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Ryan Smith MP, Member for WARRANDYTE


Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017

19 September, 2017

I rise to join the debate on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017. I stop right there, because the Labor government have certainly taken it upon themselves, in a real pattern, to insert lines of spin in their bill titles. I say that because including the word 'jobs' in this title does not bring any certainty about new jobs. In fact the only certainty we can ascertain from the policy path that the Labor government is taking is the loss of jobs around Hazelwood. At the end of March we saw overnight more than 700 people lose their jobs as Hazelwood shut down as a direct result of this government's tripling of coal royalties. The 700 people who lost their jobs overnight joined those making up the already 17 per cent unemployment rate in the City of Morwell and its surrounds. The fact that this government does not seem to really care about that is something that would certainly make the people of the Gippsland region never want to vote Labor again.

I move on to a quote from an ABC reporter, Nick Harmsen, in an article of 9 March this year. It starts by saying:

Australia is rapidly stumbling into a major energy crisis, and there's little evidence to suggest … governments can agree on the solutions to fix it.

To understand what's coming, look no further than my home state of South Australia … In South Australia, wholesale prices are regularly spiking to the market-allowed maximum of $14 000 per megawatt hour.

Mr Harmsen goes on to say:

South Australia has its own renewable energy target but — my words: like Victoria — it's mostly spin.

He finishes this long article by saying:

In recent months, it's been hard to avoid the sniggers from colleagues and friends interstate about South Australia's well-documented power woes.

His last line is:

They shouldn't laugh too hard. They're next.

Mr Harmsen is right. We are next. The Victorian government has put us on a path where, because of an ill-thought-out scheme put forward by a government more interested in media than reality, we are going to be faced with power blackouts and skyrocketing energy prices. This Victorian renewable energy target has been introduced with no robustness around its claims at all, and everyone can see through it. The very next day after the minister gave a press conference all the papers came out and said it. The Herald Sun said:

The sums just don't add up.

You do not need to go through the article to understand just what the Herald Sun thought of that — the sums just do not add up. Another article says:

Dan's gone power mad.

Grattan Institute energy program director —

The Grattan Institute, may I say, is a left-wing think tank set up by Kevin Rudd and funded in that setting up —

Tony Wood said the policy was a 'nasty dog's breakfast', with dodgy modelling of energy bills based only on wholesale prices.

… 'It appears to me that the lesson from South Australia has been ignored by this policy.'

The Australian states:

… the move has created tension in Canberra and unease among market observers, who perceive it has gone against energy market guidelines …

This particular article by Samantha Hutchinson goes on to say:

Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren described Victoria's move as 'an act of desperation' …

An article in the Age headed 'Renewable target to cost us, industry' says:

Australia's peak industry lobby group fears Victoria's decision to go it alone and pursue a 40 per cent renewable energy target within eight years will push up prices that are already hurting business.

Tim Piper … said hitting the 25 per cent target within three years would be simple, but there was no clear pathway to reaching 40 per cent without imposing extra costs on energy users.

… to get to 40 per cent within another five years is going to require significant investment.

The Australian Financial Review, under the heading 'Vic Premier's low energy power play', states:

Victoria's Daniel Andrews refuses to heed the lessons of his fellow Labor left government in South Australia by announcing an ambitious plan to ensure that 40 per cent of the state's electricity be generated from renewables … Like something out of the ABC television satire Utopia, he promises that this will 'drive down prices, attract billions of dollars of investment and create thousands of local jobs'.

Yet this government has been unable to show anyone how these jobs are going to be created and how this investment is going to happen. We all agree and we have been out there saying that we need a national target. A national target is the way to go.

