Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Opposition Whip) (11:39): I thank the member for Fremantle for that contribution. I’ll take it, by the fact that he didn’t declare Fremantle waters open for business, that maybe he doesn’t support wind farms in his electorate, but we’ll have to see how that unfolds in the future. That does come to one of the points I want to make in this speech, which is about the denial of the reality and actuality of our move to renewable energy in Australia.
I also want to take issue with the member for Fremantle’s comment—and unfortunately he has now left the chamber—that somehow the coalition was not doing its job in the effort to transition Australia to renewable energy. In fact, as we well know, our emissions in Australia have fallen by 23 per cent since 2005 levels, on a trajectory that was to continue under the previous government’s policies. Under the coalition government, for instance, $40 billion had been spent on renewable energy in Australia since 2017—6.1 gigawatts of capacity in the last five years. These are the kinds of figures that put Australia among the top 15 per cent of performances in the world when it comes to the transition to renewable energy. That is no mean feat, and it should not be belittled by those on the other side of this chamber. They should speak with clarity, transparency and truth on this subject. They should use that last word—truth—and actually stick to the facts and steer away from the rhetoric.
The member for Fremantle mentioned South Australia. In South Australia there is 2,300 megawatts of installed capacity of wind, 400 megawatts of installed capacity of large-scale solar and 1,800 megawatts of rooftop solar. I have great interest in this, as the member for Grey. Of those wind farms, just a tick under 2,000 megawatts sits within the electorate of Grey. Close to 75 per cent of the large-scale solar capacity sits within Grey as well. And there is a lot of interest, particularly in the upper Spencer Gulf area, in generating more renewable electricity, perhaps converting it into hydrogen, and tapping into the wind resources of the far west coast of South Australia, with new transmission lines under construction at the moment. That will be good for my electorate.
I’ll give the wind farm operators a bit of a tick here. They’ve learned a lot in the years since they first started. They’ve learned to give the landholder a bigger slice of the action. I’ve had very few complaints from landholders who have wind farms on their property and are in receipt of proper financial recompense—very few complaints about problems with having wind farms. The wind farm operators have come to realise they need community consent. They’ve become more generous with neighbours who might be inconvenienced by the wind farms, and with communities generally.
I have no problem with the idea of wind farms generally, and I have no problem with offshore wind farms. I think it’s right and proper that we have in place legislation that will enable people to build offshore wind farms if that is what they wish to do. But I am mystified, I have to say. Australia is the sixth-biggest country in the world. It covers 7.7 million square kilometres and has, interestingly, 34,000 kilometres of coastline. Most of that coastline is a good prospect for wind farming. Certainly, the southern coast of Australia is fantastic for wind farms. You would well appreciate that, Mr Deputy Speaker Wilkie. One of the things we do know about offshore wind farms is that they are more expensive, and somebody has to pay the bill at the end of the day. So I’m fairly mystified that, in a country this size, somehow we have to build these wind farms offshore. But we do know why that is, and I touched on it at the beginning of this speech: it’s the denial of reality and fact. Most people are in favour of renewable energy, but a whole lot of them don’t want to see it. They don’t want to know about it. They don’t want to have to look at it. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you come from an Australian rules football state. I was very keen—I think I’m maybe past my prime now—on playing half-forward for Adelaide, but probably the reality is I could not, I’d have to say. We all want renewable energy, but we somehow don’t want to see these monstrosities, as some people call them, next to us. We all want better mobile phone service. You’d be surprised, Mr Deputy Speaker, at the number of people who come to me and say, ‘I don’t want a mobile phone tower anywhere near me, but I do want service.’ We have this problem in Australia that people are saying, on the one hand, ‘I want renewable energy,’ but, on the other hand, ‘I don’t want it near me; somebody else has to have it.’ Otherwise, we would have seen the member for Fremantle standing up to say, ‘I want it off Fremantle port.’ But he doesn’t want it there. He wants it off my coastline, where my people will have to look at it. People should be honest with themselves about this situation, and politicians should be honest with the public that there is a cost as a result. That cost will be financial, but that cost may also be to your amenity.
