Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (12:57): I rise today to speak on this bill that has been rushed before Parliament.
I note with great interest the newspaper report today that really exposes the situation we have in South Australia and the turmoil and fiasco that have been created by the Premier. We see that the big bold plan that the Premier has put forward, worth more than $550 million, is in fact just a smokescreen for the inept operations of this government over the last 15 years.
In fact, we see that the truth has been revealed, that if the Premier had accepted a $24 million deal to keep the Northern power station open South Australia would be in a far better situation. The deal the Premier has put before the South Australian public is one of the biggest fiasco's since the State Bank collapse in South Australia. We all remember what that did to our state and that is exactly what the Premier is putting before us right now.
The Premier had the opportunity to pay just $24 million to keep the Northern power station open so that we could make this transition. The Premier, and the Treasurer for that matter, has no idea how to make this transition. Yes, the world is moving towards renewable energy and we all know that, but how we manage this transition will be the measure of this government, and they have failed and failed outright.
We know that this transition has to happen, and everyone is aware of that, but what happened when the Treasurer and the Premier drove the Alinta Northern power station into closure? The people at Alinta came to the Treasurer and the Premier and said, 'Look, we can help with this situation. If we close, there will be a massive rise in the cost of power in South Australia, which will be damaging to businesses, families and the prospect of jobs into the future. So, how about we work together on this project and we gradually exit the market so you can bring in new sources of power?'
Alinta said, 'We know that the renewable path through the solar and wind farms the government has gone down has created great intermittency in the marketplace and that there is no certainty of when power will be provided to South Australians if the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. We know of the problems with those renewable sectors as it stands.' In short, Alinta said, 'Let's do this deal together,' and the Premier and the Treasurer said, 'No, you can stick it up your jumper.’
A $24 million solution was offered by Alinta, and instead the Premier and Treasurer chose to spend $550 million of South Australian taxpayers' money. They are the cold hard facts: $24 million to keep prices down, supply on and no blackouts in South Australia, but the Premier and Treasurer chose the opposite. They chose statewide blackouts, higher electricity prices and a $550 million tax bill for South Australians. Enough is enough.
I am speaking to businesses all the time, and just recently I did a 50-business and 50-day tour, and with everyone I spoke to electricity prices were a key to keeping businesses going in South Australia. A number of businesses spoke to me; in fact, a bakery recently spoke to me about their electricity bill going up from around $5,500 to, I think, $7,000. That is a massive jump, and they are saying they are worried about how they are going to keep all their staff.
I am not sure what the Premier and Treasurer say to the staff of that business, who will have their hours reduced and even potentially be laid off because of the exorbitant electricity prices that have been inflicted by this state Labor government. It really is a concern.
We know the track record of those on the other side of the chamber on electricity commitments and promises. Back in 2002, before my time in this place, the Labor government promised to build an interconnector to New South Wales. That was their push and they failed to deliver on that, the interconnector that would have supplied more reliable and efficient energy to South Australia.
That was a commitment they made in 2002. How did we go? Did we get there? No, they failed to deliver, and it just gets glossed over and not spoken about now by this Labor government. That is a failure. Now they have this big $550 million commitment. Given their history and their track record, they have failed to deliver for South Australians.
What they also do not want to talk about on the other side of the chamber is the blackout day, the day that the blackout Treasurer and the blackout Premier really came into prominence, 28 September 2016. In fact, during this debate I heard it being called 'an unfortunate situation' by the other side of the chamber. There was a storm, no denying that, and powerlines did go down, but we blacked out the entire state. That is what the Premier and the Treasurer of this state did, that is what we had to suffer because the Premier and the Treasurer blacked out South Australia.
In the last day or so we have seen tornadoes in Queensland. That state did not black out. This was not 'an unfortunate situation' in South Australia: this was mismanagement of the highest order by this Labor government. When you go interstate now and speak to people and say you are from South Australia or from Adelaide, they scoff and laugh and ask, 'Are you keeping the lights on?' That is the situation we have got thanks to this government on the opposite side.
They want to blow some smoke and mirrors around the place and say they have a piece of paper that says they can resolve this problem. Well, their track record is appalling and they cannot. They must take responsibility. They will sit there and blame everyone else, as well. It is really quite amazing to see that they blame so many other people, but this government must take responsibility for the position that South Australia is in. They have been in charge for 15 years now and South Australia has been going backward at every turn. This is just a classic example.
Again, I hark back to the fact that the government's answer is a $550 million spend. There was an option: there was a $24 million option to keep the Northern Power Station open and keep reliable power coming into South Australia so that businesses could maintain their operations so that there would be reliability and that prices would not go through the roof, as we have seen.
