darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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Mr GEE  (Calare) (14:44): My question is to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport representing the Minister for Regional Development. Will the minister update the House on the importance of affordable and reliable energy in regional Australia and what impact would higher electricity prices have on jobs and hardworking families in regional Australia? Mr CHESTER  (Gippsland—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (14:44): I thank the member for Calare for his important question on what is a very serious issue for regional Australia. The member’s electorate in regional New South Wales is home to the Mt Piper power station, which employs in the order of 300 people. It is these power stations which are vital for providing the affordable and reliable energy that regional Australia needs. It is the power stations in regional Australia that keep the lights on in our homes, in our schools, in our hospitals and in our businesses; but it is the people who work there who are being vilified by Labor and the Greens as dirty, big polluters. Many of those people live in my community. I can tell you that they know they have been sold out by the Australian Labor Party. The member asks why it is important for regional Australians to have affordable and reliable energy. One-third of Australians live outside of our capital cities, and we want more people to enjoy the great quality of life we can offer in places like Wagga Wagga, Rockhampton, Mildura, Mackay, Dubbo and Gippsland. We want to build a safer, stronger and better regional Australia where everyone can get ahead. But people living in regional areas have, on average, lower household incomes than people living in our metropolitan areas, and when the power bills go up it is the people in regional Australia—those who live in homes in regional Australia—who are hit the hardest. Reliable baseload energy is also critical for jobs in regional Australia. There were more than 670,000 regional businesses registered in regional Australia in 2015. But they are getting squeezed by higher energy costs. Our dairy farmers, our retailers, our hairdressers and our workshops are all suffering under high energy costs, and they will only increase under Labor’s ideological obsessions. If we are serious about keeping manufacturing in regional Australia—and we especially want jobs right throughout our regions—we need to keep providing reliable baseload energy across the nation. Now, this side of the House understands that. Those opposite have given up on manufacturing. They have given up on coal-fired power stations— Opposition members interjecting— Mr CHESTER:  They have surrendered to the Greens, and by the sound of their protests, they know it in their hearts. To save their own jobs, to keep getting those Greens preferences, they have sold out the workers in places like Latrobe Valley, and they know it. Mr Broadbent interjecting— Mr CHESTER:  As the member for McMillan knows, in our electorates, it is not just baseload energy that comes from these power stations, it is baseload jobs. Mr Rob Mitchell:  You sold them off! The SPEAKER: The member for McEwen! Mr CHESTER:  They know that this impending closure of Hazelwood is exactly what Labor wanted five years ago when they voted for the Contract for Closure scheme. Those opposite wanted to get rid of coal-fired power stations under the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments, and they know it. This Prime Minister has a plan for jobs. He has a plan for reliable and affordable energy into the future. Labor in this place and at state levels right around Australia has given up on the workers that it used to represent. Labor has sold out to the Greens. You know you have sold out to the Greens, member for Maribyrnong, and it is families around Australia who will pay the price if ‘Electricity Bill’ ever becomes Prime Minister. The SPEAKER: The minister will return to the dispatch box and withdraw that last unparliamentary phrase. He knows he needs to refer to members by their correct titles. Mr CHESTER:  I withdraw.

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