Bill's Speeches

AUSTRALIA’S ENERGY FUTURE - SYDNEY - THURSDAY, 22 NOVEMBER 2018

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Good afternoon everybody, it’s great to be here.

First of all I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, and I pay my respects to elders past and present.

I’d like to acknowledge the presence of my Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, our Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change Mark Butler and our Parliamentary Secretary in this area, Pat Conroy.

Today I’m here to outline Labor’s plan for more renewables, cheaper power and new jobs.

I’m here today with a plan to put families and small businesses and manufacturers back in charge of their power bills.

I’m here today with a plan to make our nation a veritable powerhouse for the new jobs, the new industries and new investment driven by renewable, cleaner power.

Labor’s plans ticks three vital boxes:

  • Affordability - for industry and households
  • Reliability - through new sources of generation and storage and better transmission and distribution.
  • And sustainability - cleaner power, cutting pollution

Today is about outlining our vision for the future, for the future of Australia in the 2030s.

  • It is 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030
  • It is cutting pollution by 45 per cent by 2030
  • Cutting power bills by hundreds of dollars a year
  • And creating tens of thousands of new renewable energy jobs

Our plan is right for the environment and it is good for business.

And our plan will deliver for industry, for families and for workers.

We will help industry by providing a clear plan that provides investor certainty, and building a more efficient and integrated energy network.

Upgrading the essential infrastructure that generates, transmits and distributes cleaner and more reliable power around our nation.

We will deliver for families, helping households reduce their power bills. 

We will take real action on climate change, because it’s vital not only for our economy, it’s fair for our kids in the future.

We will ensure that Australian workers benefit from the move to renewables, while guaranteeing a just transition for people and communities affected by economic change.

And if we are elected as the next government of Australia at the next election, we will begin this work in our very first week.

I say that because our home Australia has already lost too much time to toxic politics, to Liberal infighting and acts of personal revenge dressed-up as policy disputes.

There is not another month, not another minute to waste. Our nation simply needs to get moving on the question of energy and climate.

So I’m not here today to launch another argument about ends and means.

Nor am I going to waste a whole lot of time talking about the other side.

The simple point I want to make is this.

We offered bipartisanship on an Emissions Intensity Scheme.

Then we offered bipartisanship on a Clean Energy Target.

And then we offered bipartisanship on the National Energy Guarantee.

And we are prepared to offer bipartisanship again.

The National Energy Guarantee is not the scheme that we would have designed, we’ve never said it’s perfect.

But we have always recognised the value of a market-based mechanism where the basic framework is supported by both sides of the parliament.

This helps provide certainty and confidence for investors, for construction, for new generation projects to finally move ahead.

We’ve lost five years. Five years we cannot get back.

Five years of uncertainty and infighting have driven up power prices for families. And for small and medium sized businesses the power prices have gone up and up and up.

So let’s deal in the facts:

  • Electricity prices have increased by nearly 19 per cent in the last three years alone. That’s 3 times faster than wages growth.
  • In Sydney, they’ve gone up 26 per cent.
  • High gas prices are disastrous. They are still putting pressure on local manufacturers, with some still being quoted up to $12 per gigajoule.

And this is combined with five years of inaction and five years of denial on climate change:

  • betraying our farmers
  • jeopardising the Reef
  • threatening our neighbours in the Pacific
  • and putting our environment in jeopardy for the next generation.

The latest report from the IPCC is unambiguous: climate change is no longer an emergency, it is a disaster.

So, frankly, the single most important thing about energy and climate policy right now is to have one.

The single most important thing about energy and climate policy is to have one.

And surely the best way to resolve some of the differences over the substance is by actually debating and amending the legislation in the parliament itself.

So today I re-issue Labor’s invitation for bipartisanship. We are prepared to keep the National Energy Guarantee on the table.

We want a meaningful National Energy Guarantee that actually lowers prices, reduces pollution and boosts renewables.

The current Treasurer designed the NEG framework, the current Prime Minister was one of its most forceful advocates.

The Coalition party room debated and voted to back the National Energy Guarantee not once, not twice, but three times.

Our Parliament could debate and vote on this before Christmas, if the Government were so inclined.

And if I am elected as Prime Minister, I undertake that I will sit down with the new Opposition Leader - and the crossbench - to talk about a way we can move forward with this framework.

So let me be very clear: we will work with the Coalition but we will not wait for them.

