| March 20, 2017

The Importance of Reliable Energy

Delivered: Monday 20th March 2017, Federation Chamber, Parliament House, Canberra.

Quite simply, the energy debate needs to be put into three very stark and very easy-to-understand categories.

Firstly, as the government of the nation we need to be able to provide for our people reliable access to energy, so that the lights do not go off and so that industry can continue to do what it does for this country whenever it needs to.

If that is three in the morning or four in the afternoon on a stinking hot day, we need to be able to keep the lights on and we need to be able to keep power coming through our homes, our hospitals and our industry.

The second thing we need to do is to make this energy as affordable as we possibly can.

We all know that, through a whole range of different reasons, the price of energy is going through the roof.

The third thing we need to do is to make sure that we reach our Paris Agreement commitments. We need to be able to reduce our emissions so that we treat the environment in the same way that we treat our roadsides and our riversides.

In the same way that we clean up our waterways, we also need to clean up our atmosphere.

This three-pronged approach from the coalition shows that it is the only political force in this country that has a well-balanced view on this.

Right now, in 2017, to be able to provide that three-tiered approach of reliable, affordable and low-intensity-emission energy, we need to have a mix.

And the mix at the moment—unfortunately for those opposite—involves a percentage of coal.

Right now in Victoria over 22 per cent of our energy is being supplied by Hazelwood.

You can go online and see how all eight generators at Hazelwood are firing away at near full capacity.

Yet in just a couple of weeks the overseas owners, due to the Labor Party and the state government putting so much pressure on them, are simply going to pack it up and leave.

What is going to happen to Victorian prices for electricity when that happens?

They are going to increase anywhere from five to 15 per cent, adding another $80-odd to the family power bill.

And that is not to mention what it is going to do to industry.

Not only is it going to jack-up the prices; it is going to diminish the reliability of energy in this country, and industry, certainly in Victoria, has been based on cheap energy. Industry got a foothold and then retained its competitiveness on the back of cheap energy.

Compared to other trading nations, we have always had high wages.

However, when it comes to trade and manufacturing of the same commodities, we have always been able to argue that we have lower energy costs—and also high quality produce, specifically when it comes to food production in my electorate of Murray.

At the moment, Australia is a huge exporter of coal, the second biggest exporter of coal in the world.

That is mainly black coal, but if technology continues to improve and we can work out how to dry the brown coal reserves of Gippsland, we will be sitting on a real boon for both Victoria and Australia.

At the moment we are not able to do that, but there are many people working day in, day out to reach that level of balance.

As I said earlier, the latest data has shown that the coalition are well on track to meet our commitment under the Paris Agreement, which is a reduction to 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030.

We are doing what we can in that space, and we need to do whatever we can in relation to reliability and cost.

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