Legislative Council: Wednesday, September 27, 2023


Energy Prices

The Hon. S.L. GAME (17:17): I move:

That this council—

1. Acknowledges that the rise in energy prices has caused hardships for South Australians and increased the cost of living;

2. Recognises that the Malinauskas Labor government has invested excessively in renewable energy; and

3. Acknowledges that the Malinauskas Labor government continues to mismanage its energy policy.

South Australians pay more for electricity than any other state or territory in the country. It is the reason we have the weakest economy in Australia, and the government has gone heavily into debt in the recent state budget. Soaring electricity prices in this state are causing hardship and driving up cost of living.

Let me reiterate in this chamber what I said last year. I made it clear that renewables are not the answer—they are inconsistent, expensive, harmful to the environment and wildlife, and inefficient. In June 2023 South Australians paid 35¢ per kilowatt hour for electricity, compared to 22¢ per kilowatt hour in Victoria, 25¢ per kilowatt hour in Queensland, 26¢ per kilowatt hour in Tasmania, 28¢ per kilowatt hour in New South Wales and 30¢ per kilowatt hour in Western Australia. Every other state has lower priced electricity than South Australia. This means that South Australia has a higher cost to do business. Why would you manufacture anything in South Australia when you can make it for less in another state?

Electricity represents 40 per cent of the cost of making steel and aluminium. The average price of electricity in China is less than half the price in South Australia. What makes the government think it can keep the Whyalla steel mill competitive, with electricity prices more than double our competitors'?

Instead of understanding why electricity costs are so high in South Australia, the government has decided to provide some South Australian households with rebates over the next two years at a cost of $254 million. How long can the weakest economy in Australia subsidise the electricity bills of some households?

This is but a mere bandaid to the larger problem here: renewables are not working the way they have been sold to us. They are not fit for purpose, as they cannot guarantee base load power. It is time Labor admitted that its policy of overinvesting in wind and solar-based electricity, without alternatives such as nuclear power, is a failure. Why are we not having a sensible debate on alternatives like nuclear, an alternative that can achieve a consistent 90 per cent maximum output compared to solar, wind and hydro that operate at 25, 35 and 40 per cent respectively? This is not enough to sustain Adelaide, let alone South Australia.

The Labor government is refusing to look at the facts about the real cost of electricity production in this state. First, there is a mismatch between the peak solar and wind electricity production and peak electricity demand, which requires a reliable backup system. Secondly, when there is no wind or solar electricity in South Australia the gas turbines are turned on; in winter, gas is used every night and commonly throughout the day. Thirdly, green renewables have a high-cost, short-operation life for equipment, meaning that every 20 years or so we will need to reconstruct new solar panels and replace wind turbines. This is not sustainable.

The Labor government knows all this, and plans to replace expensive natural gas with another called hydrogen: they want to replace natural gas with green hydrogen, which is made from water. The hydrogen is created by using excessive wind and solar electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The budget sets aside $593 million, plus millions more for the Office of Hydrogen Power SA, to build this plant and implement the Hydrogen Jobs Plan. What could possibly go wrong?

There is no excess wind or solar electricity in winter to provide the electricity necessary to allow the hydrogen strategy to work. We know that because the Australian Energy Market Operator publishes fuel used by each state 24 hours a day. The intermittency of weather-dependent generation of electricity makes a cost comparison between different generational technologies difficult; however, once the cost of balancing supply and demand are considered, wind electricity is 47 times more expensive than nuclear electricity, and solar electricity delivered through the electricity grid is 14 times more expensive.

South Australia has the weakest economy in the country, and Labor's commitment to change the climate by decarbonising the electricity system, the transport system and primary industries is not working. Green renewables are not environmentally friendly. They are not a cheap alternative. They are inefficient, and have contributed to inconsistent power supply and rising energy costs over the last several years.

I am not the only one deeply worried that Labor will ruin every sector of the economy with its energy policy. In the meantime, people are afraid to turn on the heating in the middle of winter or the cooling in the middle of summer, and one in 10 cannot pay their electricity bill—and that number will increase, because electricity costs are expected to rise a further 29 per cent over the next 12 months.