Our willingness to co-operate on a market mechanism doesn’t mean that everything else gets put on hold.

I am not prepared to allow climate sceptics in the Coalition to exert a permanent, destructive veto over Australia’s energy, environmental and economic future.

I’ll be guided by the experts, not the usual suspects from the Coalition climate sceptic brigade. 

Furthermore, the absence of political consensus cannot mean the continued absence of a plan for energy policy. 

Consensus is not about the lowest common denominator. It’s about setting a direction and bringing people with you.

If I’m elected Prime Minister, I will not sit around and wait for the Liberals and the Nationals to stop arguing about whether or not climate change is real.

Labor will act, we will act, I will act - to lower prices, to cut pollution, to boost renewables and create jobs.

A Labor Government I lead will be prepared to directly underwrite and invest in cleaner, cheaper power for Australia.

We will prioritise renewables as well as supporting firming technologies like storage and gas.

Labor will invest in new generation, in better transmission and distribution – because we realise that this vital nation-building work cannot be left up to the big power companies.

Building and modernising Australia’s energy network cannot be put off –and it cannot be simply privatised.
It requires national leadership.

This is why Labor will end the energy and climate change wars.

We will implement a 10-year Energy Investment Plan, to drive and attract investment, to lower prices, to cut pollution and create jobs.

Labor’s plan will underpin investor confidence by providing a long term policy roadmap to achieve our 2030 renewable energy and emissions reductions targets. 

Our investment plan will be guided by experts, using the Australian Energy Market Operator’s Integrated System Plan as an energy modernisation blueprint.

We will use a range of tools to invest in projects and underwrite contracts for clean power generation, as well as firming technologies like storage and gas. 

These mechanisms could include concessional loans, equity and ‘contract for difference’ auction schemes that are used in other jurisdictions.

The United Kingdom has had success with their version of contract for difference.

And the Victorian Government recently held its first contract for difference auction, which delivered long term price certainty to clean energy projects, and resulted in a contract prices almost half the average Victorian wholesale electricity price in 2017-18.

And to co-ordinate this investment and to guarantee best value for taxpayer money - we will turbo-charge the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, doubling its original capital with an additional $10 billion over 5 years.

The CEFC has a great track record of backing value-for-money projects and delivering a positive return on investment. 

Our plan is simply about obtaining the best value from existing and new energy resources while delivering least cost, most reliable energy to the consumers.

Of course, it’s not just generation. Transmission and distribution are vital too.

Technology is fast moving away from the model of one plant in one location powering the whole state.

Instead, communities are going to be generating much more of their own power in their own neighbourhood.

We need a national grid and network that supports this, helping the movement of what Bloomberg call ‘base-cost’ renewables.

So today I’m pleased to announce that, if elected, a Labor Government will establish a new $5 billion fund for Energy Security and Modernisation.

This fund will facilitate and finance essential upgrades to Australia’s transmission and distribution systems.
We already know the work required - the Australian Energy Market Operator has mapped out its Integrated Systems Plan.

This co-ordinated and comprehensive set of projects will form the basis of Labor’s national energy infrastructure to-do list.

Potential projects include:

  • Upgrading interconnectors across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.
  • And building new ones – a second connection across Bass Strait and a new link between South Australia and New South Wales.
  • We will support strategic storage initiatives, like Snowy 2.0 and Tasmania’s plans to act as the ‘Battery of the Nation’.

And I’m very interested in the potential of new pipeline networks to help develop Northern Australia, and deliver affordable, desperately needed gas to the east coast manufacturers.

And as the experts have recommended, Labor will create Renewable Energy Zones from Tasmania to Far North Queensland.

This overdue modernisation agenda, this vision for modernisation, combined with our implementation of the Reliability Guarantee, is the best way to make sure that every part of our country has access to energy that’s more affordable and more reliable.

Now, it’s not just Australia’s energy infrastructure that urgently needs an overhaul. 

Australia’s energy efficiency, the usage we get out of each unit of energy, is poor and getting worse.

This year, the International Energy Agency ranked Australia last out of all the developed nations in energy efficiency policy and performance. We were ranked last.

We need to turn this around, and to turn this around, we’re going to free-up the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA, to support energy efficiency across the board, not just projects that involve renewables.

Because cutting waste, improving efficiency should be a priority for all forms of power from coal to gas to wind and solar.

