On Tuesday August 8 I was pleased to moderate an event held at Parliament House that was hosted and organised by the Conservatives for Conservation.
The event involved the Finkel Review and focused on renewables in the economy. Conservatives for Conservation [C4C] is a not‑for‑profit organisation that promotes discussion, and devises and showcases ideas surrounding one of the greatest and important challenges faced globally today, that of the environment. I was very pleased to see the creation of the C4C organisation in recent months. I congratulate Conservatives for Conservation, its chair Kristina Photios and deputy chair Patrice Pandeleos on their hard work in organising this successful event. I acknowledge in attendance last night Conservatives for Conservation ambassadors the former Federal Minister Phillip Ruddock and former Environment Minister and member of this Chamber Robyn Parker.
Conservation has historically been a conservative calling. The conservation of our environment, natural resources, water, land, soil, animals and flora was historically the domain of right of centre politicians and governments. The national parks movements were born of conservative governments. The event last night was held in the theatrette. It had a fantastic panel representing a range of views regarding the future of Australia's energy policy. The panel included Martin Hablutzel, the head of strategy for Siemens which is one of the world's largest providers of energy-efficient and resource-efficient technologies; Tim Nelson, the Chief Economist at Australian Gas Light [AGL] Energy; Amanda McKenzie, the Chief Executive Officer of the Climate Council, which is a well‑known not-for-profit organisation in that space; and Simon Currie, the Global Head of Energy at Norton Rose Fulbright.
It was a very diverse panel that generated a really stimulating debate about the Finkel report. I also acknowledge the audience of about 90 people that engaged in a question and answer session with the panel and which greatly contributed to the quality of the discussion last night. The release of the Finkel Review in June this year prompted fierce debate regarding which direction Australia should go in terms of its energy policy for the future. In his open letter to the Prime Minister and the Premiers, Professor Alan Finkel asks:
Imagine a world without electricity. Nearly two centuries of enterprise, heath and entertainment would be wiped out.
One of the key pillars of Australia's economic prosperity over the past century or so has been our access to abundant and cheap electricity. This has been achieved largely on the back of cheap coal mined and supplied to Government coal-powered generators in the past. However, Australia's electricity sector is in transition today. It is at a critical turning point. Uncertainty around emissions reduction policies continues to drive up prices. Finkel aims to remove this uncertainty with an orderly transition to improve reliability.
The Finkel review focuses on four key outcomes for the national electricity market: increased security, future reliability, rewarding consumers and lower emissions. The report also makes recommendations regarding a clean energy target, a notice of closures for generators and a register of expected generator closures to assist with long-term investor planning for our energy future. Stabilising energy supply and prices has become an urgent political imperative attracting the attention of the Prime Minister, Premiers, energy Ministers and of course Oppositions across the nation.
Although the Federal Government has committed to 49 of the 50 recommendations of the Finkel Review, it remains divided over the clean emissions target [CET]. The CET has been described as a "magic pudding', "a tax on coal" and "green theology" by certain conservatives. What we need is certainty around current and future emissions reductions policies. Today, despite much debate surrounding the need for a new coal-fired power plant to take pressure off electricity prices, the senior energy executives have signalled to the Prime Minister that:
…they are not interested in pro-longing the life of coal plants.
And they are:
…interested in running businesses that were intent on reducing their climate risk.
Those quotes are from an article in today's Guardian. The Government remains committed to a reliable and secure energy policy. Minister Don Harwin stated that it is time to end what can be referred to as a culture war, and let economics and engineering guide the future of energy. We just want clean, reliable and affordable energy. Once again, I congratulate Conservatives for Conservation on hosting their event on the Finkel Review last night and thank the fantastic panellists for their participation.
To watch my speech in Parliament click here.