Energy divestment 5/12/18

05 December 2018

DR CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:45): This coalition policy of forced divestment is a stinker for all of the reasons the members for McMahon and Port Adelaide raised a few moments ago, and we heard about it in question time as well. We know it will reduce investment and we know it will push up prices as a consequence. But there has been a new revelation which has been confirmed by the energy minister himself which could see the forced privatisation in my home state of Queensland—or Western Australia, Tasmania or other places around Australia—of public energy assets. This is a dangerous and disastrous policy which has been plucked directly from the Liberals' dumpster fire of internal division and energy policy dysfunction. What this policy ignores is that the people of Queensland, the people of the finest state in the Commonwealth, have repeatedly told governments that they don't want these public assets sold. By ignoring them, those opposite are poking Queenslanders in the eye with the big stick. Instead of a big stick, we are going to have a garage sale of public assets despite the fact that Queenslanders have made their views repeatedly known, over and over again.

The Minister for Energy in Queensland, Dr Anthony Lynham, a great guy, has written repeatedly to the Treasurer to seek clarification. Maybe that clarification has come today; I hope it has. He has sought repeatedly to work out what is going on here with this forced divestment policy and its impact on forced privatisations. In an article in The Courier Mail today by Renee Viellaris, the energy minister confirms that one of the consequences of their discredited policy could be forced privatisation of energy assets in Queensland. When you read the article, you notice a couple of things. The first thing you notice—the reason the member for Mackellar has gone quiet—is that it says the members for Mackellar, Hughes and Curtin and other members have gone to the ministers and said, 'This policy's done.' They've said it's done for a whole range of reasons. But the other conspicuous thing you notice in this article is that none of the members who said the policy is done is a Queenslander. In fact, when you look through the list, all the Queenslanders have gone missing, as they always do. And then it says that Queensland LNP MPs Keith Pitt, the member for Hinkler—who is also here—and George Christensen, the member for Dawson, gave spirited endorsements of the laws. Not only have they failed to listen to Queenslanders; they've given a spirited endorsement of a policy which could see the forced privatisation of Queensland's energy assets.

Mr Conroy: Turkeys voting for Christmas!

Dr CHALMERS: As the member for Shortland says, it's like turkeys voting for Christmas. Also, when the energy minister was going back and forth today saying prices would go up and down and investment would go up and down—he didn't really know what he was doing—that was a broader symbol of what's going on in energy policy when it comes to the government. Since this policy was announced, it was watered down a little bit yesterday. We had the Prime Minister put out a clarifying statement after the energy minister's confirmation about forced privatisations. There are all kinds of back and forth, all kinds of watering-down and weakening, and trying to pretend that they've got control of this key economic policy area. But I think the people of Queensland and the people of Australia know better. They know that this is a function, a symptom, of the deep divisions and dysfunctions on that side of the parliament not just on energy policy but right across the board.

It's long past time for the Queensland members and senators to go to the relevant ministers—like the member for Mackellar and the member for Curtin have done—and tell them it's past time for them to stand up and say: 'We've stuffed it up; we've got this policy horribly wrong. We don't want to see forced privatisation in Queensland or other parts of Australia. We got it wrong.' It's time to come to the table and talk about a real energy policy like the one the member for Port Adelaide and the Leader of the Opposition have announced, which builds on the National Energy Guarantee and some other important initiatives which will boost renewables and get prices down when it comes to power in our economy and in our community.

We've seen it before. When it comes to energy, there is generally a stirring defence of a policy, and then a humiliating backflip. It's time that we had that on this ridiculous forced divestment policy, for all the reasons raised by the member for McMahon and the member for Port Adelaide, and also because the Queensland people don't want your privatisation of public energy assets.