The government is out now with its propaganda and its smooth talking by the truckload. You will see the Premier out there talking nice and slowly and nice and calmly as if he knows what is going on, but look at his latest TV commercial where he is trying to convince the public of South Australia about what is going on, that things are okay. You look deep into it and you know that they are not.
The Premier talks in his TV commercial, and he spends hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on his campaign. That is right: South Australian taxpayers' dollars are being spent for the Premier to be spruiking his claims. When you look at the TV commercial and you see him shaking his head, he shakes his head from side to side. He does not actually believe what he is saying. He is saying subliminally, 'No, this is not right. No, I have no idea. No, I have lost control.' That is what is really going on, and you can see it. Look closely at the television commercial and you will know that is what is going on.
The big problem here, and I have mentioned this but I will make the point again, is that the transition from coal to renewables has not been done responsibly, efficiently or effectively. For some reason the Premier is hell bent on fast-tracking us to a 50 per cent renewable energy target. Our plan and our policy is to say no to that.
The federal target is 23 per cent. Why not go with the federal target? Stick to the federal target. Why do we need to be miles ahead of other states? We are up around 40 per cent now and that is what is costing us. We are paying more for our electricity, it is more unreliable and it is costing families and businesses, which in turn is costing jobs in South Australia.
This blind push towards renewables has left our state vulnerable. We look at the plan again, the pie in the sky plan. As I said, there was a plan in 2002 to build an interconnector to New South Wales. The Premier failed to deliver. Then a desalination plant and, of course, we know how that ended up. This plan now, when you see the Premier walking around with a brochure, stinks of what we saw with the desalination plant. The desalination plant doubled in size to what it needed to be because of ideologies that were just mismatched and did not deliver for South Australia.
South Australian taxpayers have paid the bill there. South Australian taxpayers are going to pay the bill here because this state Labor government has really let South Australians down. Let's break this bill down. Let's work out what it is going to cost every household. What you need do is go to every household in South Australia—everyone from uni students, pensioners, families and retirees—thanks to Jay's mismanagement. Thanks to the South Australian government's mismanagement of our electricity system, you will need to go to every household, as I said—uni students, pensioners, families and retirees.
Everyone will pay $775. Just go and get it out of the bank right now—$775—and hand it to the Premier and the Treasurer because that is what they are coming to get from you. That is what they are going to get from you to pay this back. They are going to take dollars out of your communities, dollars out of your schools, sporting clubs and hospitals. That is where the $550 million is coming from. It is coming out of your pockets, every South Australian's pocket, to pay for this mismanaged plan.
Right across the board, we know in South Australia that things are not going well. We have the highest unemployment rate in the nation, and I talked about businesses before that I have been speaking to I am speaking to them and they say the cost of electricity here is hurting them. The bakery—
The Hon. T.R. Kenyon interjecting:
Mr WINGARD: And the member for Newland is scoffing over there, but I can tell him that the cost of their electricity at the bakery—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Mr WINGARD: —has gone up $1,500 and they are feeling the pinch.
The Hon. T.R. Kenyon interjecting:
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Newland is not in his place and he is on two warnings.
Mr WINGARD: They are saying quite outwardly that they will be laying people off because of the cost of electricity in South Australia. They will be cutting back the hours of people working in South Australia.
Go to the ABS stats, and I can show them to the member for Newland and all those on the other side. For 27 months, on trend, we have had the highest unemployment rate in the nation.
When we want to talk about how well things are going, the other side want to keep comparing it with how we went last week or how we went last month. If you put it into a football analogy, and I like to do this to make it nice and simple by using a football table analogy. If you ended up at the bottom of the table and the next year you came 15th and you were 16th the year before, you would think, 'We have improved. We have gone up one. That's fantastic!'
The Hon. S.C. Mullighan interjecting:
Mr WINGARD: You would sound like the Minister for Transport who is making his comments here. He thinks that is great, to improve from 16th to 15th. He thinks that is fantastic. That is the mentality those on the other side have about how South Australia should go. They do not want to take South Australia from the bottom of the table and maybe move us into the finals or even push towards the top of the table.
No, they do not want to do that. Let's just keep South Australia down, that is their intention. I must say that for 15 years it has been incredibly successful. The transport minister swanned in here and joined his colleagues on the front bench, having worked in government for a long time and helped the demise of South Australia.
Now he is on the front bench and he is doing his part to keep driving South Australia further down. He is going to come along with the rest of his colleagues and take that $775 from every household to make up for the appalling job that they have done over 15 years. I think enough is enough.