And we’re going to put a particular focus on helping local industry get more bang for their buck. We’re going to make available $20,000 grants to Australian manufacturers who want expert advice on reducing energy waste.

Long overdue action on energy productivity and efficiency is micro-economic reform - it’s a way for business to cut costs and boost competitiveness.

Labor’s Energy Plan will help industry and families achieve lower power bills.

We’ll put Australian gas users first:

  • We'll have a  permanent gas export control trigger
  • New powers for the ACCC to crack down on anti-competitive behaviour that inflates prices
  • And a National Interest Test for all new gas projects
  • And a Domestic Gas Review Board to oversee these measures. 

And on August the 19th, we announced our plans on price-capping:

We'll be requiring a default offer that directly benefits 1.2 million customers and we said that we would mandate simple, clear benchmarks in the power offers and contracts.

I think that one of the best things, the most effective things that we can do into the future is help more Australians access the opportunities of rooftop solar and battery storage.

My vision is for Australia to be a clean energy powerhouse and I also want more Australian households to be powered by clean energy.

When it comes to renewable energy, the people are ahead of the politicians. The Australian people have literally voted with their feet.

In 2007, seven thousand houses in Australia had a solar panel on their roof. In the next few weeks this number will pass 2 million households.

Demand for installation is at record levels.

Panels keep getting cheaper, their efficiency keeps getting better and our local industry keeps increasing in this area.

Australians with rooftop solar aren’t out-there greenies living in trees, indulging in some sort of, post-material eco-fantasy.

They are just ordinary families, putting themselves back in charge of their energy usage and dramatically reducing their power bills too. And a lot of them would be pleased to be able to do their bit on climate change.
When I talk to people with rooftop solar around the country, they generally only have one regret - they wish they’d installed it earlier.

And for all the advances in the efficiency and output of photovoltaic technology, undoubtedly the biggest change for the cost-saving potential of solar power has been the advent of residential battery storage.

When you think about it, and I'm a bit of a student of history, the computer processor was an extraordinary piece of technology in its own right.

But it would not have so swiftly and dramatically changed the way we live and work and study and interact had it not been for the internet.

I think this is what affordable battery storage means for renewable energy in homes around this country.
Solar panels plus battery storage are the conservative, common-sense option.

What could be more conservative than storing energy. It means that when we talk about renewable energy, if you have a renewable energy storage goal, what once seemed radical is actually the conservative option.

It means that power generated during the day when parents are at work, the kids are at school and there is little demand for energy, can be stored and put to use in the evening when the appliances may be on and the computers are on.

It just means, I'm pleased to say the end of that silly slogan about solar not working when the sun isn’t shining.

What’s more, when a household installs a battery storage system, they don’t just save money for themselves through lower bills.

Homes with a battery storage system reduce pressure and demand on the entire national grid, and they even put power back in.

It's an excellent outcome, isn't it? Lower bills and more reliable supply for all Australians.

It is why I’m proud to announce that a Labor Government will set a national target of 1 million new household battery storage systems by 2025.

The Smart Energy Council estimates that household batteries would enable most homes to save over 60 per cent of their bill.

That’s over 60 per cent – that's not even ‘up to’ 60 per cent.

This is the kind of meaningful relief, game-changing relief in people's cost-of-living pressures that will deliver for every Australian battling flat wages and rising cost-of-living.

This is not a minor reduction, generated by ringing-around providers for that special offer where they halve the discount, on the price they just doubled.

Real savings of hundreds, potentially even thousands, of dollars a year, every year. It is a game-changer.
And to ensure that under Labor, more families save more money, we will help households overcome the biggest obstacle to installing their own system – that is of course the upfront cost.

Over the long term, a battery system pays for itself through the savings you make on your power bill.
But for a lot of families, the one-off expense is still too large to manage.

This is where a Labor Government I lead will step up.

If elected, from 1 January 2020,  we will provide a $2000 rebate for 100,000 battery installations in households with an income of less than $180,000.

As well as offering low-cost financing through the CEFC.

Our big boost for battery systems will help manufacturers scale up, and therefore with our economy of scale, bring the cost of installation down, meaning more and more families will be able to cut their bills with battery storage.

And this boom in household batteries will deliver benefits to all electricity users by cutting peak demand and average prices.

Our rebate will be limited to one battery system per home, and it will not be available for households that have already received a subsidy from forward thinking state schemes.

