Renewable Energy

11 August 2015

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:31): Two important things happened here in Canberra today, the first full sitting day of parliament, which is back after the recess. The first was that the government announced these embarrassing targets that we will take to the world—

Mr Hunt: Oh really, embarrassing?

Dr CHALMERS: Yes, they were embarrassing. For a nation that prides itself on doing its bit in the world, we have an environment minister in name only who announces these embarrassing targets. The other thing, of course, is that this week marks six months since the Prime Minister said, 'Good government starts today.' He marked that occasion by getting absolutely monstered in the party room over the important topic of marriage equality. While the Minister for the Environment was speaking, I was reading a story that said that in the Liberal Party room today:

News of the push leaked while the party room meeting was underway. This caused angry scenes inside the party room as to who was leaking, according to further leaks.

While the Prime Minister was having a bad day, and while it was a dark day for climate change in this country, there are good people all around Australia who are doing the right thing when it comes to renewable energy.

I was thinking today, when I was contemplating this important MPI about renewable energy, about three people from my electorate who came to visit me from a group called Solar Citizens. I am thinking of Bob from Woodridge, Linda from Slacks Creek and Tom from Daisy Hill, who are all in my local electorate of Rankin. They are good local people taking advantage of solar energy who want their countrymen and countrywomen to do the same thing because they know something that the Prime Minister does not—they know that renewable energy means jobs, they know it means a cleaner environment to hand to their kids, and they know that it means investment. They know that it means lower power prices over the medium and long term as well. It did give me heart, because it showed that Tom, Linda and Bob understand something that the Prime Minister does not about jobs, investment and power prices.

As the Prime Minister goes around defending the member for Mackellar's job and the member for Sturt's job, it struck me that he might not have noticed that there are 800,000 people in this country who are unemployed—the first time it has cracked 800,000 since the mid-1990s. We have an unemployment rate higher than during the GFC, which is a stunning fact when you consider that unemployment is higher today under Treasurer Hockey than at any point under Treasurer Swan or Mr Bowen during the global financial crisis and its immediate aftermath. It got me thinking that if this were truly a good government, it would not deny Australia the renewable energy sector jobs; it would not deny Australia the cleaner air, or the investment in our economy that our economy so desperately needs.

The problem is that we have a Prime Minister who is stuck in the past and who only has a reverse gear—captured by the extreme right, the sceptics, the deniers and the dinosaurs. The effect of this approach has been catastrophic for jobs and confidence. The member for Port Adelaide ran through the stats, which show that Australia was a terrific performer on renewable energy until the change of government, and then we went backwards from being the fourth most appealing investment destination for renewable energy before the election to being the tenth after it. We know the reasons for that—the Prime Minister's actions when it comes to trashing renewable energy in this country.

The biggest scare—the Prime Minister likes his scare campaigns and we heard more of them in the environment minister's contribution, if you could call it that—is over power prices. The thing that is really interesting about this is that when the climate sceptics over there who control the Liberal Party wanted to commission a study that said that renewable energy forced up power prices, they looked for a real sceptic and they found Dick Warburton. They asked him to do a review and they said, 'Hey Dick, would it be all right if you wrote a report saying that renewable energy forces up power prices?' Warburton had a look at this and unfortunately for the government, as the member for Port Adelaide said about their 'whoops' moment, even Dick Warburton had to conclude that renewable energy was driving investment, creating jobs, putting downward pressure on power prices and reducing carbon pollution, which really does show what an extraordinary lie this all is about the cost of renewable energy. This is something that the Australian people understand, even if their Prime Minister does not. This side of the House stands with the 80 per cent of Australians who support renewable energy. We believe in the transformative opportunity that renewable energy represents for jobs, investment and power prices. We know that $2.5 trillion will be invested in renewable energy in our region, and we want to get a slice of the action. A good government would want that too. This is far from a good government and Australians know it. There will be a clear-cut choice for the Australian people at the election. We have a target for 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030. It is how we will restore investor confidence in a job-creating sector that has been trashed by a backward looking Prime Minister who lives in the past.