Matters of Public Importance: Energy, 22 March 2023

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (16:12): In Australia we are facing an energy crisis that threatens to cripple industry and impoverish families and, if it is not urgently addressed, we will see our standard of living decrease and we will see our people suffer. The fact that we find ourselves in this position beggars belief. As a nation we have a clear competitive advantage: abundant and easily accessible coal and gas. I keep talking about it. We should have the cheapest energy in the world, but we don’t. Instead, we have manufacturers and businesses closing and collapsing all across our nation under the weight of energy bills. In fact, the cost of electricity is going to rise by about 30 per cent this year in my home state of Victoria.

The Snack Brands factory in Smithfield reported some time ago that their gas bill had gone from $3 million a year to $9 million a year. Do you know where that factory is located? It’s in energy minister Chris Bowen’s electorate. Who needs enemies when you have mates like Minister Bowen as your local member? You don’t need enemies. Our current energy crisis is not the fault of some far-off distant war like some in this place have tried to allege on more than one occasion. Perhaps if that were the case it would be easier to understand. Instead, our crisis is self-inflicted, and the hurt that we are currently experiencing can easily be avoided.

The Albanese government and the Greens are determined to shut down all coal and gas. The government, of course—well, I hope, anyway—hopes to do this without destroying business, impoverishing families and endangering our national security. This is a pipe dream. This is a pie-in-the-sky plan. It is simply not possible to achieve net zero using solar panels, windfarms and batteries while at the same time maintaining our standard of living. If the government is determined to put an end to safe, effective, cheap, reliable and abundant coal and gas and maintain our nation then the government must embrace nuclear energy. We have no other options. If we do not, we will suffer in exactly the same way that some other nations across the world are suffering right now. If the government is determined that Australians must not use our abundant coal and gas then let’s use our abundant uranium instead. But here’s the irony: just like we’re exporting our coal and gas, we’re also exporting our uranium to other countries, where they are using it and benefiting from it—and we’re not. We are third-largest exporter of uranium in the world, and it’s crazy that we’re not taking advantage of it.

For those who say they are worried that catastrophic climate change is about to end the earth because of CO2—which is just plant food—nuclear power is your answer. What about the expense? Yes, it might cost a little bit up-front, but it’s an investment which secures our power needs for the long term. Renewables, however, are not renewable at all. The only thing renewable about renewables is the expense. Roughly every 15 or so years you’ve got to bury your solar panels in the ground, in landfill, and buy new ones. Every 10 years you have to bury the batteries and buy new ones. Every 20 years you have to bury the wind turbines and buy new ones. Where do you buy them from? China, mostly. The CCP controls most of the supply chain when it comes to renewables.

Nuclear, when compared to that possible future, is, in fact, not expensive. It is better for our environment, especially when you compare its cost to that of rebuilding our national infrastructure to accommodate renewables. With nuclear, you can build a plant on the existing footprint of where a coal-fired power plant currently is and keep the infrastructure as it is—no changes. How good is that? Instead of acres of solar panels and hillsides dotted with wind turbines, we could have a facility roughly the size of an IKEA powering millions of homes. We need to stop cowering in fear at the thought of the word ‘nuclear’ energy. Nuclear energy is the answer for the 21st century. There is no other option. If we do not look at nuclear energy, our only other alternative is poverty.