| March 22, 2017

Delivering Reliable Energy - Question Time

Delivered: Tuesday 21st March 2017, House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra.

Damian Drum: My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. I refer the minister to the situation of Pullar Cold Storage in Cobram in my electorate of Murray, which is experiencing significant increases in energy charges. Will the minister update the House on why a practical approach to delivering energy reliability and affordability is necessary, and is the minister aware of any obstacles?

Mr Josh Frydenberg, Minister for the Environment and Energy: I thank the member for Murray for his question and acknowledge his deep concern about the rising electricity prices for those in his electorate, including Pullar Cold Storage in Cobram, which is a family owned business that can date back nearly seven decades, employs 15 people and recently went out to tender for its electricity contracts. The offers that came back were 135 per cent higher than over the previous three years, some $350,000 higher than over the previous three years.

Why is this happening in Victoria? One of the reasons is that the Andrews Labor government was determined to see the closure of Hazelwood—one of its ministers said that its continued operation was 'disgraceful'—and they tripled coal royalties on those in the Latrobe Valley. We also know about the moratoriums and the bans on conventional and unconventional gas extraction, when Geoscience Australia tells us there are more than four decades worth of reserves in Victoria. That is why we on this side of the House are determined to rein in network costs, determined to get more gas into the market. That is why the Prime Minister's meeting with the LNG providers was so important. We are determined to reform the infrastructure and the pipelines for gas, to get those costs down and to invest in pumped hydro storage.

But we know that not all of those opposite are happy with the Leader of the Opposition's energy policy, because on the front page of The Australian just last week the member for Hunter was quoted as telling caucus of their overreach, that they were getting ahead of the public when it comes to energy policy. The member for Hunter might be what we would consider Labor's oracle, but for the Leader of the Opposition what he says is heresy. But he is not the only one ringing the alarm bells when it comes to Labor's policy, because Ben Davis, the Victorian Secretary of the AWU, has warned about 'the rush away from gas and coal'. In his words, it is 'potentially crucifying hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs'. That is what the head of the AWU in Victoria said.

So members of the Leader of the Opposition's own front bench and members of the Leader of the Opposition's own union have warned him about Labor's energy policy. But somehow the Leader of the Opposition thinks that, if you do not know where you are going, any road will lead you there. That road of your energy policy goes to fewer jobs, higher prices and less electricity stability. In other words, Labor's energy policy is a road to ruin.


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