December 05, 2018









Senator CHISHOLM (Queensland) (15:25): I think that speech sums up the coalition government. All they have on energy policy is a scare campaign. They have been in government for five years, and all they can come up with, three months before an election, is a scare campaign. Let's look at their record. Under their record, prices are up, emissions are up and reliability is down. That is what they have achieved from five years of LNP government. When they come before an election, they don't come with a policy; all they come with is a scare campaign. That's all they have got for the Australian people. We've had five years of inaction, chaos and dysfunction, and all they come up with now—I think Senator Abetz put it at the start of question time—is a fig leaf of a policy. That's all it is, because they cannot get any sensible policy through their backbench. Even this so-called big stick that they talk about is actually being attacked within the backbench. The ones who were attacking that have come from all cross-sections of the Liberal Party as a result of that.

We know that they've had the National Energy Guarantee. We know that they've had an emissions intensity scheme. We know that on every occasion the backbench have demolished that policy, so much so that they actually cannot settle a policy that they can take to the Australian people. There's a real cost to this, because the people who pay the price are Australian households. The people who pay the price are workers and businesses, because they can't get affordable electricity to run their plants and factories that so many people rely on for employment. This is their record after five years.

We know that the policy that they have put forward is under attack from the Business Council and the Australian Energy Council. The proposal that they have put forward, that they have struggled to get through their own caucus, is already being attacked by those people who are involved and have an interest in this. What they are trying to do is basically sticky tape a policy together to get them through an election and to stop a crossbench revolt. But we know from the experts that all it will do is reduce investment and push up prices. This is the latest iteration of a policy that they have on energy. All that is going to do is reduce investment and push up prices.

What's emerging as the real motive behind this policy, and this is evident, is privatisation by stealth. This is actually the aim of their divestment thought bubble. This will have a real impact on Queensland. It is a Liberal and Nationals obsession. We know that they pursued this in Victoria and we know the dire consequences that we've seen. We know the Liberals pursued this in South Australia and we know the dire consequences that we've seen as a result. We know that they pursued it in New South Wales. They have sold off electricity assets in that state as well. And we know that they've tried previously in Queensland, and it has only been the public and now a Labor government that has been able to stop them.

We know that, when it comes to privatisation of electricity assets, the Liberals and Nationals will pursue every chance that they get. We know that this is actually the aim of the divestment policy that they're putting forward. We know this because only recently, today, have they given a copy of this legislation to the Queensland state government. They have been out there; other organisations have had the ability; but the Queensland government, which owns significant energy assets in our state, would not be given the legislation so they could understand the dire consequences that this would have on our state.

The LNP never give up on attempting to force this policy on Queenslanders, but Queenslanders—the voting public and the Labor government, and this Labor opposition—will absolutely stand up to them. What is really disappointing is that the LNP and the Queensland federal MPs like to position themselves as Team Queensland. They talk a very big game when it comes to Queensland; but on this issue they are silent. We know other backbenchers have talked about the dire consequences of this divestiture bill, but the Queensland LNP have absolutely been silent. We know that, at the end of the day, the Queensland LNP want to use this to pursue their privatisation objectives. The Labor opposition will absolutely stand up to them. We will ensure that Queensland electricity assets remain in the hands of Queenslanders. Queenslanders have voted repeatedly to ensure that that is the case. So we will call the LNP out on this. We will not let them pursue this ideological agenda.

Question agreed to.