Matters of Urgency – Nuclear Energy

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (15:52): I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

In the interests of energy costs and the environment, Australia must end its prohibition on nuclear energy generation, and join countries like Canada and the United States who have been using this technology safely and successfully for decades.

Australia, we are in an energy crisis. I don’t think any of us would deny that. Power bills are becoming unaffordable and our forced transition out of cheap and reliable coal and gas has left our nation with a massive exposure to blackouts and ever-increasing prices. Our energy grid: what is it? It is a house of cards, and it is predominantly, as far as I can tell, made in China. China control most of the world’s supply of solar panels and batteries and they also own the majority of cobalt mines, and cobalt is a critical mineral used in so-called renewable energy products.

The recent visit to Australia by the Ontario Minister for Energy, Mr Todd Smith, should be a wake-up call to Australia to end the ban on nuclear energy. Mr Smith said that nuclear power is Canada’s only pathway to net zero. Just 20 years ago, the province of Ontario was dependent on coal to generate electricity, as is Australia, but in 2003 it committed to going nuclear. It took only 11 years for it to close its last coal-fired power station, in 2014. In the last year, Ontario has sourced more than 50 per cent of its power from conventional, large-scale nuclear plants, and its power price per kilowatt hour is now about half what it is in Australia.

At the turn of the 21st century, Australia had some of the cheapest and most reliable energy in the world. That started to change when the Howard government, in around 2001, imposed a five per cent renewable energy target. In 2006 the Howard government commissioned an investigation into building nuclear power plants in Australia, which the Labor Party obviously opposed.

When Labor was elected in 2007 it lifted the renewable energy target to 20 per cent, and state governments also introduced renewable energy targets and subsidies. Just like clockwork, power prices have risen consistently ever since. Minister Chris Bowen says it would take too long and cost too much for Australia to go nuclear. But let’s talk about the cost of not going nuclear. A recent report by Net Zero Australia puts the cost of meeting Australia’s aspiration of net zero by 2050 at $1.5 trillion by the end of the decade, with the need for $7 trillion to $9 trillion of capital by 2060. That’s around $9,000 billion, or nine times our federal debt. Wokeness is a very expensive business, it seems.

According to Minister Bowen, just meeting our 43 per cent reduction target by 2030 would require us to install 22,000 solar panels every day for eight years, along with 40 wind turbines every single month, backed by at least 10,000 kilometres of additional transmission lines. All this infrastructure can’t be that good for the environment. How many whales need to be beached? How many wedge-tailed eagles need to be killed? How many trees need to be cut down? How much prime agricultural land needs to be covered in solar panels that last maybe 20 years before they end up being thrown into landfill? It seems to me that some in this place aren’t as focused on genuine environmentalism as they claim to be.

Nuclear power can directly replace coal. The jobs pay well, and many of the skills are transferable. No-one who currently works in the coal industry wants to spend their days unboxing and fitting Chinese made solar panels on to roofs. Nuclear power provides a dignified transition. Best of all, nuclear can simply plug into our existing grid and provide the stable baseload energy needed to revitalise our manufacturing sector. The plants can be built in the exact same footprint where coal power stations currently sit today.

I asked our government one question: should we spend our money here at home or should we send it overseas to China? The renewable energy transition has turned Australia into nothing short of a Chinese colony. Nuclear power bridges the gap between both sides of politics. It is economically and environmentally viable. We need to end this madness. It’s time to legalise—embrace—nuclear power for Australia.