Energy, 4 August 2022

Senator BABET (Victoria) (14:43): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Senator Gallagher. Minister, the CSIRO states that energy production is the largest contributor to Australia’s carbon dioxide output. The government has made it clear that it intends to ram through legislation which would see a reduction in carbon dioxide output of 43 per cent. I am concerned that this will cause energy prices to increase. Australian families are already struggling with cost-of-living pressures. Can the minister make the Senate aware of how the government will achieve these cuts in emissions, and will this result in increased power prices for the average Australian?

Senator GALLAGHER (14:44): I thank Senator Babet for the question and for the heads-up on the question today. I don’t think I congratulated you last week on your first question. I know this is your second one because I got your first. Congratulations on both of them.

In terms of our plan, the legislation that passed the House earlier today, and will now come to the Senate, implements our election commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43 per cent. We went to the election with very detailed modelling on how we would achieve that: the Powering Australia plan, which is available online to all. The clear impact of that modelling showed that, if we were to implement it—to ensure that we are building a new grid, to enable 82 per cent renewable energy by 2030; providing the investment certainty that is needed to allow those investment dollars to flow; investing in new energy technology, like solar banks and community batteries; building the workforce; and reducing taxes on electric vehicles—it would also put downward pressure on energy prices.

I think we all accept that the previous government did nothing for nine years and left us in a situation where we have escalating electricity prices, in particular, that they hid from the community before the last election—a 19.7 per cent increase in electricity prices. Our plan, which is the cheapest form of energy at the moment, is renewable energy. The cost of coal is expected to be $141 and gas $133 by 2030; in contrast, the cost of renewables, which we want to invest in, is $63 a megawatt hour. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senate Babet, a supplementary question?

Senator BABET (Victoria) (14:46): According to the CSIRO, energy production accounts for approximately
33 per cent of Australia’s total carbon dioxide output. What sectors will be taxed or potentially axed in order to achieve your 2030 target?

Senator GALLAGHER (14:47): Our plan details how we would achieve the 43 per cent reduction by 2030, and it doesn’t involve taxing or axing. It’s a comprehensive and transparent plan. It involves modernising Australia’s ageing electricity grid through the Rewiring the Nation plan. There’s a $3 billion investment in renewable metals, renewable energy, component manufacturing, renewable hydrogen, electrolysers, 85 solar banks, 400 community batteries and investments in our workforce to make sure we have the workforce to deliver on those—604,000 jobs, with five out of six of them in the regions, and $76 billion worth of investment. This is the opportunity that the Australian people need their government to seize—to drive jobs, to reduce power prices, to invest in the new technologies of the future and to ensure that we can seize the energy improvements that we need to bring down our greenhouse gas emissions. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Babet, a second supplementary?

Senator BABET (Victoria) (14:48): Agriculture accounts for approximately 14.6 per cent of carbon dioxide
output. Can the minister guarantee our hardworking farmers that the government will not sacrifice their livelihoods in order to achieve any of these targets?

Senator GALLAGHER (14:48): Thanks, Senator Babet, for the question. We’ve been upfront about our plans. We won’t be cutting agricultural production. The National Farmers Federation supports our updated targets. There are huge opportunities, I think, in the agricultural sector. I know that Minister Watt is engaging with all of the stakeholders on those. And we have broad-ranging support right across industry for this plan, because—after 10 years of this lot—they see what’s happening out there. They see the opportunities, the jobs and the improvements for their areas that will come from having a government that can provide industry with the certainty that they need to make the investments and make the change that is coming. It’s not only important for our power bills and prices; it’s important for jobs, and it’s important for those essential industries, like agriculture, which will be part of the change.