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In Parliament


Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017 - Second Reading

   Tuesday, 19 September 2017
Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017 - Second Reading 19 September 2017

Mr T. SMITH (Kew) — It is my melancholy duty to rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017 — the kill jobs bill, the kill household budgets bill, the killing bill for Victoria’s cheap energy future. Our great past was built on cheap and reliable energy from the Latrobe Valley, the great legacy of Sir John Monash. This is economic vandalism writ large from a group of turkeys that have simply no understanding about what they are doing to this great state and indeed to our national energy market.

The Finkel review makes it very clear that state renewable energy targets are undesirable and market distorting and cut across the primary reason we have the Council of Australian Governments, which is for a nationally consistent energy policy. The Labor states of Queensland and Western Australia have agreed that there ought to be a national approach to reducing emissions. The simple fact is that the genius, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, thinks that she knows better than Professor Finkel, the federal government, Labor state governments around the country and indeed what makes common sense — that for a country such as Australia to have different renewable energy targets and indeed different energy policies amongst the states is frankly inane and market distorting, will be at great cost to consumers and will undermine energy security.

Even the Grattan Institute makes these observations:

Actions by state or territory governments to subsidise renewable energy are poor policy choices …

Unilateral actions by state or territory governments when there are existing or pending federal policies in the same area will almost certainly result in either conflict or higher cost with no net environmental benefit.

The Grattan Institute are not normally advocates for the centre right or free market economics. I have found the Grattan Institute to be most reasonable and most centrist in most of its policy deliberations, and it has made it very clear —

An honourable member interjected.

Mr T. SMITH — It is not an ideological think tank at all. It has made it very clear that this is a stupid policy. Why? Because it is driven by politics. It is driven by the politics of inner‑urban Melbourne. We have a Northcote election, which we know the Labor Party are terrified of losing. We know that they are desperate for us to run a candidate, and we will not be. The simple fact is that to hold back the Green scourge, which I have made many mentions of in this place over many years — and I note my friend the member for Mordialloc is chortling away there up the back — you do not sacrifice Victoria’s manufacturing future, the future of household budgets or the livelihoods of Victorians for a few votes in Brunswick, Northcote, Richmond and indeed Melbourne.

The basic modelling for the Victorian renewable energy target is a sham. Ernst & Young highlighted in this report that the assumptions dictated by Labor were inadequate:

If investment in network infrastructure were required to facilitate renewable generation development, this would likely lead to increases in retail electricity prices …

Do you hear that? Increases in retail electricity prices. This is your sham modelling that you released this afternoon: increased prices through higher network charges.

… if the increased penetration of renewable generation results in a more rapid retirement of existing generators, this could result in increased concentration in the wholesale market and could provide opportunities for generators to exploit incidences of transient market power. This has not been considered in the modelling.

The great princes and princesses of the working classes have sacrificed household budgets and the people they purport to be representing in this place on the high altar of green politics, green preferences and the peccadilloes of the chattering classes in the cafes of Richmond and Brunswick. We joke about this on this side of the house. The member for Polwarth made a wonderful contribution quite correctly mocking the clog‑wearing — what did you call it?

Mr Riordan — The clog‑wearing windmill lovers.

Mr T. SMITH — Yes, the clog‑wearing windmill lovers.

All of us in this chamber have not, I can imagine, had too many difficulties paying our energy bills. But for those folk who really do battle in the height of winter and the height of summer to pay their energy bills, vulnerable individuals who require government to have a mind for their welfare — the people the Labor Party used to represent, can I say — they have been simply forgotten in an ideological quest to be the greenest and the meanest government in this country. This is a crackers government obsessed with green ideology, obsessed with out‑greening the Greens.

I simply say to this government: you have reduced our energy security by presiding over the closure of Hazelwood. Twenty‑two per cent of our energy security went out the window on your watch, and you will be reminded every single day between now and the next election by the Liberal and National parties that on your watch 22 per cent of our grid went out the window. The only way — and this has come from the Committee for Gippsland, GHD and a whole host of reputable sources — that you will reach your renewable energy target of 40 per cent by 2025, which is just frankly insane, is by closing Yallourn, another 20 per cent of our energy grid.

Shame on you, Labor, for sacrificing this great state’s energy security, the livelihoods of manufacturing workers and the working poor that you are meant to be representing but you are not. Only the Liberal and National parties are acting on behalf of all Victorians — the economy across our great state, the economy of manufacturers, of energy workers and of farmers.

We would not have a farming industry without cheap energy. I have heard countless stories around the state from farmers who are genuinely struggling to run their operations, particularly dairy farmers in the member for Polwarth’s electorate, the member for South‑West Coast’s electorate and in the member for Benambra’s electorate. These are stories from real people running real businesses.

We hear this time and time again from the Labor Party, who will say, ‘This is great; this is our vision of modernity’. Well, my vision of modernity is not a Victoria that frankly cannot keep the lights on. We can have debates about climate change and our energy future, but that ought to be done in Canberra; this is not a place for that. The role of the state is to keep the lights on, to provide energy security and to provide baseload power for consumers, manufacturers and business because, at the moment, with population growth growing like we have never seen before — 146 000 people came to this state last year — and you cutting 20 per cent of our energy grid, what do you think is going to happen as demand increases, not just from business but from people alone, when you are continuously cutting baseload power?

To conclude, the thing that I find so disturbing about the point at which Hazelwood closed early because you taxed them out of existence — and indeed you did not lobby the French company, Engie, to stay here — is that there were three perfectly good turbines that could have been kept open for years to come, and you did nothing about that.

But the point that I find so incredibly annoying and indeed disappointing is that you have sacrificed our energy security because of votes. I just think that is so morally reprehensible on so many different levels. When inevitably there are blackouts this summer, and people, particularly the aged, are sitting in their homes and cannot keep themselves cool and there are genuine health impacts because of that, it will be your fault. You will be held to pay for your trespasses against the Victorian people, and I think the way you have behaved is contemptible and ought to be called as such.