South Australian Energy Market

I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Climate Change on the subject of South Australia's energy market.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:45 :04 ): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before directing a question to the Minister for Climate Change on the subject of South Australia's energy market.

Leave granted.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Last week, the Premier made the breathtaking announcement that his government would 'intervene dramatically in the South Australian energy market' due to the continuous failure of his government on energy security. However—

Members interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: The members doth protest when I hit a nerve—clearly.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Sit down for a second. The Hon. Ms Lensink has the right to expect to be able to ask a question without any interruption.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Except when I hit a nerve.

The Hon. G.E. Gago interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I haven't asked the question yet, but I understand Ms Gago is deeply anticipating what I might ask. I will continue. However, the breathtaking announcement of the Premier was to just give an invitation to 'watch this space'. He also stated that a price on carbon, and again I quote, 'would completely change the market here, and would have avoided the events of the night,' which also follows his December 2016 call for a state-led emissions trading scheme, which is something the minister himself has openly advocated. My question for the minister is: is it still the government's position that it supports a state-led ETS?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:46 :41 ): Again, I thank the Hon. Michelle Lensink for at least coming into this place with a sensible question about a policy issue for a change and not going back to 2003, and giving me the—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: It may be a confused question, but it gives me the opportunity to talk about the issues and to educate the opposition a little bit on a very complicated policy area. It also gives me the opportunity to remind the chamber of what the state government has done so far. The government has announced—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:


The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The government has announced a range of policies to increase electricity supply and competition in the market, which is alluding to the question that the Hon. Michelle Lensink asked about the energy market. These include a 10-year contract for a procurement of government supply and to incentivise the entry of a new generator or a new competition into the market—sadly lacking—and we are also using a $24 million grant—

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: You can hark back to the past, but you're in very dangerous territory, the Hon. Mr Ridgway, when you do that with the chap behind you right now responsible for the privatisation of the electricity system.

The Hon. D.W. Ridgway interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The man who privatised ETSA in South Australia back in the 1990s is sitting right behind you as, still, shadow treasurer of your party. How you haven't changed your spots. You haven't changed your spots one iota. You are the party of privatisation and you are responsible, and the man responsible is right behind you, smiling right now, smirking at his achievements—smirking at his achievements, and he is right behind you, the Hon. Mr Ridgway, and nothing has changed in the Liberal Party in South Australia.

As I said, we are also using a $24 million grant program to partner with gas companies to extract more gas and supply it to local generators in order to put downward pressure on electricity prices. We have also announced a $31 million program to invest in energy-saving technology for South Australian businesses. The government, through both the energy and the leaders' COAG, has for more than 12 months now been advocating for an emissions intensity scheme across the nation.

We have advocated consistently for a national approach; a rational, national approach argued for by the players in the energy market; a market-based approach, which is what an emissions intensity scheme would be. It is an industry-based scheme where heavy emitters buy credits off cleaner generators to offset their carbon emissions. It's a rational market‑based approach. This will have the effect of lowering emissions while incentivising investment in new, cleaner and reliable generation to replace the coal-fired generation that is exiting the market.

The Hon. R.I. Lucas interjecting:

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER: The Hon. Mr Lucas, sotto voce, across the chamber says, 'A new carbon tax.' It's not a tax. It's a trading system among generators. No government will be collecting a single dollar in revenue through this process, so how can you even portray it as that? The Liberals are not very strong on facts; they just want to talk about the 'vibe'. They don't deal with policy issues very well on that side of the chamber. In fact, I am advised that former prime minister Tony Abbott's direct action plan also contemplates the introduction of an EIS.

The government is also, as the Hon. Michelle Lensink alluded to, working on a package of dramatic interventions—without her dramatic persona put into it in the asking of the question—an electricity market designed to take back control of the state's power supply; to take back control for the people of South Australia the state's power supply, which the Liberal Party in this state privatised; trying to unpick the damage caused by the Hon. Mr Lucas and his Liberal Party of the 1990s through their privatisation of the electricity system in South Australia.

As I said before, the Liberals have nowhere to go on this. They have nowhere to hide. They are the culprits involved in how they privatised the system. They are the ones—the Hon. Mr Lucas particularly—who ditched the interconnector into New South Wales to try to drive a higher price for his privatisation. He is responsible for that; his government is responsible for that, and that is the system we have inherited.

I want to refer again to some of the local commentary. This one is taken from InDaily, in terms of the Liberal Party's announcement and plans. It begins:

The S tate G overnment, the Lor d Mayor and environment groups—

No surprise there, I suppose—

have lined up to attack the Opposition's proposal to scrap South Australia's renewable energy target.

Opposition Leader Steven Marshall says he would move to scrap the state's renewable energy target (RET) in favour of relying on the national RET—

which was written down, of course, by the federal government not that long ago—

set by the Federal Government, if the Liberal Party wins next year's state election. Opposition leaders in Victoria and Queensland have made the same promise for their states.

Clearly, you can envision the phone call coming out of the PM's office to the state opposition leader, saying, 'Fall into line; fall into line with the federal Liberal Party's proposition here.' The article goes on to say:

South Australia's target—50 per cent of renewable energy by 2025—is 'aspirational' and not backed by direct funding.

What it is backed by is commonwealth government funding. The article continues:

By contrast, the national RET—23.5 per cent…is backed by federal funding for the most efficient renewable energy generators.

South Australia currently gets about 40 per cent of its power from renewables.

It goes on to quote a number of players, attacking the Liberals' short-sightedness in terms of energy policy. They don't have any energy policy, except to abdicate it to the commonwealth government. That's their plan; they are telling South Australians, 'If you elect us to government next March, in 2018, don't worry about energy. We're not going to have a policy. We're going to give it over to the federal government, and you know you can trust them.'

Just as you can trust them on Holden's, just as you can trust them on submarines being brought from Japan, until we stood up and fought for them. Just like you know they were going to sell us down the river for the old rusty Mazda on the River Murray deal, until we stood up and fought for South Australia's interests. That's what the Liberal Party has to offer: outsourcing leadership to Canberra. Well, we in South Australia won't stand for it. We will fight for South Australians' interests, and you will see what we come forward with very shortly.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK ( 14:53 :18 ): Supplementary: is it still the government's position to support a state-led ETS?

The Hon. I.K. HUNTER (Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change) ( 14:53 :23 ): I have already comprehensively answered that. I said we have consistently advocated for a national system as the most rational, the most efficient way of driving cleaner energy production in this country, and yet it falls on the deaf ears of a federal government which just wants to sell us more coal.

Why are they so in bed with coal interests? Where are their investments as a Liberal Party and a National Party? In the coal industry. Make them bring a lump of coal into parliament and try to persuade people that that is the future. I have a message for the Liberals and they will get this message next March: the people of South Australia don't support that. They know that renewables are the only way we will get through our electricity crisis in this state, and they know as well that if you elect a Marshall Liberal government next election they will have no policy on energy, because they will outsource it to the federal Liberal-National Coalition.