Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (16:39): I rise to make a contribution to the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Emissions Reduction Objectives) Bill. In May this year, commonwealth and state energy ministers agreed to amendments to the national energy laws to incorporate an emissions reduction objective into the national electricity objective, national gas objective and national energy retail objective, respectively.
As with previous changes to national energy laws, South Australia is the lead jurisdiction and, as per the convention, the legislation has been approved by the Energy Ministers' Meeting prior to it being introduced in the Parliament of South Australia. It is interesting that in regard to this, and in his second reading explanation, the minister stated:
In the 2021 financial year, South Australia emitted 21.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, representing a 42 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the 2005 financial year. South Australia also met 100 per cent of its operational demand from renewable resources on 180 days in 2021. That was the legacy of the Rann-Weatherill governments.
In fact, the legacy the Weatherill government left the state was an unmanaged transition to renewable energy that came at significant economic and social cost, including the statewide blackout in 2016 and the nation's highest electricity prices.
What we saw with the statewide blackout in September 2016, when we were sitting in this place, was the ineptitude of the government of the time. They were overseeing a situation where essentially, if you put it in very simplistic terms, one circuit breaker went out and threw the whole state out. I know people who used to work in the old power stations at Port Augusta. There used to be a system, five systems across the state—what was going on, that was pure genius that we lost the whole state.
The former Liberal government recognised the importance of an orderly, practical transition that delivers economic growth and competitive power prices. Policies included working with industry to have the South Australia-New South Wales interconnector built, which was interesting because Labor were all for this until they decided they were not for it. I am so pleased to see the interconnector well on its way, as it will help when we have an excess of renewable energy, because we do have a lot of renewable energy in this state and more going in all the time, with more wind turbines and more solar. A lot of solar is being put in around Tailem Bend, which used to be part of my electorate but is now in the member for MacKillop's electorate, and other areas of the state. Certainly, there are some new solar-generating power stations along the Murray River.
The Home Battery Scheme and the Grid Scale Storage Fund were part of our former government, which at the same time led to the emissions figures quoted by the minister in 2021. Between June 2018 and December 2021, ESCOSA reports show that the average electricity bill for households fell by $421. We saw that the current Premier, Peter Malinauskas, had no plan at the election to ensure that electricity supply was affordable and reliable. In last year's state budget, the Malinauskas Labor government axed the Home Battery Scheme, the Grid Scale Storage Fund and Switch for Solar.
Since Labor was elected, electricity bills have skyrocketed in this state. In May this year, the Australian Energy Regulator's default market offer was released and it showed a nearly 24 per cent increase in South Australians' household power bills of up to $512 and, for businesses, an increase of more than $1,310—a nearly 29 per cent increase. This is outrageous because it is putting livelihoods at risk and it is putting businesses at risk.
We have a lot of virtue signalling about where we go. We have made our position quite clear where we want to go on the transition to renewable energy, and we are well on the way. We are well on the way, but we have price caps put in place for both coal and gas. Do you know what that does, especially in the gas sector? It restricts exploration, it restricts access to more gas so that it can be drilled for, keeping the price of that gas down. The simple fact is that gas is 50 per cent cleaner than coal. We should be encouraging more exploration and we should be encouraging more exploitation.
For all those out there, the anti-frackers, the anti-gas, the anti-coal, good luck, because I bet there are plenty of members on the other side of the house who are getting those phone calls, those contacts from constituents who simply are not able to pay their power bills. As they get the notices that are coming through now from their power providers, they are not just up by 24 per cent or 29 per cent, but some quotes are coming through at a 50 per cent rise and moving forward. It is outrageous and I do not know how we are going to keep people in their homes. I simply do not know how people are going to be able to afford the power prices. It is just ridiculous.
We have Victoria, where essentially they have banned exploration. We have protests in Western Australia, protests in the Northern Territory, or north of the Northern Territory, by different groups fighting against gas development. These are just crazy times. We have had the discussion about the billions of people in China and India who are quite happy to burn coal, and a lot of that coal gets exported from Australia. Only a few years ago, Western Australia contributed $260 billion to the national economy, and it is probably over $300 billion now, which represents probably around 20 per cent of the financial capability of this country.
We see Queensland with their coalmines with a $12 billion surplus. It was interesting when we had the federal elections in 2019, how many of those Labor coalmining seats came over to the Liberal National Party because of the anti working people policies of the Labor government.
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis interjecting:
Mr PEDERICK: Yes, I support the transition but let's see some way how to get there. We just heard from the member for Giles about why the costs are dearer in South Australia because we do transmit power right across the state to Ceduna. Well, what a case for promoting the cause of small modular nuclear reactors so we can work to a zero net gain in clean energy, so we can work to clean energy and work forward in a proactive way. The minister laughs, because he's got no idea.
The Hon. A. Koutsantonis: So the four years you were in office, where was the nuclear reactor then?
Mr PEDERICK: He's got no idea, and I hope there are plenty of people going into his electorate office complaining about the high bills that they are about to get, because I know for a fact that there are plenty of people getting told that they will have a 50 per cent increase in their power bills. We have to be a lot smarter in this country when we rely so much on the many billions of dollars of exports for the coal and gas that we export while we are crippling our own community, not just in this state but right across the country, but without a real outcome for the private citizens of this state and this country so that they can afford to stay warm, stay dry and feed their families. It is just outrageous.
There is not a real plan for that. I can see when the power bills start coming through in September, and then as they go through the rest of the financial year, we are going to have more and more people homeless. We have the cost of living crisis already which is crippling people and they are about to be crippled more by these excessive power prices.
We have to have an orderly transition, and we do have to have a look at real outcomes so that we can get to zero emissions, but it is outrageous that we do all this, crippling our economy, crippling our people's capacity to pay, but at the same time our economy is so reliant on these exports of coal and gas. It will be interesting where it all ends, but I really am concerned for the good people of this state that they can pay for their power.