Energy Natural Gas

Natural Gas Resources

Wednesday 22nd March 2017

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to make a contribution on behalf of the Liberal and National parties on the motion before the house from the Minister for Industry and Employment about gas.

I have listened with interest to the member for Eltham make her contribution. She talked about what the people of Gippsland may or may not want. The people of Gippsland that I talk to — the people of Gippsland who were on the front steps of Parliament yesterday, the people of Gippsland who were in the gallery yesterday were just appalled at the fact that the Premier is not sticking up for them and their jobs — and the people of Gippsland that we talk to actually want jobs at Heyfield. They actually want the jobs for the people that are going to lose their jobs when Hazelwood closes. That is what they want. They actually want jobs. They do not want the rhetoric from the member for Eltham about what she thinks she knows about the people of Gippsland. They actually want a job.

Ms Ward interjected.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — Order! The member for Eltham is out of her place.

Mr WALSH — They actually want a job, which her government is denying them. Her government is taking away those jobs.

Let us actually look at our gas. There is a lot of rewriting of history on gas going on at the moment. Who was the government here in Victoria that approved 73 licences for unconventional gas exploration? Who was the government here in Victoria that approved 23 fracking licences? It was the Labor government that approved that. They are trying to rewrite history about their position on gas here in Victoria.

If you talk about the issue of a gas reserve, as the member for Eltham was again banging on about in her contribution, the Labor Party had the opportunity in the upper house to support an amendment moved to the fracking legislation that was going through to actually have a gas reserve policy here in Victoria. So they are crying crocodile tears now. They are crying crocodile tears that we need a gas reserve.

It was only in the last sitting week that the Labor Party was put to the test on this, and they failed dismally; they failed absolutely dismally when it came to the test about whether there is a gas reserve here in Victoria, because they did not support that amendment to the bill. They actually voted against it. So do not come into this house talking about gas reserves and criticising the Prime Minister or Barnaby Joyce, because you guys failed when you were put to the test. It is all crocodile tears that you are talking about at the moment.

Previously I have spoken in here on a lot of issues around gas prices. I have Kagome, a tomato processor, in my electorate. Their gas bill this year has gone up by $1.4 million — —

An honourable member — How much?

Mr WALSH — By $1.4 million. So it has gone from just over $2 million to nearly $3.5 million for gas this season. Kagome signed up for a two‑year deal. They were hesitant at the time, but they now realise that if they had not signed up for a two‑year deal, it would have gone up that much again next year. They say that unless something is done about gas supply and prices here in Victoria they will not be sustainable into the future. They have been talking to all the other food processors across northern Victoria, and the ones that use gas are in exactly the same position. We are going to force these businesses out of business under the current policy settings here in Victoria because the price and supply of gas will make them unsustainable in the long term.

It is important to note that there has been conventional gas exploration and conventional gas extraction going on for decades and decades. We are not talking about fracking; we are talking about onshore conventional gas. There is the opportunity, under strict scientific control, for that exploration and, if there is gas there, for that extraction to take place here in Victoria to make sure that we actually keep our jobs. The Andrews Labor government may not care about jobs here in Victoria, but we on this side of the house most definitely care about jobs — —

Mr Richardson interjected.

Mr WALSH — I hear the interjection from the member for Mordialloc. Do you not just love the interjections from the member for Mordialloc? He is the one who is supporting the members for Melton and Tarneit to rort the system. He is supporting the rorters in the Labor Party. The member for Mordialloc is no better than the members for Melton and Tarneit. He is in the same lot. Just remember — —

Ms Green — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the Leader of The Nationals is paying almost no attention to the motion before the house. He is covering other issues that are completely extraneous to it. Given the contribution from the Liberals lead speaker, I am not surprised, but I would ask you to bring him back to the debate.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — Order! I ask the Leader of The Nationals to return to the motion before the house.

Mr WALSH — I do not think rorting is extraneous; rorting is at the core of what is going on at the moment in this state, and the fact that people on the other side of the house would defend rorters means they are no better than the ones who are doing it. That is the key issue with the member for Mordialloc. He is no better than the member for Melton or the member for Tarneit.

Mr Scott — On a point of order, Acting Speaker, the former minister, the Leader of The Nationals, is clearly defying your ruling, and I ask you to bring him back to the matter before the house.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr Carbines) — I would encourage the Leader of The Nationals to return to the motion before the house.

Mr WALSH — What we are debating here is the motion before the house about gas and the need for further exploration and extraction of conventional onshore gas here in Victoria to make sure that we actually have a sufficient gas supply at a price that enables businesses to be competitive in this state.

If you look at what is going on around the rest of Australia with this issue, we have all seen what has happened with the reliability and price of power supply in South Australia. The South Australian Premier, Jay Weatherill, after closing down all the coal and gas‑fired plants there, has now decided that he needs a new gas plant to make up for the fact that renewable energy does not give a satisfactory baseload supply of power for that state. He is actually encouraging industry to go out and find gas to supply that power station. What I have heard the Premier of South Australia say is, ‘Yes, we’re going to build a new gas‑fired power plant. The state’s going to invest in it’ — because no‑one else trusts the South Australian government to actually invest in South Australia anymore; they just do not like the sovereign risk with Jay Weatherill at its head — ‘but then we’ve actually got to go and find the gas to put in the power plant that we are going to build’. So South Australia is a long way away from having a gas‑fired power plant that will actually deliver any power for that particular state.

If you are talking about gas supply, you have got to look at it from a global point of view and you have got to look at it from the rest of Australia’s supply — —

Ms D’Ambrosio interjected.

Mr WALSH — I note the interjection from the minister at the table saying that gas is going overseas. Minister, can I remind you that in the last sitting week your government and your members had the opportunity to support an amendment to the fracking bill in the upper house that would have actually set up a gas reserve here in Victoria. When the Andrews government was put to the test as to whether they would have a gas reserve here in Victoria, they voted against it. The people of Victoria hear the hollow weasel words that you have been using in this house today, because last sitting week in the upper house you had every opportunity to do something about this and you failed the people of Victoria, you failed the businesses of Victoria and you failed jobs here in Victoria by refusing to support that amendment in the upper house. Now you come in here bleating away about what the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister should do. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are actually showing true leadership on this issue; they are showing what leaders can do in this country to get things done rather than just banging on and not supporting something when there is the opportunity to do so.

The Andrews Labor government and the minister that moved this motion stand condemned for abandoning businesses here in Victoria and for abandoning jobs every day of every week in this state. There are more people unemployed than there were before. Tasmania actually has a better unemployment rate than Victoria. That says a lot about this government.


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