Today I rise to talk about this Prime Minister's chaotic and dangerous foray into energy policy over the last six weeks. We in Australia face a very difficult series of challenges in electricity, largely driven by the fact that, according to AGL, three-quarters of our existing coal- and gas-fired generators are already operating beyond their design life and need to be replaced. The industry, big energy users, expert agencies have all said this country needs a comprehensive plan about the replacement of those generators that, first of all, and most importantly, delivers affordable, reliable electricity to households and businesses as well as aligns with our Paris commitments on carbon pollution.
In December Malcolm Turnbull, the Prime Minister, inexplicably overruled his own energy minister to rule out any consideration of an emissions intensity scheme in electricity, in spite of it being recommended by all of the industry, by state governments—Liberal and Labor alike—by the CSIRO, by the Chief Scientist, by the Energy Market Commission, the Climate Change Authority and many, many others. The Prime Minister's former energy adviser, Danny Price, said this makes the Liberal Party:
… the party of increasing electricity prices and reduced energy security.
Instead, what we saw at the National Press Club a couple of weeks ago was the Prime Minister place the idea of new coal-fired generators at the centre of his energy plan. To be clear, no-one in Australia was talking about new coal-fired generators being built in this country. No-one had been talking about that for years, until the former Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, penned an op-ed urging the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to do just that. And, low and behold, it was the centrepiece of his National Press Club speech. This is the most expensive option, according to the Australian Industry Group. According to the Energy Council, which represents all of the coal- and gas-fired generators:
Put simply, you cannot finance coal.
According to the Climate Institute, it would require somewhere between $27 billion and $44 billion of taxpayer subsidies, because banks simply will not lend to build a new coal-fired generator.
It is good to have the member for Sturt and the member for Boothby here, as I was particularly shocked to read on the front page of The Australian last week that senior government sources are already drawing up plans to build a new coal-fired generator at Pelican Point, on the Lefevre Peninsula. Australia has not built a coal-fired generator in a major city since before World War II. I can tell the member for Sturt and the member for Boothby: there will not be a coal-fired generator built in the community of Port Adelaide while I am the member. The community will reject it. The Prime Minister needs to stop listening to the hard right of the Liberal Party about the important issue of electricity.