November 18, 2018

 It beggars belief that Australia's energy future is so close to the cliff that here, in this chamber today, the two main planks of this government's solution—the two pages, excuse the pun, Member for Page—could well have been ripped from a 1950's history book. We are arguing against the continuation of a 45-year-old power station as opposed to something that some very ingenious people came up with in the Snowy Mountains over 55 years ago. Is that all you've got? We are on the precipice of a true energy crisis in this country, and you mob—you entitled pack of geniuses—can come up with nothing. You failed to innovate and, more importantly, you cannot legislate. You are not only ineligible, in some cases, but you are also totally ineffectual—and herein lies the rub. That is the problem.

In my electorate there are very important Australian industries operating. For them to continue to thrive and survive, they need reliable and continuous energy. In the neighbouring seats of my colleagues, the member for Hunter and the member for Shortland, there are important electricity generators, but they are ageing. We have learnt that the lack of forward planning by this government may necessitate the continuation of Liddell, a coal-fired power station. In some sort of fantasy universe, these guys opposite think that that's a long-term solution. I'm personally, actually, not against the continuation of Liddell, but I know it's not a reality. I know that it is not what we should be putting forward for the people of our regions and for Australia. In this final, desperate measure that is being grasped at by this government, they have failed to plan. You know who you've failed? You've failed the decent people of Australia, who get their electricity bills and think, 'How am I going to pay this?' You've failed the people who go to work every day, the people who farm and need electricity to pump water and the people who are trying to make things. Those are the people you have failed. Now we have no option but to go back to the future to prevent us all from being in the dark—literally!

Never forget that energy is the oxygen of our economy and our communities. It's the health, transport and lifeblood of industry. It's incredibly frustrating that I cannot tell the CEO of Tomago Aluminium, Matt Howell, what the country's long-term energy solution is. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that Matt's been trying to give the Prime Minister a few little tips on how to keep the country humming, but the Prime Minister is a bit slow on the uptake. Tomago uses 11 per cent of New South Wales electricity. That's the equivalent of one million households. Basically, it had to be used as a back-up generator last summer. On 11 February, the power company went, 'Just switch it off for a minute, Matt, while we keep the air conditioners going; okay?' That is totally unacceptable. If it loses electricity for more than a few hours, it could be shut down, and that will cause a great deal of pain across our manufacturing sector. There are thousands of employees, directly and indirectly, who rely on it.

How is our nation in a situation where we cannot generate enough electricity to maintain essential industry? It is because there is no national policy. Don't stand over there and bang on to us about pink batts to us. What have you been doing for four years? You've been doing seven-eighths of stuff all! I cannot believe that, in the year 2017, the best option that you can come up with is reinvigorating a 60-year-old hydro scheme. Where is the innovation? Where's the forward thinking? Where is the futureproofing?

Globally, there is a 21st century investment in renewable jobs around the globe, and we are currently coming last, because you are so caught up in looking at the rear-view mirror—so caught up in your conservative ways—that you can't bear to think ahead. You can't bear to do some planning and some legislating for the people of Australia. We've lost one in three renewable jobs in Australia while globally—

Honourable members interjecting

Ms SWANSON: No, hang on a minute! Globally, they're up 45 per cent. Jobs in renewables are up 45 per cent across the globe, and yet we have lost one-third. It's a shameful indictment and indicator of the road that you have led us down. Meanwhile, our power prices go up and people are lashing out. Let me tell you: they will sharpen their pencils at the ballot box next time. So gird your loins, boys, because you're on the way down!