Di Natale: Coal is dying. It’s an industry in structural decline and almost every other leader in the world understands this except for Malcolm Turnbull and Donald Trump.
The world is rapidly moving away from dirty old coal – a legacy technology – and making the transition towards clean, green renewable energy.
In 2017, coal makes no sense. It doesn’t stack up economically or environmentally and it is literally killing people. Not only are the emissions from coal-fired generation making global warming worse, but chemicals like mercury and sulphur dioxide are also being spewed into our atmosphere from burning coal. In Australia, we emit mercury at double the global average and inhaling it and other toxic chemicals carries serious health risks.
Coal doesn’t even work when you need it to. During heatwaves in NSW, Liddell was unable to perform as two of its generator units were unable to switch on due to unforeseen boiler tube leaks.
There’s a reason that no-one in the private sector is building new coal-fired power stations. It doesn’t stack up economically. No-one is interested in investing billions of dollars into a giant coal-fired power station that no-one is going to want to switch on in a few years. No-one is interested in sinking capital investment into an ageing technology when the cost of renewables is plummeting and getting cheaper by the day. Investing in coal is about as sensible as investing in a company that builds fax machines and typewriters.
The cost of renewables is plummeting and we live in one of the sunniest, windiest places in the world. If this government had any vision, they’d be positioning Australia to take advantage of the energy revolution. We would be leading the world in renewable energy technology, we’d have some of the lowest prices in the world and we’d be reducing pollution across the economy.
Instead, we’re being left behind. While Minister Frydenberg waxes lyrical about the falling cost of renewables, China is getting on with it and introducing an Emissions Trading Scheme. While the Treasurer and Minister Joyce throw chunks of coal around in Parliament, Germany has been getting up to 85 percent of its electricity from renewable sources on sunny, windy days this year.
To ensure we transition to a nation that is powered by renewables, we need to do two things at once: rapidly introduce clean, cheap, reliable renewable energy into the system, and conduct an orderly retirement of coal-fired power stations. Renewables in, coal out.
But that hasn’t stopped this government from peddling their dangerous obsession with coal. So now, we have to stop them.
The conservatives in this place only live and die by the market when it suits them. Right now – markets around the world are forcing out coal and the falling cost of renewables and storage is only going to make them more competitive. So now they’re openly talking about frantically pulling on the only lever that’s available to them – using public money that should be going to schools and hospitals to fund coal. This is a truly desperate and despicable step by a Prime Minister that’s doing anything he can to hang onto power.
Now, the government is trying to build a public case to keep the decrepit old clunker Liddell open, a joint that’s held together by spit and sticky-tape. Liddell is falling apart and the current owners, AGL, don’t want to spend the money keeping it open, so some in the government are talking about dipping into the public purse to help this old station stay open.
It should be illegal to use public money in this way. Public money that should be going to schools and hospitals. Public money that should be spent on science and research. Public money that should be spent on reducing inequality in this country and ensuring that everyone has access to a high-quality education. Public money that should be spent securing our renewable energy future. Public money should be used in the public interest. If the government is wanting to use public money to burn our planet and make climate change worse, that should be illegal. We have to stop them.
The private Senator’s bill I introduce today, the Coal-Fired Power Funding Prohibition Bill 2017 prohibits:
the Commonwealth providing financial support to refurbish or build a coal-fired power station; and
The Commonwealth purchasing, or assisting with the purchase or transfer or ownership, of a coal-fired power station.
However, this bill does ensure that the government can provide public money to transition-affected workers into new industry or use public money to manage the closure of a coal-fired power station.
Let’s be very clear about this: Coal. Kills. Whether it’s through the toxic pollutants it spews into the atmosphere that affect the air we breathe, or the global warming that it accelerates that will destroy our way of life – we need to stop burning coal. Already, industry and investment are moving away from coal. No major financial institution in Australia wants to finance Adani and no-one is interested in building new coal-fired power stations. This government and the Trumps in the backbench who control it are resisting and opposing what the markets they claim to worship are telling them, what the science is telling them, what the private sector is telling them, what public opinion is telling them and, most importantly, what the world is telling them. In their blind, dangerous resistance they are turning to the only option they have left: a culture war.
They’re using their leverage over Prime Minister Turnbull to condemn our future generations and the Greens are the only ones willing to stand in the way.
Why? Because you can’t count on Labor to do it. Labor and Liberals are wedded to each other and wedded to coal. The Labor party tries to talk the talk on renewables and a Clean Energy Target, but then, when the Greens introduce a motion into this place to rule out any attempts to extend the life of Liddell and to develop a plan for an orderly transition away from coal, where do they vote? They vote with the government.
Because when push comes to shove, the Labor party are still beholden to the fossil fuel companies. Labor are still in the pocket of coal. Worse still, the revolving door between big interests isn’t just for the Coalition, but the Labor party as well. According to an article published in The Conversation on the 22 of June last year, Martin Ferguson, Craig Emerson and Greg Combet all either took up management jobs with mining and energy companies and associations or worked as consultants for them. Earlier this year, The Australian revealed that Cameron Milner, who has worked for the premier of QLD and in the Leader of the Opposition’s office, is volunteering with the ALP while keeping his day job as director and registered lobbyist at Next Level Strategic Services (NLSS), which counts among its clients Indian miner Adani.
But, the Greens have a plan. We’ve got a plan to extend the Renewable Energy Target which – despite what Senator Abetz and Mr Abbott say – is working, a plan to legislate a national storage target to run Australia on 100% renewable energy, a plan to transition workers from coal communities into the jobs of the future and a plan to re-regulate electricity prices to bring costs down and provide much needed relief for families around this country. We’ve laid out this plan and we’re confident that if it was implemented, we could stabilise the grid, restore investment confidence and end the investment strike on renewables, bring down pollution, bring down prices and meet our paltry Paris obligations.
It is ideology and weakness, from the Coalition and from Labor, that are standing in the way of the energy revolution. Instead, what we are served up from our government is fear-mongering that falsely blames blackouts on renewables. It is juvenile name-calling in the chamber and it is a government that instead of taking real action to bring down prices, forces energy retailers to write letters to customers telling them how much they’ve been ripped off.
Enough is enough.
I urge the Labor party and the crossbench to find the courage to support this bill so we can take one important step forward, when the government insists on going backwards. Our precious, scarce public money should not be used propping up old, clunky and dirty coal-fired power stations. If the government doesn’t understand that, then we need to make sure that they can’t waste our money on this ever again.
Chamber Senate on 17/10/2017 Item BILLS – Coal-Fired Power Funding Prohibition Bill 2017 – Second Reading Speaker:Di Natale, Sen Richard/ Parliment Transcript used for reporting News