I want to direct the house's attention to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) energy council communiqué dated 14 July, which states:

… energy ministers have agreed on a time line to implement 49 of the 50 recommendations …

of the Finkel review. That particular communiqué was signed by both the Honourable Lily D'Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, and the Honourable Wade Noonan, Minister for Industry and Employment and Minister for Resources. What those two ministers agreed to, along with every other minister who looks after those portfolios in Australia, was amongst other things recommendation 7.3:

Taking a nationally consistent approach to energy policy …

Taking a national approach, a consistent approach, to energy policy. How is it that after sitting around the COAG table on 14 July and signing off on a national approach the government can just a matter of months later walk in and say, 'No, we don't agree with the nationally consistent approach anymore; we're going to go it alone'. How can Australia's governments around this nation have any confidence that this government and these ministers can be listened to and trusted when in just a matter of months they are prepared to walk away from a communiqué that they had signed themselves?

It is one thing to mislead Victorian people — after three years of this government Victorians know they cannot trust a word that the Premier and his ministers say — and it is another thing to come into this house and constantly spout mistruths and mislead the house and mislead Victorians, but to go onto the national stage and sit around with your Labor colleagues in many cases but also with coalition governments and sign a communiqué saying you are committed to a nationally consistent approach and then come in three months later and say, 'You know what, our word does not mean a thing, we're just going to go it alone', says something about the integrity of this government.

If we want to talk about the integrity of this government, the member for Caulfield mentioned in his contribution that during the briefing this side of the house was promised that they would get the modelling before this debate happened. Typical weasel words of this government: yes, we did get the modelling before this debate started — 30 minutes before. We cannot have a proper informed debate in this place about the modelling — about the very basis on which the government is going down this particular policy pathway — if we cannot see what it is that they have used to justify this particular approach. Giving us the modelling half an hour before just shows how little confidence they have in the robustness of that modelling. It makes it very clear that they have no confidence, because they are not prepared to be open. They were not prepared to be transparent and show, before this debate began, not only those of us on this side of the house but the Victorian public that their figures do not add up.

The government did under pressure release a six-page document a couple of weeks ago which was put out by Ernst and Young (EY) which says —

The member for Bass is right, the amount of blank space would probably allow the ABC cameramen to do a light check with most of this document.

On every single page, or on virtually every single page, EY distances itself from the modelling that is involved. It says:

The material contained below is the summary prepared by Victorian government — and not EY at all. It also says:

This modelling is based on several input assumptions relating to future conditions, which may not necessarily represent actual or most likely future conditions. All modelled scenarios and assumptions underpinning those scenarios were chosen by the Victorian government.

These forecast price scenarios are specific to the assumptions chosen by the Victorian government across the scenarios.

This document is not worth the paper it is written on, and just shows again that there has been very little robustness around this particular policy pathway. The other thing that will not be mentioned by one person on the other side of this chamber is how much this will cost. We saw a similar situation when the government talked about carbon emission reduction in the Climate Change Bill 2010 when it was found out later on through independent modelling that the state of Victoria would be up for $2.2 billion in international emissions offsets in order to make the targets they put forward, but that was never, never mentioned during the debate or indeed when the government first announced it.

The reality is that with the situation we find ourselves in costs are going up and the government is desperate to try to fix a situation they caused by tripling coal royalties and making Hazelwood shut down. They took 22 per cent of baseload power out of the market and left us with a significant problem. All you have to do is go back to South Australia. They are putting diesel power generators on this summer to avoid blackouts because of their investment in renewable energies.

The fact of the matter is that this bill is driven by Labor ideology. Labor ideology will always trump reality in the minds of those opposite. They will not care about the facts, they will not care about logic and they will not be open and transparent about modelling. Let me tell the Labor government something, let me tell the Premier and the minister something: ideology will not keep power prices down. Ideology will not keep the lights on when the power goes in summer this year. Victorians know that ideology is going to cause them to pay more and be in the dark more, and frankly Victorians just will not wear it.

Authorised by Ryan Smith MP, Suite 2, 1020 Doncaster Road, Doncaster East, VIC 3109 | © Ryan Smith MP 2014
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