My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Will the minister update the House on action the government is taking to make our energy system more reliable and affordable for hardworking Australian households and businesses? Is the minister aware of any challenges to securing energy reliability and affordability?
Mr FRYDENBERG: I thank the member for Corangamite for her question and I know her deep concern for businesses in her electorate like AKD Softwoods, who have seen their gas and electricity prices increase dramatically. They employ around 300 people in Colac in her electorate. She, like all those on this side of the House, is committed to: putting downward pressure on electricity prices; stabilising our system; cleaning up the Labor Party’s mess by ensuring that more gas is available to the domestic market; abolishing the limited merits review, which the Labor Party is now sending to committee so they can consult their union mates; and getting major concessions from the retailers which will ensure lower power bills for Australians.
I’m asked if there is any challenge to this approach. We know that the Leader of the Opposition wasn’t the people’s choice and he is no longer the workers’ choice because he is selling out the blue-collar workers by his commitment to close coal-fired power stations. It is in his election platform and, despite putting on the high-vis vest and going out and saying coal is the future of Australia, he has supported motions in this parliament that say coal has no future in Australia. With comments like that from the Leader of the Opposition, you can understand why the member for Port Adelaide is all at sea. Last week he was interviewed on ABC Breakfast in Melbourne and was asked six times, ‘Do you support keeping open coal-fired power stations or do you support closing them?’ Rafael Epstein said, ‘What do you want to do?’ The member for Port Adelaide said, ‘They will close really by virtue of the age.’ Epstein asked him again, ‘Do you encourage them to be opened or closed?’ He said, ‘I’m sure that’s not necessarily the right analysis.’ Epstein tried again, ‘Do you want to open or close the coal-fired power stations?’ The member for Port Adelaide: ‘We’ve got to get that number down.’ He tried again. ‘Do you want to encourage them to stay open or to close?’ He couldn’t answer it. So then Rafael Epstein said, ‘That’s an observation, not a judgement. I’m asking for a judgement. Do you want these to close?’ He said, ‘We need to replace coal-fired power with energy and clean energy.’ There you have it. The member for Port Adelaide, who last week couldn’t answer the question six times, who last night when interviewed on RN Drive couldn’t answer the question nine times, doesn’t know whether the Labor Party’s policy is to keep coal-fired power stations open or closed. And with advice from the Australian Energy Market Operator, keeping coal-fired power stations is in the interests of Australian consumers, and will keep prices lower and the system more stable. The Labor Party should change their policy.
7 September 2017