In Parliament

 Ms LANDRY (CapricorniaDeputy Nationals Whip) (14:33): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, representing the Minister for Regional Development. I refer the minister to the situation of Dobinsons Spring & Suspension business in my electorate of Capricornia which has installed 2,000 solar panels to offset their significant energy costs. Will the minister update the House why an affordable and reliable energy supply is essential to secure jobs and support regional development?

 Mr CHESTER (GippslandMinister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:34): I thank the member for Capricornia for her question. She is a very hardworking member who is focused on jobs in her electorate, and a real fighter for regional Australia. She wants local businesses to grow and prosper not just in her community but right across Central Queensland and throughout regional Australia. The best thing we can do for regional businesses is to ensure that they have access to reliable and affordable energy.

The member for Capricornia has asked me specifically about a Rockhampton business. Dobinsons Spring & Suspension is a family-owned business. It has been operating for more than 60 years. It employs 43 people locally and a further 22 across Australia. They export products to around 50 countries around the world. It is a great local business doing marvellous things in the Capricornia electorate. The member for Capricornia recently visited it, and Glen Dobinson made it clear that as a regional business they are concerned about their energy costs:

Dobinsons are only a medium sized business and have been looking at all avenues to minimise electricity usage and cost of electricity by 2020. We've just outlaid $1.3 million on solar so as to reduce our electricity bill, but after installing over 2,000 solar panels it is still only one-third of our electricity. It doesn't help us with starting the furnaces at 5.30, heating them up for the 7 am start.

What Dobinsons is saying is that we need a mix of energy sources. On this side we understand the need for the right energy mix to keep energy reliable and affordable. The coalition is committed to supporting regional Australian businesses and giving them the energy security they need. We are working to ensure that households and businesses do not pay more than necessary and that they remain competitive in the future. Those opposite are pursuing policies which damage energy security, and they are putting pressure on power prices for businesses and Australian families.

I feel sorry for those opposite, I really do. They are hopelessly compromised on the issue of energy security and affordability. We just heard from the Minister for Agriculture, and he made it very clear: those opposite know they are meant to stand up for blue-collar workers—those workers in our coalmines and in the coal-fired power stations in Central Queensland and the Latrobe Valley. They know they are meant to do that, but the problem is most of them rely on Greens preferences to get elected, so they end up trading those blue-collar jobs for the Greens votes in the city. They trade blue-collar jobs for Greens votes in the city every day they come in here.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for McEwen!

 Mr CHESTER: We are seeing it right now in Gippsland. We saw it yesterday with the Heyfield timber workers marching on state parliament as Labor in Victoria chose possums over jobs. Labor in Victoria chose possums over jobs, and Labor sold out workers. It is also happening in relation to the Hazelwood Power Station. Labor in this place pretends to care about the Hazelwood Power Station workers, but they voted for the contract for closure under the Rudd-Gillard government. They wanted it to happen, and they know it. It is time for those opposite to actually stand up for the blue-collar workers and their families and join us in our efforts to deliver reliable energy—(Time expired)

 

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