darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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February 13, 2012

MR BANDT: To move—That this House:

(1) notes that:
(a) HRL Limited was awarded a $100 million grant in 2007 by the Coalition Government under the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund;
(b) to date, HRL Limited has been unable to meet the pre-conditions of the grant, and no money has been dispersed;
(c) the grant would facilitate the building of a new coal fired power plant, contradicting the current Prime Minister’s statement that no new dirty coal fired power plants will be built in Australia;
(d) there are a number of low emission renewable technologies that deserve government support; and
(e) the Australian community strongly supports public funds being used to support the development of renewable technologies; and

(2) calls on the Government to immediately withdraw the grant offer to HRL Limited and allocate the $100 million to the Australian Renewable Energy Authority.

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (12:12): I am pleased to join the debate and oppose both the content of the motion on funds for renewable energy and the flawed political philosophy surrounding it. It is yet another example of the Australian Greens adopting their ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’ approach to the national economy. The views of the Greens would be amusing if they had not signed up to a formal agreement with the Gillard government and did not have so much influence both on the current Prime Minister and on the wider agenda being pursued by the government. I want to reflect for a moment on where Australia would be today if the Greens had been around to oppose every new development.

Let us start with dams. Australia would not have the Snowy Hydro scheme—one of the largest suppliers of renewable energy and often regarded as one of the great engineering feats of modern Australia. The irrigation system that the scheme supports helps to feed our nation and millions around the world. It simply would not have happened if the Greens had held a position of influence. The city of Melbourne, which the member who moved this motion represents in this place, would rely on tank water for its household supplies and industrial purposes because the Greens would never have allowed the construction of the Thomson Dam or any other storage in Melbourne’s catchment. But that is just the start of it. Victoria would not even have a reliable baseload supply of electricity because the Greens would have opposed the development of the Latrobe Valley power industry.

Just as the Greens are opposing the HRL project—the subject of the motion before the House—they are opposed to all use of fossil fuels, which obviously includes the brown coal power industry and the generating sector which supported Victoria’s development. Given the Latrobe Valley provides about 90 per cent of Victoria’s energy needs, it is hard see what development could actually have occurred in Victoria if the Greens had been around to oppose every one of those projects in the 1940s and 1950s. This is where the rank hypocrisy of the Greens is illustrated for all to see. This is a party which is cosying up to the union movement and stealing political territory from the Australian Labor Party by talking about jobs, but it would effectively shut down jobs in any energy intensive industry.

The member for Melbourne once worked as an industrial relations lawyer and acted on behalf of the CFMEU in a dispute between Latrobe Valley workers and management. Yet he participates in his party’s vilification of the power industry and the communities which support it. And the list goes on. The Greens oppose the live exports industry in favour of boxed meat products, but their carbon approach will actually shut down the Australian abattoirs in the first place.

The Labor Party are continuing to run with the Greens agenda. I am not referring to the previous speaker, but there are plenty in the Labor Party who do. Just last Thursday the member for Wills was in this place tabling a petition calling on the House to withdraw federal funding for the HRL project. In his contribution the member for Wills talked about jobs and belittled the HRL project’s potential to create ‘just 35’ ongoing operational jobs. Given that this government did not create any jobs in the past 12 months, I am not sure that any member opposite is in a position to be such a jobs snob and suggest that some jobs are not worthy or any project does not create enough employment. In any case, whatever the member for Wills has had to say, what he does not seem to appreciate—and the Greens have never pretended to understand—is that the provision of cheap, reliable base load electricity is one of the key competitive advantages of local businesses.

I will take up the previous speaker’s comments in relation to the Latrobe Valley power station workers in just a moment. Last week the Minister for Resources and Energy was in the Latrobe Valley and he gave at least the impression of understanding how important the brown coal sector will be for the Latrobe Valley in the future. The minister was there supporting a $100 million project for carbon capture and storage. In his speech there were a couple of noteworthy points. First of all, the minister did not mention ‘dirty brown coal’ or ‘big polluters’ at any stage when he was in the Latrobe Valley. Yet we come into this place and we hear that every day of the week.
Every day in this place during the great carbon tax debate, I heard members opposite vilify the very same workers that the previous speaker referred to in the Latrobe Valley, describing them as ‘working for those dirty brown coal power generators’ and vilifying them and the work that they have done on behalf of the Victorian community.

I do not actually believe the minister supports the carbon tax, in any case—though perhaps I am reading him wrong. He does not believe in the carbon tax because he knows it is a job killer in regional areas, like the Latrobe Valley, and he knows that it will only make things worse in the manufacturing sector.

Government members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: The member interjects. In his speech the minister waxed lyrical about the future possibilities of brown coal if the research and development related to CCS proved successful. He also announced the extension to the time frames of the HRL project. So while the member for Melbourne and the member for Wills come in here and attack the use of cheap and reliable base load energy from fossil fuels, the minister responsible is getting on with the job of actually securing Victoria’s future energy needs and recognises the potential to keep using brown coal into the future. I fear that it is only when the lights go out and the last manufacturing job is exported offshore that Australians will begin to understand how dangerous the Greens’ policies are for the future of our nation. I oppose this motion and I condemn the Australian Greens for their hypocrisy and I call on members opposite to stand up for Latrobe Valley power station workers and actually do the right thing and abandon the carbon tax.

(Time expired)

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