RENEWABLE ENERGY (JOBS AND INVESTMENT) BILL 2017 - Second Reading
Tuesday 19th September 2017
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — I rise to make a contribution on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017. Before starting the balance of my contribution, can someone please take up a collection to buy the member for Eltham an atlas of Victoria? Please buy the member for Eltham an atlas —
Mr Richardson — An atlas? What century are we in, brother? We are in the 21st century.
Mr WALSH — Because she obviously does not know how to use Google Maps. Perhaps she needs an atlas to know that it is ‘Robinvale’, not ‘Robinville’. As someone who has probably never got out of Melbourne, the member needs to understand that there are a lot of towns out there and it is an insult to the people of Robinvale to call it ‘Robinville’. Robinvale has a very proud history that goes back to World War I and the Cuttle family. What the member said was an insult to the people of Robinvale.
The bill before the house is one that the Liberals and Nationals oppose, and if elected to government would actually repeal. I am very happy to repeat that: we would repeal this bill. This is the most anti‑jobs piece of legislation that has come before this house in a long time. We have seen a huge increase in power costs since Hazelwood closed, and we are putting at risk Victoria’s competitive advantage, which has been there for generations.
The Latrobe Valley has powered Victoria for generations and it has the capacity to power it for generations into the future if we actually get the investment certainty and the policy settings right to make sure that there is investment in new generation: coal power plants. A high‑efficiency, low‑emission plant is what is needed in Victoria before another one of the power generators closes.
We have seen what has happened to power costs with the closure of Hazelwood. The member for Eltham talked about the number of jobs that have been created in the construction phase of some of the renewable energy projects. Let me say that we are not against renewable energy projects — renewable energy will be part of our power mix into the future — but until there is a way of making sure that there is reliable, affordable and sustainable baseload power, we need that investment in new coal generation into the future.
I have a group of food processors in northern Victoria that I have been working with for six to nine months now who are very, very concerned about their increased energy costs. This group represents 10 000 jobs. That is 10 000 jobs that are there every year, year in, year out, and they say they represent $3.2 billion of business turnover. They have been saying to me, ‘If these energy costs are the future, we will be out of business’. Quite a few of these companies are multinationals. They have operations in other countries and they are saying, ‘Our head offices are saying, “If this is the energy future for Victoria, we will take our manufacturing somewhere else in the world”‘. We are talking about putting at risk tens of thousands of Victorian jobs that were developed and built on the back of reliable, affordable power supply in the Latrobe Valley over decades. Those jobs will be at risk into the future.
The discussion about blackouts is interesting. I got into a bit of a war of words with the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change in my local paper on 16 August. A spokesperson for the minister said Mr Walsh ‘should stop making up his own facts’, and that:
… Victoria would continue to be a net exporter of energy, despite Hazelwood’s closure.
‘The real experts in this field … has confirmed that Victoria will have enough supply for this summer …
That was on 16 August, when the minister was pooh‑poohing the idea that we might have blackouts in this state. If you fast‑forward to 12 September there is a report in the Country News where it says that:
Rolling blackouts could become a way of life in summer according to the Australian Energy Market Operator —
That is the same entity that the minister’s spokesperson quoted as saying it was never, ever going to happen:
which is warning 4‑hour blackouts could plague Victoria and South Australia for the next decade if more is not done to increase energy supply.
I think that just backs up my case that we do need to have investment in new coal generation in the Latrobe Valley.
That particular article in the Country News quotes Adam Jenkins, who is the president of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria, on the issues about animal welfare and the implications when you cannot milk, you cannot clean your milk plant and you cannot cool your milk because of energy blackouts into the future. It is very well documented now that the things that the Andrews government and particularly the minister have been saying — that we will have plenty of power — have actually been proven to be totally wrong. It is the same as that mistruth by the Premier that power prices would only go up 4 per cent with the closure of Hazelwood — an absolute mistruth. Some people that are a bit more frank with their language outside this place would say the Premier probably told a lie about that particular issue and that power prices have gone up by a lot more than 4 per cent.
You look at some examples, particularly around the health services: the Echuca hospital has seen a $375 000 increase in their power costs and a $104 000 increase in their gas costs, so a 50 per cent increase in gas and electricity. The Swan Hill hospital have had a $318 000 increase in their power costs — a 78 per cent increase across that time. Kyabram and District Health Service in my electorate have had a $166 500 increase in their power costs. Those costs are certainly up a lot more than 4 per cent, which was promised by the Premier.
To finish off I will go to this business that we cannot invest in coal here in Victoria. Senator John Williams, a federal National Party senator, asked the federal parliamentary library to do some research on what coal power plants are being built around the world at the moment. China has 299 new coal generation units under construction. India is building 132 new power plants. Australia’s closest neighbour, Indonesia, is planning a further 32 coal power plants to generate power for that country. Nuclear countries such as Japan and South Africa are also increasing their exposure to coal power investments with 21 new plants between them. Vietnam is building 34 new coal power plants.
I am afraid that the policy and the legislation that we have before us in this house is effectively what I would call ostrich legislation. We will put our heads in the sand, we will pretend nothing is happening and the world will go past us. This government with this plan is in absolute denial about how you can ensure sustainable, reliable and affordable power for this state, and it will cost tens and tens of thousands of jobs. As other speakers and I have said, we oppose this particular legislation. We will repeal it if we have the opportunity in government after November next year. We support having a national target as the best way to manage these particular issues. We have a national electricity market; we need a national renewable energy target where everyone can work together. For Victoria to have one target, for New South Wales not to have a target, for Western Australia not to have a target and for South Australia to go the way they have — and we have seen what has happened to South Australia’s reliability of energy supply over the last couple of years. We have seen the number of jobs that have been lost out of South Australia. We have seen —
Mr Richardson interjected.
Mr WALSH — The member for Mordialloc needs to go and read and understand how power works, and he would know —
Mr Richardson interjected.
Mr WALSH — No, it is not that it fell down. He would know that the system collapsed because it had too much reliance on renewable energy and not enough base load going into that system, and the whole system actually crashed around it. This legislation is not good for Victoria and it is not good for Victorian jobs, and we look forward to those on the other side seeing reason and maybe crossing the floor and voting against it. Knowing they will not, it is something that we will repeal.
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