MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
I have to confess that I've given the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt.
I know, it was a mistake. When he was rejected by his colleagues yet again to drop
his energy policy, I just thought, 'Oh, he's weak. He's a bit bemused. He's sort of sad.' But now
it is an inescapable truth: he has no principles and he has no beliefs. It's not that he's ditched
them. They obviously weren't there to begin with. What we're talking about today is power, and
that's exactly what is going on, on the other side of the chamber. This is about power. It's a
Prime Minister whose only belief was the belief in power—power for himself—throughout his political
career. Clearly, there were never principles involved.
Then we turn to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. This is a man who changes energy
policy so fast that you don't really know which one they're up to. Is it the emissions intensity
scheme? It is the Renewable Energy Target? Is it NEG 1? Is it NEG 2? Is there a NEG 3? You have to
wonder what his legacy is going to be as energy minister. Let's think about it. As environment
minister, this is a man who has effectively cut the highly protected areas of Commonwealth marine
parks in half. He has halved them. This is the largest area in the world limited to recreational
fishing that is now being re-accessed by commercial operators. Perhaps the most disturbing thing of
all is that the government has now established a massive trawling area immediately alongside the
Great Barrier Reef. Longlining will now be permitted north to south through the Coral Sea. That's a
decision made by this minister that is bad for the reef and bad for recreational fishers. We are
going to restore the damage that that minister has wrought.
Let's think about him as heritage minister, because that's another portfolio he has. This is the
heritage minister who has failed to act to save the colonial gem Thompson Square in Windsor. Right
now, under cover of night tonight, they are preparing to dig up convict-built brick barrel drains
that are 200 years old. They're unique; you can't find them anywhere in the country. All this is so
the New South Wales government can slap a bridge through the place—one that won't even solve our
traffic needs. This is a minister who just sat back and let this happen. It's the oldest public
square in the country, and he will be responsible for its demise.
So is it any wonder that all we have is confusion, indecision and inaction? What is the consequence
of all of this? Clearly we have policy paralysis, but that isn't the worst of the consequences. The
worst of it is that everyone who opens their mail and pulls out their power bill tonight is going
to see skyrocketing power prices. That's the real consequence. It's a consequence of the chaos
that's occurring on that side of the chamber. There's no point shaking your head, member for Wide
Bay, because the Nationals have had their fair share of chaos as well. People are desperate for
relief from power bills. Perhaps that is impossible for the Prime Minister and some of those
opposite to understand. Perhaps they've never struggled to pay their power bills. But every one of
us understands that our constituents are struggling.
There is a confession by the other side that there is a crisis, and that gives me perhaps some idea
that there is some tiny little understanding of it over there. In March last year, the Prime
Minister said, 'We are facing an energy crisis in Australia.' So there is recognition there, or at
least lip service to recognition. A year ago—this is one of my favourite quotes from the Prime
Minister, actually; it really sums up where we're at—he said, 'That's why I say our policy is based
on engineering and economics, not on ideology and politics.' What a joke that is! The crisis has
emerged under this government. People weren't talking about power prices in 2010, nor in 2013. As
old power stations have gone offline, as they've reached the end of their life, this government has
had no framework in place to allow investment to occur.
Talk to farmers, small businesses, manufacturers, pensioners, single parents and families—they are
all struggling. Yet the only plan we have from this government is a plan to talk about themselves.
That's all they're doing. We know that, even when something is put in place, this government will put in something that is inadequate.
It will not deal with power prices and it will not deal with the issue of climate
change. That will be the legacy that this government leaves us.