If this government does not take this energy debate seriously, and consider alternatives like nuclear, South Australians will suffer. If the state government can support nuclear-powered submarines, then why not debate these alternatives and shelve its failed energy policy? South Australians need immediate relief from cost-of-living pressures that are being further fuelled by soaring energy prices.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:23): I rise to speak against this motion on behalf of the Greens. In so doing I want to debunk some of the, quite frankly, ridiculous claims that have been made by the One Nation political party in relation to energy policy over the years. Taking advice on energy policy from One Nation is like getting empathy lessons from Scott Morrison. They have no idea.

Let's actually listen to what they have had to say, let's take a look at some of the things that the One Nation Party has had to say on energy policy. I read through some news reports with great interest heading into this debate; I thought, 'What has the One Nation Party had to say?' Some of the things they have come up with are really worth putting on the Hansard, because I think they should inform consideration of this motion.

Let's look first at Senator Malcolm Roberts. In his first speech to parliament, Mr Roberts made some claims about climate change. He said 'there is no data proving human use of hydro-carbon fuels affects climate'. Well, we know that is false. He also went on to say:

[the] 1930s and 40s were warmer than the current decades…The original records are…first of all, that the data has been corrupted…

'By whom?' he was asked. 'By NASA,' he replied. NASA, of course, have corrupted the data. Of course; why did we not think of that? He says these models are 'hopelessly wrong'.

What did NASA I have to say about that? Well, a senior NASA official took the extraordinary step of personally rejecting the claims of One Nation where he claimed the agency had falsified data to exaggerate warming in the Arctic. Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said Senator Roberts was mistaken in his assertion that the US agency had removed Arctic data to mask warming in the 1940s. A news report quoted him:

'You…hold a number of misconceptions which I am happy to clarify at this time,' Dr Schmidt told Senator Roberts in letters and emails obtained by Fairfax Media. 'The claim that [NASA] has "removed the 1940s warmth" in the Arctic is not correct.'

Dr Schmidt refers to data available on their website. Interesting. These are the people we are meant to take lessons on energy policy from. Senator Roberts went on to refer to climate change as being 'a conspiracy of the United Nations.' Wow.

He made some other really unusual claims here too. This is really worth noting. He wrote a letter to the then Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in relation to the carbon tax. This is a good one, and I think it's worth putting on the public record. The letter he sent in 2011 was addressed to—and I quote from his letter—'The Woman, Julia-Eileen:Gillard' and contained a 28-point affidavit that sought to establish Mr Roberts' exemption from the need to follow the rules of the Australian government. He referred to himself as 'Malcolm-Ieuan: Roberts., the living soul' and identified himself as the 'beneficiary, administrator' for a corporate entity called Malcolm Ieuan Roberts. He went on to say:

…Malcolm-Ieuan: Roberts., the living soul has not…been presented with any…facts or evidence that I, Malcolm-Ieuan: Roberts., the living soul am not a beneficiary of the public trust, or evidence that the Australian Government is not a trustee in the public trust and believe that none exist.

This is interesting stuff.

It is worth clarifying for the One Nation party that Elvis has actually left the building, COVID was not a made-up conspiracy, climate change does exist and the world is not flat. There are a range of other strange and nutty views the One Nation party has, and I will not bother to put all of them on the public record. We know they peddle lies and misinformation not only in relation to energy policy but in relation to vulnerable people, queer people, people of colour and a range of other groups. That is the One Nation party's MO in our parliament.

On this particular issue, I think it is worth noting that the One Nation party really have picked the wrong target here. They say that the Malinauskas Labor government continues to mismanage energy policy and imply that renewable energy is the cause of high energy prices. That is not true, and the evidence paints a very different story.

If you want to know why energy prices have gone up in this state, take a look at this side of the chamber. They have gone up because the Liberals privatised and sold off ETSA back in the 1990s. That is what has driven up energy prices. Why is not the Hon. Ms Game going after her mates in the Liberal Party for the position they have taken on privatisation and the terrible effect that that has had on energy prices in our state?

That is the cause of the problem we find ourselves in. That is the problem we face in our state but, for reasons unbeknownst to me, One Nation is running a protection racket for the Liberal Party on that issue. They are not to be believed on energy policy. They peddle lies and misinformation and this motion should be dismissed.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.