives at risks. It was a disaster for my residents and a disaster for my businesses. So I call on those opposite to abandon their 50 per cent renewable energy target, which is going to put my residents and businesses in even more danger. I note that the member for Port Adelaide described the blackout last September and the blackouts that followed as 'hiccups'. They clearly were not hiccups.

In my home state and in my electorate of Boothby, residents, households and businesses are paying more than 40 per cent more for their power than the rest of the nation. In my home state, residents and businesses do not have secure or reliable power, and they live in fear of further blackouts and paying their next energy bill. We have had blackout after blackout, starting last September.

Our government, the Turnbull Liberal government, on the other hand, are entirely focused on delivering reliable and affordable power for hardworking Australians, families, older Australians, pensioners and those who most need our support. We are also doing this for our hardworking business owners, who keep this country going and keep Australians in jobs. What are we doing? We commissioned Dr Finkel to review the National Energy Market, and we are now considering his report; we are increasing the capacity of the Snowy hydro scheme by 50 per cent, which will generate enough energy to power an additional half a million homes; we are investing in storage for renewable energy, including investigating pumped hydro in the upper Spencer Gulf, in my home state of South Australia; we are investing in carbon capture and storage; we are introducing the Australian domestic gas security mechanism, which will enable us to impose export controls on gas when we have a shortfall in supply in Australia; and we are reviewing retail energy prices.

We are doing all of this because we believe in responsible government, as opposed to those opposite, who are willing to do big experiments, 'big international experiments', that involve, as we know, not big opportunities but big risks for families, for businesses, for our older Australians and for people who are just trying to go about their day-to-day lives, getting to and from work, taking their kids to and from school, and employing Australians.

I am looking forward to being part of the process of considering the Finkel report, and we are looking at it very carefully because we have to get this right. We have to get this right for the future of the nation but particularly for the future of my home state of South Australia. Nothing is more important than reliable power, secure power and, also, affordable power. Cost-of-living pressures are one of the issues that people raise with me when I am out and about in the electorate, and none more so than the cost of electricity at the moment, which, under the state Labor government in South Australia, is completely out of control.