Batteries will have to meet the highest safety and product standards and installers will have to be licensed electricians with additional, specialised training.

And we will provide $10 million to boost the Clean Energy Regulator’s auditing and inspection regime.
I’ve spent my life representing workers – I will always insist on the strongest possible workplace health and safety standards.

Now Labor also believes that every Australian, not just home owners, deserve the opportunity to benefit from cheaper, cleaner power.

This includes the millions of Australians who are not owner-occupiers living in the traditional detached house. That’s everyone from people in apartments to renters, to those in community or social housing.

So I say today as a starting point, we are going to commit $100 million to create a Community Power Network and 10 Community Power Hubs around Australia - to provide legal and technical advice, as well as start-up funding, for local renewables projects.

We will put communities back in control.

We want to connect the apartment buildings and community housing and commission flats in our cities to the opportunities of renewable energy and storage.

We are offering the Australian people the chance to be part of the fight against climate change – and to do it in a way that is economically responsible.

What we offer is good for families, good for the nation and good for the planet.

We are giving people the chance to contribute, to do something about climate change and their electricity bills.

This is how you get prices down for real – not by dragging energy companies in for another televised talking-to over a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit.

And not with some thought bubble about some Venezuelan style divestiture, which will only succeed in taking the big stick to investment certainty and jobs.

Today, I’ve outlined Labor’s plans:

To directly underwrite and invest in cleaner, cheaper, power to help achieve 50 per cent renewables by 2030.

To build the national energy infrastructure of the future: the pipelines, the pumped-hydro, the interconnectors and the storage.

And to drive an acceleration to worlds best technology, to future technology and household battery technology, for homeowners and renters alike.

This is a plan for lower power prices and for less pollution.

But it also represents an exciting opportunity, a vision for new investment, new jobs and new industry.

Between now and 2050, our host Bloomberg estimates that US $8.4 trillion will be invested, worldwide, in wind and solar energy alone.

I want our country Australia, our home Australia to be the number one destination for these dollars. 

We are competing with the rest of the world and we have a desperate need at home to get our energy policy and our climate policy right.

I want the tens of thousands of jobs which will be created around the world, I want them for our people and our country.

Bloomberg is also projecting a seismic shift in the global energy mix, from two-thirds fossil fuels in 2017 to two-thirds renewables by 2050.

It’s a simple equation for Australia: more renewables equals more jobs.
 
New modelling from the Australia Institute forecasts the creation of up to 60,000 new direct jobs in the clean energy industry, through construction and installation, if we reach 50 per cent renewables by 2030. 
 
Plus there's another 12,000 and greater direct jobs in operation and maintenance. 
 
It's an exciting vision.
 
One thing we ask as parents is where will the jobs of the future be for our kids.
 
Well there's tens of thousands of quality jobs, well-paid jobs by having Australian standards and maximising local content.
 
And consider the jobs created by expanding battery storage.
 
You may be aware that Australia is already the world’s biggest supplier of lithium.
 
We produce every metal needed to make a lithium battery here in this country.  
 
With our skilled workforce, our high-tech mining industry, our high-quality science and research community, we are perfectly positioned to make this rapidly-growing industry our own - no longer exporting the pieces and paying inflated prices to buy them back.
 
I have been to Townsville and Gladstone, Perth and Darwin - they are all queuing-up to make themselves battery manufacturing capitals.
 
But we will only achieve this if we move now. You only get one chance to get in on the ground floor.
 
If the politics of the nation gets bogged down for another three and four years of infighting, of inertia instead of energy policy, the moment will be missed.
 
The world is very unforgiving for nations who do not take the opportunities that are presented to them. 
 
That’s why if we are elected – our plans for direct investment will not be hostage to the climate sceptics in the parliament.
 
We will act to bring down power prices and to boost these new blue collar and green collar industries.
 
And in a time of rapid economic and industrial change and disruption, only Labor will make it a priority to help workers and communities affected, adapt to the transition.
 
I’ve been Labor Leader for over five years now, but I’d only been in the job a couple of months when Prime Minister Abbott and Treasurer Hockey goaded the auto manufacturing industry into leaving this country.
 
I’ll never forget it, I’m still angry about that missed opportunity.
 
It threw callously, thousands of productive, proud, skilled workers onto the scrap heap of change - and there was no planning for their future.
 
