Parliament Speech - Emergency Management (Electricity Supply Emergencies) Amendment Bill

Mr PICTON ( Kaurna ) ( 11:16 ): This is a most urgent bill for the people of South Australia and for securing our energy future as a state. This government has a very bold, well thought-out, considered plan for securing our energy future as a state. It has been documented, it has been thoroughly worked through, to secure our energy future for households in South Australia, to secure our energy future for businesses in South Australia and to not be reliant upon the whims of private companies, to not be reliant upon the whims of the federal government and its inaction in Canberra, and to not be reliant on the whims of the national market operator when they are not looking out for South Australia.

This bill has a very important part to play in this. We saw what happened on 8 February this year in South Australia when we were let down by the national market operator not turning on Pelican Point power station in this state. We had enough supply to manage the load in South Australia, but the national market operator, AEMO, refused to order on the Pelican Point power station, refused to provide the extra supply until it was far too late for that to happen, and we saw load shedding in South Australia. That did not need to happen; that could have been prevented.

How do we know that could have been prevented? Because exactly the same scenario happened the following day, 9 February, and on that day AEMO did take preventative action and did order on the second unit at Pelican Point power station, and we did avoid load shedding in South Australia, so what happened was entirely preventable, and that is why this government is bringing this very urgent legislation to this parliament.

Those opposite do not want to debate it now—they want to put it on the backburner—this is not important to debate. They wanted to adjourn it, but we want to debate this right now. Dealing with this is very urgent for South Australia. We need these powers restored for this parliament for our emergency management issues for this state.

The federal government has no energy policy whatsoever and flounders on this issue, which has led to the fact that there is no investment in energy across the country going in at the moment. Their response, after the 8 February event, was that we should have used our emergency powers. Well, that is what we are going to do in the future: we are going to use our emergency powers, but they are not going to be cumbersome like they were in the past, when we would have to organise a cabinet meeting and get the Governor to sign off on using them.

We are going to have emergency powers, where the government and the energy minister can take the action necessary to prevent these situations occurring in the future, because that is what South Australians want. South Australians want this government to take control of our energy future and to take control of generators when they are not providing. Of course, it is very clear that some generators—and it is happening not just in South Australia but across the country—will make more money if they have less generation turned on.

That is a failure of the National Electricity Market. It is a sad thing to say, but the National Electricity Market has failed and we need to reform it. This is a very important part of doing that. This is the first step in doing that, and there is a whole range of other ways that are part of our plan to secure South Australia's energy future. Another important way is that we are going to procure a faster new gas generator that will be owned by the people of South Australia. It will not be privatised—

This will be a generator that will be owned, run and managed by the people of South Australia, all the taxpayers, for the people of South Australia, which is very important. It is not for private profit to be sent overseas or around the country: this is for South Australia's energy security. Very importantly, it will provide stability services to the grid and will also be there in times of peak emergency demand to provide energy security for our state. We are also investing in Australia's largest battery because we do have great renewable energy resources in this state and we need to make sure we are using them to the best capability possible.

Game-changing technology is happening in storage. We will be able to use that at different times of the day for the energy security of South Australians. We are also using our government load for hospitals, for schools and for all our government offices, and contracting that out with a new energy provider to bring another generator into South Australia to provide more competition so that households and businesses have another option to go to when they want to contract for their electricity.

More competition will bring down prices in South Australia. Sadly, one of the big problems we have had is not enough competition in our energy market. It is an oligopoly controlled by a very small number of market participants, and the people and businesses in South Australia are suffering because of that. We are going to use our powers in terms of our contracting load to bring another energy supplier into South Australia. We are, of course, also a gas state. That is very important. If we look at the gas prices and the increase we have seen, it tracks very neatly with the increase in electricity prices because we are a gas state. Sadly, we have not seen enough exploration and drilling of gas in South Australia recently, and a lot has been sent overseas. We are incentivising gas developers to get out there and drill for more gas—more gas in Moomba, more gas in the South-East.

We want to get the gas out of the ground. Very importantly, as part of those contracts they are going to be used for South Australian electricity generation for South Australian households and for South Australian businesses first. That is very important for the future of South Australia. What is the alternative policy?

An honourable member: A ban.

Mr PICTON: A ban—a ban on gas development in South Australia. That is what the opposition want to do. They want to ban gas developments happening in South Australia. They want to send shivers down the spine of every investor in gas developments in South Australia, which are of course the backbone of our electricity system in South Australia. The people of South Australia will be very wary of your ban. It is a cheap ploy to win a few seats from Nick Xenophon down in the South-East, and it is putting all of South Australia's electricity future at risk.

We are also going to introduce the energy security target. We have been working on this with Danny Price, who is Malcolm Turnbull's preferred electricity economist, because we have such a lack of action from the federal government, remembering that everybody—from BHP to all the energy companies, to the Business Council—wants to see an emissions intensity scheme introduced in Canberra because that is what will invest more money into getting new generation off the ground.

Sadly, we see no action on that front from Canberra, so we are having to take our own action in the interim to bring in an energy security target that will be important not just for providing security for our system but, also, the modelling shows it will help to bring down prices in South Australia as well, which is very important for businesses and consumers.

So, all of those packaged together is a well thought-out package. It is something about which you would think the opposition would say, 'We will support this. We will jump on board and support this in the bipartisan interests of South Australia.' But no. They have no policy whatsoever, except for banning gas, except for saying to Canberra, 'You can look after all our targets for renewables, we will have no say here in South Australia over our energy policy.' They will just say, 'Leave it up to Canberra, whatever is in Canberra's best interests.'

We have a different view. We say South Australia first. We say protect our state, protect our energy first, and that is what this bill is doing. This is a bill to bring in the powers we need to put our state first, to put households and businesses in this state first, and it is something that should be supported by this parliament on completely bipartisan terms. Unfortunately, that is probably not going to happen. This is going to be a significant test for those opposite. We will see if they really are supporting South Australia or if they just want to do Josh Frydenberg's bidding and support whatever it is they want to do in Canberra, because we know that the Prime Minister is now the South Australian opposition leader.

This is something all South Australians should support. We should support our government having the ability to control our energy future and be able to stop market manipulations happening that stop electricity being provided to businesses and households of South Australia. I hope that every member of this house will support this bill today.

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