Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (15:05): My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. He would be well aware that my electorate of Grey bore the brunt of last September’s power outages in South Australia-Port Lincoln was out for three days; some places for four days-and how the doubling of electricity prices is effecting our bigger employers, BHP and Olympic Dam, Nyrstar and Arrium. Will the minister update the House on what the government is doing to strengthen energy security and maintain energy affordability, and what hurdles stand in the way of achieving this security for hardworking Australian families?
Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong–Minister for the Environment and Energy) (15:06): I thank the member for Grey for that important question because, as he said, in his electorate-
Ms Macklin interjecting–
The SPEAKER: Member for Jagajaga, I will tell you what is going to happen if you keep interjecting.
Mr FRYDENBERG: they have borne the brunt of energy instability in South Australia, and the major energy users like Nyrstar, Arrium and BHP have paid a very high price. The Prime Minister, in his Press Club speech just a few days ago, outlined what our priorities are when they come to energy policy, energy security and energy affordability as we transition to a lower emissions future. We will be technology neutral in our approach. We recognise that coal and gas, fossil fuels, will play a very big role for years to come, as well as renewables, and we are investing record amounts in storage capacity.
In South Australia, we have worked with the Australian Energy Market Operator to reduce some of the pressure on the interconnector from Victoria into South Australia and to strengthen the settings on the windfarms to ensure that they can ride out voltage disturbances. And we have done other things to ensure that there are two synchronous generators at any one time to help stabilise the system. I visited South Australia last week and I visited Ferguson Australia, a major seafood business in the seat of Port Adelaide-in my opposite number’s seat. They have seen their electricity bills double over the last year and they have had to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in backup support to ensure that their produce is not ruined before they export it, earning millions of dollars for the state and for the country.
All this is put at risk by those opposite. Just today we have heard that their signature policy when it comes to climate change and energy policy, an emissions trading scheme, has been described by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate as:
… it is a mongrel. It is not a credible alternative, it is a smokescreen.
That is your policy as described in 2009 by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. And what about your 50 per cent RET which will require an $8 billion investment? What about your 45 per cent emissions reduction target by 2030? What about your decision to force the closure of coal-fired power stations, which the Australian Energy Market Commission-which you quoted here just earlier today-has said will cost $24 billion? And this is all on top of your emissions intensity scheme.
It is no wonder Graham Richardson, the original fixer, has said of your policy that it is ‘farcical’ and that:
You can’t set policy on a wing, a hope and a prayer.
It is no wonder that the unions have criticised the rush to renewables, putting in jeopardy thousands and thousands of jobs. In fact, according to the ABS, there were only 14,000 jobs in 2014-15 in renewables and nearly one million in Australian manufacturing. That will be our priority-the nearly one million jobs in manufacturing, which are much safer under the coalition.