In fact, they were just told they had been ‘liberated’ from their jobs.
 
I do remember how many government ministers said, after the fact, ‘the closures were inevitable’.
 
Well, tell that to the other countries who are still making automobiles.
 
They didn't think we were clever, they just thought they were lucky - there was one less competitor for them.
 
And of course, there was no planning about what happened next, there was nothing in place to support the transition for communities like Elizabeth.
 
I do not want to allow this failure to be repeated, in any sector, in any part of the country.
 
At present, 75 per cent of the coal-fired power stations in Australia are already operating beyond their original design life.
 
We’re talking about huge metal structures, facilities built in some case in the 1960s and 1970s.  
 
When Hazelwood closed it was over 50 years old, Yallourn and Liddell are both in their 40s.
 
By and large we don’t drive cars which are 40 years old, we don’t travel in planes built back in the 70s, our hospitals, our classrooms, our defence forces don’t rely on technology that came out before colour TV.
 
It’s beyond naïve to simply think that we can expect these facilities to power us all the way through the next century.
 
Of course, coal will be an important part of Australia’s energy mix for many years to come.
 
But there is no room for complacency – no excuse for it at all. 
 
These stations represent important sections of regional economies.
 
Governments of all persuasion owe it to everyone involved to have a plan in place well before the time that these plants eventually close.
 
Firstly, in line with the recommendations of the Finkel Review, Labor will require all large generators to provide at least 3 years notice of closure.
 
And a new Labor Government will establish a Just Transition Authority to plan and co-ordinate the structural adjustment for the workers and the communities affected.
 
The Just Transition Authority has one profound overarching mission – to ensure that we leave no-one behind.
 
No community, no worker, no family, no small business or contractor, left behind.  
 
This will be a statutory body with representatives from industry, from the union movement and local communities and local business all having a seat at the table.
 
We will legislate to create a regional framework for pooled redundancies, with mandatory participation from the generators.
 
The Just Transition Authority would also help structure training and re-training assistance.
 
And it would help design and drive economic diversification:

  • Bringing forward local infrastructure;
  • Providing business support advice;
  • And co-ordinating invest from established funding pools the Commonwealth already has – including, but not limited to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Export Finance and Insurance Agency and our Advanced Manufacturing Future Fund.

-      
I think perhaps we would all agree that the worst failure in politics in the past 10 years has been leadership instability.
 
But if that has been the worst failure of our democratic system in the past 10 years, I submit that a close second has been the inability to move forward on climate and energy policy.
 
Really, the two are inextricably linked.
 
Labor has put the instability of the past well behind us, we are united, we are stable.
 
And we are ready to resolve the climate and energy policy paralysis which is holding Australian back, damaging our environment and making families and businesses pay more.
 
My message to the people of Australia is that my party, Labor, recognises what needs to be done and we are ready to just get on with it.  
 
We’re prepared to work with the Coalition on this right now, to adapt and adopt, their own mechanism.
 
But if all the Liberals have to offer is a dishonest scare campaign, 10 years old. 
If they cannot lead and refuse to follow, then they should just get out of the way and just let someone who wants to lead get on with the job.  
 
Labor’s plan is right for the environment, it's good for business.
 
Our plan is built on the hard work of the best experts, from the Chief Scientist to the Australian Energy Market Operator to the CSIRO -  and has periodically been supported by the current Government.
 
If we are elected to serve as the next government of Australia:
 

  • We will build the essential energy infrastructure to power industry and manufacturing.
  • We will help households genuinely cut their power bills with more renewables and more storage.
  • We will support a Just Transition Authority for workers and businesses and communities who are disrupted and affected – while we drive a new wave of renewable jobs.
  • And we will take real action on climate change, because that’s the duty we owe to our nation and to the next generation.

 
It's an exciting vision for the next decade and beyond.
 
More renewables, cheaper power - these are fundamental to our vision for the future.
 
We should be an energy super power, we should be the number one destination for investment in renewable power.
 
We should have lower prices than we currently pay.
 
We should have more provision for the workers of Australia affected by change or whose jobs are jeopardised by high power bills. 
 
We should be doing more for families to take control over their cost of living.
 
All that we need to do is ensure that we are determined to hand on a better deal to the next generation.
We want to deliver a fair go for all Australians and we look forward to doing it with Australia's cooperation and assistance.
 
Thank you very much.
 

ENDS


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