Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (15:48): One would read into the wording of this matter of public importance today-which is ‘The division in the government over its energy policy’-that the Labor Party, of course, doesn’t have any division on major issues. I welcome the fact that my party is able to discuss things in a robust way and that there are alternative points of view. I well remember the lead-up to the 2013 election when the member for Hunter was caught on television laughing at the Prime Minister’s talking points. The Prime Minister at the time was Julia Gillard. The member for Hunter said: ‘I brought the manual with me. I’ll see what it says.’ There is only one view from the Labor Party because having an alternative view means expulsion from the party. Are we to assume, for instance, by the wording of this MPI, that 100 per cent of Labor Party members are in favour of lifting the renewable target to 45 per cent by 2030 and there’s no division in the party? Are we to assume that they are in favour of raising taxes on small and medium business owners? In fact, are we to assume that there is no dissent in their ranks over the policing of the integrity of our borders? Is it 100 per cent over there? Is there no alternative view in the Labor Party? Goodness me! What a load of rubbish! Well, of course there is in the Liberal Party. There are alternative views are on all major topics, and that’s something we should be proud of, and we actually foster that within our ranks.
But let me tell you a little bit about electricity. I’ve said to my party room this morning that I have been around this story of electricity in Australia for, I think, longer than anyone in this House, because it was in 2011 that Alinta came to me and said: ‘We are having trouble at our Northern Power Station. What’s happening in South Australia is that we’re getting an explosion of renewable energy under the auspices of the RET, and it’s actually reducing the number of days on which we can sell electricity into the market at a profit.’ In 2012 I met with the AEMO commissioner, and he said to me at the time: ‘Don’t worry about it, Mr Ramsey. Even if the Northern Power Station at Port Augusta closes, the upgraded interconnector will take care of that. South Australia will be all right. You’ve got nothing to worry about.’ Well, he was wrong and I was right, unfortunately. We were plunged into darkness. South Australia currently has 52 per cent renewable energy, and let me tell you: even though there are no longer incentives there in the RET, people are still building. That’s fine. I’m not upset about people building wind farms and solar farms. But every one that gets built undermines the business case of the baseload generators. It reduces the number of days a year that they can supply electricity into the market at a profit. But we need them. Even though it might be only 20 days a year or 40 days a year, we absolutely need them, because there are no other answers in the system at the moment.
What the NEG does is provide an incentive for operators to build baseload electricity, because at the moment, as long as those on that side of this House sit across there and say, ‘Whatever you do, when we get into government we’re going to undo it,’ there will be no investment in baseload electricity. We’ve had an investment freeze for years now. We’ve got the business community on side. We’ve got the consumer groups on side. I think we’ll get all of the state governments on side, but we’ve got most of them. What we need is for the Labor Party to come on side and say, ‘All right, we accept that for Australia’s benefit we need to land on some mutual ground, and we will not promise destruction if elected to parliament.’ That’s when you’ll see the coffers of private investment open up, and they will start to invest in new generation capacity in Australia that will provide baseload electricity to us.
This is our best chance. We have nearly all the balls lined up. This morning in our party room, there was overwhelming support for pushing ahead with this course of action. I am very confident that the minister will reach agreement with the states in the next month or so. What we need-what Australia needs-is a signal from the Labor Party that they’ll come on board too and we’ll get bipartisanship. I heard a call for bipartisanship on the other side. This is your opportunity. Show the investors of Australia that you’ve got faith in Australia, you’ve got faith in the citizens and you want to help reduce power prices, not send power prices northward. Do you really want to go to the next election saying, ‘I’m in favour of higher power prices?’ (Time expired)