THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
TUESDAY, 17 OCTOBER 2017
SUBJECT: Energy crisis.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Last night, Australians were expecting that a government in its fifth year of office would describe its plan for lowering power prices and lowering pollution. Instead, Cabinet met and we still have no details about what this government intends to do to lower power prices, to provide certainty in the energy market and to lower pollution. We've got a government that promised to bring down power prices by $550 and instead, all we've seen are power prices going up and up and up. And as well as power prices going up, we've seen a drop in investment in renewables, we've seen a drop in jobs in the renewables sector, and we've seen an increase in pollution at the same time as Australians are facing insecurity including potential blackouts this Christmas. Given this government has said it will drop power prices by $550, why would anyone trust anything this government says? I think the real problem is Malcolm Turnbull's never struggled to pay a power bill. He doesn't understand what these increasing prices are doing to family budgets. And he used to care about increasing jobs in renewables, he used to care about increasing investment in the renewables sector. He doesn't anymore. He said that a Clean Energy Target would certainly work. The Prime Minister said a Clean Energy Target would certainly work. The Energy Minister said that it would bring down power prices. He did a presentation in the Liberal Party caucus room, with a powerpoint showing that energy prices would come down under a Clean Energy Target. Well, what's changed? The only thing that's changed is that Tony Abbott continues to call the shots, and he says that a Clean Energy Target is unacceptable. So the Prime Minister, the Energy Minister and everybody else is dancing to the tune of a tiny group of extremists in the Liberal Party who don't want to see increased investment in renewables. What we're stuck with is a choice - the Prime Minister has made a choice not to invest in renewables, not to provide energy certainty, not to see pollution come down, not to see certainty in energy generation improved. He's made a choice to keep Tony Abbott happy. Now Australians need to make a choice - will they choose a government that is ideologically obsessed with reducing investment in renewable energy, in killing the renewable energy market, or will they support a Labor Opposition that has a plan to bring down power prices and bring down pollution, to increase energy security to prevent the blackouts and to make sure that we continue to see jobs and investment in the renewables sector.
JOURNALIST: Obviously we haven't seen all the details of the Coalition's new policy yet, but if it can deliver reliability along with reaching our Paris agreement emissions targets, then is that something Labor would support?
PLIBERSEK: Well look, you've got to forgive us for being a little bit sceptical. You've got a Prime Minister who originally was the biggest fan of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Back in the day, he crossed the floor to support the CPRS because he said that would increase investment in renewables, bring down pollution and bring down power prices. Then he became the biggest fan of an Emissions Intensity Scheme, saying that was the best way to bring down prices and bring down pollution. More recently, he said that the Clean Energy Target is the best way to bring down prices and bring down pollution. Now the only thing that's actually changed is Tony Abbott says that these solutions are unacceptable and Malcolm Turnbull hasn't got the guts to stand up to him. If there is another arrangement on the table, then the Government has to tell us exactly what that is. And if it brings down prices and brings down pollution, then we'll consider it. But we're kind of running out of options. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull has supported every possible plan to bring down prices and bring down pollution, and Tony Abbott has killed each one as it's being floated. What's left?
JOURNALIST: Do you think it is still possible to meet Australia's Paris targets without a Clean Energy Target?
PLIBERSEK: I think it is very difficult. The Government has had a number of different positions, a number of different ways that it's wanted to bring down prices and bring down pollution and this small rump of climate change deniers in the Liberal Party close off each option, as the bulk of the Government, the main stream of the Government, raised them. So I honestly don't know what we're left with that would meet these objectives of lowering power prices and lowering pollution.
JOURNALIST: What do you make of suggestions states could be required to source a certain percentage of their energy from sources like coal?
PLIBERSEK: We have a real problem this summer. We actually have a problem this summer, where we're facing homes and businesses being blacked out, because in its fifth year, this government still has no identifiable plan to provide certainty in the energy market. So talking about gas resources that might come online in five years' time, or keeping open power stations that are due to be shut in five years' time, is a bit pointless when it comes to keeping the lights on this summer. What the Government needs to do to keep the lights on this summer is keep more Australian gas at home. And the one thing the Government could do to ensure this is pull the gas trigger. They're refusing to do it. The Prime Minister has called the gas companies down to Canberra and he's got some 'gentleman's agreement' that he tried to pass off as a contract yesterday in Question Time, instead of pulling the gas trigger and giving himself a strong legal basis to keep more Australian gas in Australia. He's refusing to do that. I think talking about what happens in five years' time is important, but it's not going to solve the crisis that we're facing today.