I’m indebted to Minister Bowen for pointing out that we are going to need 18,000 kilometres of transmission towers. I hope the people building those transmission towers will take a leaf out of the book of those people who built the wind towers and start cutting the landholders in the local communities a decent slice of the action. But, if they do that, it will come at an extra cost. It will go on the power bill for the box that’s outside your house and everybody else’s house in Australia, unless they’re not connected to the grid, of course. But for most people it will come in the price of the product coming down from the power line to them. That is where the honesty is lacking in this campaign. This will all come at added cost.
The Labor Party came into government on the commitment to the Australian people that power prices would come down $275 a year under their watch. I read the budget last night. I’m sure you did, Mr Deputy Speaker. It actually tells us it’s going up by 50 per cent in the next two years. It is Russia’s fault, apparently. That is what the Treasurer said. There are a whole lot of other things at play here. It is not as simple as the invasion of Ukraine. There are a whole lot of other drivers for the electricity price. So let’s be honest about it.
Let’s be honest about the fact that the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy is not a cost saving; it’s going to come at a cost. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it; I’m saying we should be realistic and truthful about where this is heading for Australia. We should also be truthful about what a 50 per cent increase in our power prices is likely to mean for industry in Australia. We have heard the government wax lyrical about the idea of growing manufacturing jobs in Australia. Good luck with that! With a 50 per cent increase in power prices, good luck with growing new manufacturing jobs in Australia. We will be fighting tooth and nail to keep the ones we have already. I will be fighting for them. I have 40 per cent of Australia’s steel industry in my electorate. They don’t need higher electricity prices. I have a significant multimetal smelter in my electorate in Port Pirie. We do not need higher electricity prices. They are all looking at investment in renewables to power these operations, and I’m pleased with that. But they know it doesn’t come free. It comes at a cost. So let’s be truthful with the Australian public about those matters.
Mr Bowen tells us that, along with the 18,000 kilometres of new transmission lines, we are going to have 22,000 new 500-watt solar panels installed each day for the next eight years. I actually haven’t done the calculation on how many that is in total. It is certainly in the millions at 22,000 a day. Gee whiz! There will be a lot of jobs in that! But I think you should tell us where those panels are coming from—this is an important part of Australia’s security. At this stage, 95 per cent of solar panels are coming out of China. I don’t know if anyone has looked at the tensions in the Asia-Pacific lately, and at Australia’s economic security and our supply lines, but how strong a position will Australia be in if our electricity system relies entirely on a nation that may have hostile intent for us?
I haven’t heard anything from the government about where we are going to get these solar panels from. There’s been absolutely nothing. We’re also informed that there are going to be 40 wind towers built a month. Considering that I already have about 2,000 megawatts of nameplate capacity wind towers in my electorate, and I’ve watched them go up and seen how fast they can build, I suggest that this would take just about Australia’s whole construction industry. Did you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there are 1,600 tonnes of concrete in one wind farm? That’s a lot of concrete. It emits a lot of carbon. I don’t buy into that argument that somehow wind towers aren’t efficient when it comes to reducing carbon, but I do think it needs to be realised this is a resource that will need to be removed one day. Forty a month is an astonishing number, and I just don’t know where they’re all going to go. Obviously, they are all going in the sea. They will require more concrete there, I would say, than they are likely to require on land.
I would be very grateful if the government would actually explain not only where the solar panels are going to come from but where the solar panels are going to go to when we’ve finished with them. At this stage, the waste stream coming out of renewable energies is a completely unconcluded area that everybody just ignores, because we don’t have to deal with it in any great scale now. I am hopeful that it will be possible to recycle solar panels, but to what level I don’t really know. And certainly with the windfarms, my understanding at the moment is that wind farm blades, which are made of fibreglass, are not recyclable. I don’t know whether they could be made into something useful, but my understanding is that at the moment they get torn to shreds and buried. And the life of those wind blades is certainly not the life of the tower. They are replaced quite often. So there is a significant stream there that is going to require fossil fuels—I presume fossil fuels are required to produce fibreglass.
But, once again, all I’m asking for is honesty in this debate, and it is just so lacking on a general basis. As we saw from the government, they presented a platitude before the election: ‘We’re going to your power by $275.’ Afterwards, a little bit of honesty crept through with the budget, because they had to deal the Treasury estimates, and then it was, ‘Oops! It’s going up by 50 per cent.’ We need honesty and transparency. Let the sunshine in, fellas. That would be a really good thing, because at this stage I’m not seeing too much of it.