I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure Bill 2021, the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Regulatory Levies) Bill 2021 and the Offshore Electricity Infrastructure (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2021. I will keep my remarks brief and resist the offer from the member for Grayndler to reflect on the characters of my colleagues, but I will acknowledge—
I will endeavour to keep my comments coherent. Can I say, in the interest of full transparency, that the member for Wills is actually my tennis partner, and he handed out a few backhanders today for the National Party. Apart from those political comments, I thought the member for Wills’s contribution was very valuable, from a Victorian perspective, and I agree with the basic premise of his argument, that there is enormous potential for Victoria to be an energy powerhouse, just as we have been an energy powerhouse for decades previously. I’m very proud to represent the community of the Latrobe Valley, which has powered the enormous economic wealth and prosperity of Victoria for decades, and proud to represent the energy industry workers, who go to work every day and who have kept the lights on, particularly during the last couple of years of the pandemic, when there have been fairly challenging circumstances from time to time. They have maintained that reliability of supply in Victoria and across the south-east of the country. It’s important when we have these debates that we do recognise the enormous contribution of those blue-collar workers—now high-vis workers—and recognise also that this is an unsettling time, when we’re having conversations about transition of energy jobs into new areas and ensuring that people are treated with respect as part of that process, their families are treated with respect and their communities are properly supported if there are any economic shocks to those communities.
I welcome the package of three bills that is before the House and acknowledge that it provides a regulatory framework to enable offshore electricity infrastructure projects, including transmission and generation projects, in Commonwealth waters. Projects that could be enabled by this legislation include the Marinus Link project—that’s a longer-term project to support Tasmania’s Battery of the Nation which would link the island state with Victoria and quite possibly travel through my electorate and the electorate of the member for Monash; the Star of the South project, which is a proposed offshore wind farm off the coast of my electorate of Gippsland, in Bass Strait; and Sun Cable, which is a proposed international transmission infrastructure project between Darwin and Singapore. These are all very significant projects that will support the federal government’s commitment to continue to invest in and support the delivery of affordable and reliable energy for Australians but also keep our international commitments in terms of emissions reductions.
This is important legislation because it provides confidence and certainty, particularly certainty around major investments which could result in tens of thousands of jobs in communities like mine. It’s hard to know exactly what the full potential is for projects like this, but the Star of the South proposal off the coast of Gippsland is one project that has captured the imagination of my community. I want to congratulate the proponents for the way they have endeavoured to engage with the community in a respectful way. They’ve certainly met with the local members of parliament at state and federal level. They’ve taken my advice and ensured that they’ve had good consultations with the commercial fishing industry, which could be impacted by any activity off the coast of Gippsland. They’ve also treated the landholders in the region with respect and spoken to them and informed them of their plans for the region. I encourage the proponents to continue to engage in such a respectful and collaborative way.
It’s terribly important, as we move forward with the commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, that we are looking at these large-scale renewable energy projects. As I said, in Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley we have a rich heritage of generation of energy through fossil fuels, through brown coal in the Latrobe Valley and through oil and gas in the Bass Strait. We know there’s a transition underway, in the sense that there will be a greater dependence on renewable sources into the future, and projects like the Star of the South have enormous potential to help fill that gap in the energy market in the future. We have seen large-scale solar and wind projects in Gippsland already. The potential for offshore wind is something that, I think, will have greater capacity to unite our community. It’s true that previous onshore wind projects have often divided communities, so I see huge potential for the offshore wind program into the future. I commend the bills to the House.