Power Prices Motion - 14/9/17

September 14, 2017

Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (12:15): Mr Deputy Speaker Irons, you can't imagine how pleased I am to take this debate, because they have got to be kidding! The last time we had overreach like this was when John Howard said that under Work Choices workers had never had it better. Remember that? Billboard after billboard destroyed his government because of that arrogance, that sense of being so out of touch that the government does not understand what is happening in households across the country. This motion exemplifies how arrogant and out of touch this government is.

The Minister for the Environment and Energy came into the parliament yesterday afternoon and effectively said to the 2½ million Sydney households, 'You've never had it so good.' He came into this House and said to 2½ million Sydney households that under the coalition government power prices have decreased by as much as $473. This minister said that $473 is the cash that Sydney households have in their pockets because of the cuts in their power bills under this government. Sydney households should be grateful for the bountiful sums that have flowed their way from reduced power bills under this minister and his predecessor. He said that with a straight face.

I do admit that the minister did concede that some Sydney households had experienced an increase in their power bills—an increase of $1. He said $1, not $1 per week but $1 per year over the whole of the long four years of this shocking government.

The member for Lindsay gave me a good suggestion earlier today. She said: 'Rather than have this debate in the rarefied atmosphere of Canberra, why don't you'—the minister—'join me in Penrith and have this debate? You can hear from Sydney households how grateful they are for the extra $473 that you say they have in reduced power bills. They'll be throwing rose petals your way, in your path, as you steam into Penrith to gracefully tell them how they've got reduced power bills.' I will tell you this: the member for Lindsay and other representatives of Sydney households on this side of parliament know what's happening in the real world of Sydney power bills. They know that under this government they are going up and up and up. Last year alone, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, they went up by $200 a year on average. As the minister belatedly admits, Sydney households are experiencing power bill increases this year of around 20 per cent. News.com.au says that, on average, for a Sydney household it is about $600 a year—but the minister didn't refer to that yesterday.

This is a government that is so out of touch that it thinks that Sydney households are experiencing a bounty of reduced power bills that are nothing but a fantasy. Perhaps that's why this minister for energy is supporting his Treasurer in cutting the energy supplement to 400,000 age pensioners, to 108,000 disability support pensioners, to 105,000 carers, to single parents and to other families on income support, because apparently their power bills are going down. They don't need the $550 energy supplement paid to the most vulnerable households in our community.

And it's not just households, because business after business has been walking the halls of this parliament over the last fortnight and talking about their energy price rises across the country, including in New South Wales. And we know the figures they're quoting: they're talking to the media and they're talking to members on this side about 70 per cent, 80 per cent, 90 per cent and even 100 per cent increases in their power contracts in New South Wales—all because of this government's stunning underperformance on energy policy.

Now, the reasons for this are very clear. Under this government, 4,000 megawatts of dispatchable power have been taken out of the system. Seven coal-fired power stations, equivalent to powering six million households, have been taken out of the system. I'd love the minister to get up and tell us how many megawatts of dispatchable power have been built in the more than four years of this government, because it's zero. It's absolutely zero! We had the Prime Minister boast about the 2,900 megawatts of gas-fired generation installed in the last decade. He didn't say it was all under the last Labor government, and that not a single megawatt of dispatchable power has been built in the long four years of this government.

But we also know that it's not just the Turnbull government that's let Sydney households down. We saw the ACCC in the paper again this morning, complaining about the Liberal state government's botched privatisation of New South Wales power generation, pushing power prices up for Sydney households, which are already having to suffer at the hands of this incompetent, out-of-touch government.

This government has plunged this country into the deepest energy crisis in living memory. To the minister, I say: power prices are not going down. They are not going down; they are going up and up and up under this government. For the first time in living memory, two-thirds of the nation is at risk of blackouts in coming summers because this government has built no dispatchable power generation, while 4,000 megawatts of dispatchable power has left the system on this government's watch.

It's not just dispatchable power and it's not just power prices: pollution is going up. One in three renewable energy jobs has been lost under this minister and under this government, because of their attacks on renewable energy. One in three jobs! Thousands of workers in renewable energy have lost their jobs because of this government's ideological attacks. And it's all the more unforgiveable because they actually have a blueprint to get the nation out of this deep hole. They have a blueprint to get the nation out of this hole: it's called the Finkel report, a report commissioned by the government itself from the Chief Scientist of Australia that recommends the clearest possible way forward. The clearest possible way forward is a clean energy target, one that's got the support of business and the support of state governments. The opposition has said that we'll constructively engage with them. But why isn't the clean energy target progressing? I wonder why the clean energy target is not progressing? Because two years ago we changed the Prime Minister, but we didn't actually change who runs this show. The member for Warringah runs this show! The member for Hughes has a pretty significant influence as well but is second to the member for Warringah, who really runs this show.

We've got article, after article, after article laying bare all the internal divisions of this sad and sorry government.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): Order! Order! Order! I'll ask the member to resume his seat. I'll just remind all members, particularly the member for Hunter—who has interjected the whole way through—that if you want to come to the dispatch box, you'll get your turn. I remind all members that if they're out of their seats, to cease their interjections.

Mr BUTLER: Yesterday we got 'Turnbull retreats on clean energy'. He said this was the way forward, but no, he can't get his party room to do it. We saw yesterday, 'Abbott fuels push from backbench against clean target', proving again that you may have changed the Prime Minister two years ago but you didn't change who runs the show; you didn't change who's got a veto over policy, including climate and energy policy. It's still the member for Warringah who runs this show!

'Party games', yesterday—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Corangamite on a point of order.

Ms Henderson: Mr Deputy Speaker, I would ask the member to direct his comments through the chair. Thank you.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Order! I'm sure the shadow minister is aware of that.

Mr BUTLER: I'll take that, Deputy Speaker. There are no limits to this government's arrogance. There are no limits to how out of touch this government and all on its backbench are. The Australian people know with power prices; they know that under this government they're going up and up. They know their wages are flat. They know that the Prime Minister is cutting the energy supplement. They know the government is giving tax cuts to millionaires and tax cuts to big business. They know that the government is making their kids pay more to go to university. I tell you what: they'll find this government out.

As an amendment to the proposition, I move:

That all words after "condemns" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: "the Prime Minister for being so out of touch that his Government is telling the average Sydney household that since this Government was elected in 2013, their power bills have only gone up by $1 or gone down by more than $470 a year".