Senator HANSON (Queensland) (16:25): The federal government will be remembered for its monumental failure to provide reliable—
The PRESIDENT: Senator Hanson, I’ve been advised that I need you to formally move the motion.
Senator HANSON: Sorry; I move:
That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:
The need to restore the international competitiveness of Australian manufacturers by reducing electricity prices.
The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Hanson. You can now address the motion.
Senator HANSON: There is a need to reduce electricity prices so Australian manufacturers can be competitive. The federal government will be remembered for its monumental failure to provide reliable, continuous and internationally competitive electricity and gas prices. There is no mood for forgiveness in the electorate. The next election will be a bloodbath. The small number of Liberal and National candidates who win a seat will be huddled together on the opposition benches. It’s the only way they will keep warm.
Queensland, more than any other state, is dependent on electricity because it is uncommon for gas to be used for heating or cooking. Consequently, Queensland households and businesses feel the pain of high electricity prices more than those in any other part of Australia.
Malcolm Turnbull claims his electricity plan will cut household bills by between $100 and $155 a year, or $2 a week. This is a joke, when households are paying $2,000 a year and more for electricity. Australia needs electricity prices which are comparable to those available to manufacturers overseas. We regularly pay more than $100 per megawatt for electricity. That is twice or three times the international competitive electricity price. Electricity which costs more than $45 a megawatt, including transmission and distribution, makes Australian manufacturing uncompetitive. Australian coal-fired power stations can produce electricity in the range of $8 to $32 a megawatt, making it possible to provide electricity at globally competitive prices. But these old faithful power stations are being phased out and they are not being replaced, because of the belief that carbon emissions are causing climate change. Some scientists say climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels, and others say we are experiencing a natural warming cycle. But, before the science is clear, we must decide whether to destroy our manufacturing and agricultural industries. Even if Australia ceases all man-made carbon emissions today, it would make no difference to the world, because China, India and the United States plan to continue to burn fossil fuels.
It is just too easy to move our manufacturing to countries that have what we do not—and I am talking about reliable, continuous and globally competitive electricity prices. All the polls say we will have a Labor government soon. But be warned: Labor is without a plan to reduce electricity prices to globally competitive levels. In Queensland, the Labor government wants to have 50 per cent of power coming from renewable schemes by 2030. But let’s look at the cost, because they range from $100 to $800 a megawatt-hour to produce. These renewable sources are intermittent in their generation and do not provide the continuous supply required to support manufacturing and agriculture.
As I have already said, the price of electricity needs to fall below $45 a megawatt hour if we are to maintain and further attract manufacturing in this country. The government’s solution to the crippling electricity price is to introduce the National Energy Guarantee, the NEG, to the National Electricity Market, the NEM. The NEG simply obliges retailers to guarantee supply and emissions, but there is no price promise. Twenty years ago, the National Energy Market did not exist, and individual states had their own generators, transmission lines and means of distribution. Under this arrangement, real electricity prices fell continuously between 1955 and 1984.
During this period, manufacturing thrived in Australia and we attracted energy-intensive industries, including steel, aluminium and fertilisers. Today, these same energy-intensive industries are leaving us and taking with them thousands of jobs. This government would like to tell you that our labour costs are too high, that our future is in service industries and that we need to work smarter. But I’m here to tell you that it won’t matter how smart we work if we cannot deliver to business and households globally competitive gas and electricity prices.
The manufacturer of aluminium in Australia is, indeed, the canary down the coalmine. One electricity price caused this industry to move offshore, and the balance of our manufacturing will be in danger of doing the same. I am a Queensland senator, and there’s no way I am going to look the other way while manufacturing jobs are lost in Queensland. The Boyne aluminium smelter, located south of Gladstone, was built in 1981 following the negotiation of a long-term electricity contract to provide electricity every minute of every hour for 30 years. Later, the Boyne smelter owners bought their electricity supply from the Gladstone power station. But, in 2016, the smelter could not acquire additional electricity, so they cut production and announced job losses. These jobs meant everything to the people who relied on them, but their families were not the only ones to suffer; many other jobs indirectly associated with the smelter were also lost.
Two other Australian aluminium smelters have closed recently, one in New South Wales and one in Victoria, because they could not find long-term electricity contracts at globally competitive prices. I don’t want to see the only aluminium smelter in Queensland close because politicians will not solve the problem of uncompetitive, high electricity prices. Electricity represents 40 per cent of the cost of producing aluminium, which is high compared to the Australian manufacturing average of around nine per cent. But when the electricity price stops products being made or grown in Australia, the government needs to act decisively.
Agricultural businesses also use huge amounts of electricity to irrigate and keep produce cool. Farmers have repeatedly shared their concerns about electricity prices with the Australian Labor Party, but they have been ignored. There is no point in the government bragging about free trade agreements that open up markets if electricity prices mean Australian products and produce are too expensive to be sold in these newly opened markets. Rapidly escalating energy prices, like the ones we have seen in the past year, are a death sentence for manufacturers in Queensland. The economic argument that high prices breed efficiency is rubbish if you go out of business before you can develop those efficiencies.
We don’t have much time to save manufacturing in Queensland or anywhere else in Australia. One Nation is a small party with limited influence, but in Queensland One Nation has a plan to cut electricity prices and keep them that way. My four-point plan is to build a new coal-fired power station in Queensland to ensure we generate electricity at a globally competitive price; write off billions of dollars spent on gold plating the transmission network, which will immediately drop electricity prices; negotiate the removal of the GST from electricity bills; and end excessive margins made by energy retailers.
It is a disgrace that each year 22,000 Queensland households have their electricity disconnected for failure to pay. That is a shocking 430 households a week. These electricity bills should never have been so high in the first place. It is a little-known but well-documented fact that the state government of Queensland sets the electricity price in Queensland. So, if you have been disconnected or stressed paying electricity bills, I recommend you put Labor last on 25 November in the Queensland state election. Labor, with its ideological but not scientific devotion to green energy, is prepared to throw manufacturing jobs under the bus for government. It’s a tragedy.
If the next Queensland government follows my prescription, it is going to have to give up its debt habit and learn to manage its budget. I want the savings from lower electricity prices left with households and businesses. Families and businesses know how best to spend or save money from lower electricity bills. Wake up Australia: take your power back and vote for candidates who can explain to you how they are going to lower electricity prices and bring manufacturing back to Australia.
Chamber Senate on 13/11/2017 Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Energy
Speaker : Hanson, Sen Pauline/ Parliment Transcript used for reporting News