| August 17, 2017
Energy issues in Murray
Energy is possibly one of the most important issues, if not the most important and most pressing issue, in my electorate of Murray at the moment. I am getting phone calls and emails from constituents worried about their household energy bills. But the problem is going well beyond the household; it is affecting local industry. We have many industries in my electorate that are heavy energy users and that are huge employers, and they are paying millions of dollars each and every year in energy costs. Those energy costs are going through the roof at the moment. We were very happy to see the Prime Minister last week call in the energy companies to work out how they can be more transparent with their billing processes and to work out how they can send out information to the Australian public to make sure they let them know that the special discount that they were previously on has expired and to encourage householders and businesses to change retailers, energy providers, to make sure that they are getting the cheapest energy that is available to them.
We understand and acknowledge the real pressure that households and businesses are under, especially because of the gas market on the east coast. We have to do whatever we possibly can to overcome the current shortage of energy. There are a number of factors driving this shortage of energy on the east coast. Some of the gas fields in southern Queensland are not as productive—there is not as much gas there as they thought. There are dwindling supplies out of Bass Strait. Energy that was traditionally put aside for the domestic market in Victoria and New South Wales was purchased and exported by companies that had been given the green light by Queensland Labor five years ago—with no monitoring associated with the way they were to deliver that gas to Asia. That's why it was very good to see the Prime Minister last week meeting with those energy companies. It was also good that on 1 July this year, the government introduced the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism. This mechanism will allow the government to impose export controls on LNG projects if there is a shortfall of gas in the domestic market. This is a targeted, temporary measure designed to ensure that there is security of gas in the domestic market.
What is really concerning is the attitude of the Victorian Labor Party, which has an absolute ban on exploration and extraction. Whilst the area is undergoing extreme shortages and the price of gas is going through the roof, the Victorian Labor government is refusing to acknowledge that there is any issue whatsoever. They are saying that in Victoria there will be absolutely no exploration. They're not even letting the scientists go out and discover new fields. We don't know what it is that they are prohibiting. They are deliberately confusing the term 'fracking' with conventional gas extraction. When you ask why aren't we allowing more gas exploration and gas extraction out of the Victorian gas fields, they say: 'Well, you don't want to be pumping chemicals and sand, and breaking open aquifers and poisoning and contaminating the aquifers. Surely you don't want that.' It is deliberately confusing the terminology between fracking and conventional gas exploration.
What needs to be put out there and what we need to do is identify that Labor, the Greens and organisations such as GetUp! and Lock The Gate are having a direct impact on employment. The industries throughout the Goulburn Valley—whether it be food manufacturers such as Campbell Soup, SPC, Heinz, Murray Goulburn, Kagome tomatoes and Unilever, or whether it be the engineering plants that are heavy users of energy—are all in a very tough situation at the moment. Their businesses are marginal. We have gas prices and electricity prices going up. We all understand that electricity prices are set, in part, by the price of gas at any one moment. Yet, we have a Labor Party in Victoria with its head in the sand saying that we have no problem whatsoever. We have a severe problem. Unless we have an understanding that these current policies in relation to gas and electricity are going to have a detrimental impact and direct impact on jobs throughout Australia—