Energy Policy Debate
October 23, 2017
I rise this evening to reflect on an event that occurred some nine years ago, which, in the current climate of our debate on energy, is a startling example of managing energy policy.
On 3 June 2008 a corroded gas pipeline ruptured on Varanus Island off the coast of Dampier Peninsula in my electorate of Durack.
Thankfully, no-one was injured in this explosion. However, that plant supplied a third of Western Australia's gas supplies, and it was shut down completely for two months while an investigation took place.
In the ensuing months, Western Australia went through an energy crisis—a real energy crisis—the likes of which you would struggle to believe, Mr Speaker.
Western Australia was in such dire straits that we had emergency defence department diesel reserves released to the state's power generators.
Industries with high power consumption, like mining and manufacturing, ground to a halt and our then Premier, Alan Carpenter, pleaded with people in the households of Western Australia to pitch in and reduce energy consumption.
And we did. During those three months while Varanus Island was offline the state reduced its power consumption by some three per cent, a large reduction that was enough to power the largest town in my electorate, Geraldton—and I know the Minister for Urban Infrastructure at the table has had the pleasure of visiting Geraldton—every day during the crisis.
It was difficult but we got through that crisis.
We brought back online previously decommissioned generation from the coal-fired power station in Collie, which had the old turbines of the Muja AB power station.
We sourced gas from other suppliers through our 15 per cent domestic gas reservation policy, and within two months the crisis had been resolved.
Mr Speaker, you may wonder why I am telling this story in the House tonight and why it is relevant today.
It's because that gas crisis in 2008 was exactly that—a crisis.
It required emergency action, it required a change of policy from a state government, and it required help from the federal government.
Fast forward to 2017, and an energy crisis has now become Labor Party policy. How disappointing that is for this country.
It is now the norm for states like South Australia.
I reflect on a news article I saw today, which reported that over 100,000 food parcels are being supplied as a direct result of the careless, reckless power policy of the South Australian government.
With a 50 per cent renewables target, without a plan to keep the gas flowing by placing a moratorium on gas exploration in the Labor states and asking the Australian taxpayer to pay for it, Labor are doing the exact opposite of what was needed to fix that Western Australian crisis in 2008.
I might remind the House that Alan Carpenter, who instituted these changes to save Western Australia from that crisis, was a Labor Premier.
But Labor have fallen victim to the left of their own party.
In a bid to win the inner city green vote at the expense of everyone with a power bill, they have decided to ditch the Alan Carpenter approach to energy policy and instead go with the Bob Brown model.
This is of serious concern to me and all of us on this side of the House, and I say this as a member in this place with one of the largest penetrations of renewable energy technologies in their electorate. We welcome it.
We welcome renewable energy, because, while I believe that of course there is a place for both renewables and thermal generation, I believe in letting green energy compete on its own two feet.
I have wind power in Kalbarri and Merredin, solar power in the Pilbara, and hydropower in the Kimberley—just to name a few.
But in all of those places renewables are supported by other forms of power, and the reason is that they are simply not reliable.
That is what this government's National Energy Guarantee is all about.
You can have green energy, you can have cheap power and you can have certainty in the market for private investors.
It is doable.
I sincerely hope that once those opposite have figured out what our policy's all about—and it's a very positive policy, so please take the time to understand it—this country will have reliable, affordable power and certainty of investment in power generation, and we will get those power prices down.