I think South Australians have had enough and they are starting to see the light. They are not listening to the slow talking, smooth operating ways of the Premier and his other offsiders. I think they have had enough. I stand here and I do not come from that background of having been around politics all my life. I come from a different field, and proudly so. I do not come with the polish of some on the other side, some who have been groomed for these jobs, and I do not apologise for that either.
We need more passion in this place. We need people who are here to get the job done, to improve South Australia, not to look after themselves, not to be career politicians and come here and work their way through union ranks, work for ministers, work through the whole operation and then get a safe seat, perhaps given to them by a union.
I do not think that is the way this place should operate, so I might not be as smooth as the Premier and I might not be as smooth as some of those on the other side, but I come with a great deal of passion to turn this state around. That is what we need in South Australia—no more smooth talking, we just need to get results and get South Australia off the bottom of the ladder.
I talked about unemployment and we know how South Australia is going there, and in terms of interstate migration we know that last financial year alone, 6,500 people moved out of South Australia. This is a great concern. We have brain drain, as it is called, and people are leaving South Australia right across the board. Younger people, middle-aged people and older people are leaving South Australia because they cannot find jobs. That is a fact. You can get out and speak to people on the streets and you hear it all the time.
When I get out in my community, it is often put to me that people are struggling to find work, that people are concerned for young adults moving into the workforce, that all the opportunities are on the eastern seaboard and there are no opportunities here. The cost of doing business and the high electricity prices that we talk about do have a real impact on what is going on out there in the community. That is something we need to be aware of.
People are leaving our state and we need to do more to keep them here and to grow industry and grow business in South Australia.
I talked about the blackout on 28 September 2016, and that was a really significant moment for South Australia. You have seen the memes and so forth on social media where there is a map of Australia and South Australia is all in black. It hurts me to see that. People have taken the state logo and taken the doors off and made the South Australian part of that logo black, and that hinges around that 28 September incident.
It intrigues me that the Premier really refuses to speak about that day and refuses to acknowledge what happened within the system. Mind you, the Treasurer keeps talking about the National Electricity Market being broken and the NEM not working, yet he is a part of the National Electricity Market. He has a say at COAG and a say in the way these things are run, and he himself says that he is the lead legislator on that operation.
He has spruiked before how well it is working and then all of a sudden things go wrong. Does he accept responsibility for his part in this or does he say, 'No, we'll blame everyone else and it is actually everyone else's fault'? In fact, this is how confused the Treasurer is. He says it is broken, yet he is quoted as saying that the National Electricity Market has done a great job and has created a great system. It is amazing how he will flip-flop to suit himself. One minute he says it is great and the next minute it does not work and he says it is not going well enough.
I reiterate the point that I made at the start of my speech. It has been divulged in the paper today that the offer that was on the table was $24 million to keep Alinta, the Northern power station, up and running. The operators of that power station, the Alinta company, said, 'You're going to have problems if you lose this base load supply. You're going to be too reliant on renewable energies. We know it's intermittent. The wind doesn't always blow, and the sun doesn't always shine. We can keep operating for that $24-odd million figure. That's what we can do and it will give that base load power supply you need and allow that smoother transition because wind and solar energy isn't working on its own. It doesn't give you the base load you need when the wind doesn't blow or the sun does not shine.'
The Treasurer just turned his nose up at them and so did the Premier. Instead they have gone for a $550-odd million solution. Anyone can stack up $24 million against $550 million and see how it is going to work.
Mr Hughes: Talk about apples and oranges!
Mr WINGARD: No, it is just dollars. The member for Giles wants to call it apples and oranges and, realistically, it is just dollars—$24 million compared with $550 million. I hope he does not become Treasurer of South Australia because if he cannot add up we will have a major problem.
We can talk quickly about the other part of the solution, which is the diesel generation. We need to make people aware of this because, although the plant the government is talking about was going to get built and is now not going to get built, they do have the backup of diesel generators. They are going to put these all around the city and all around the country as well, I presume, so you could well have a diesel generator coming to a street corner near you. That is what we are looking at, and we are interested to see how that is going to play out.
We asked more about costings as well. We had the battery at around $150 million. How is that going to work? What is going to happen? How is it going to be disposed of after five or so years of life? How much life will it have? The Treasurer, again, when asked questions on that today really did not have any answers.
I talk about the solution and, quite simply, one of the first steps has to be to abandon the renewable energy target (RET) that this state Labor government has at 50 per cent. They have set it at 50 per cent, which really is far above where the federal government has set the target, which is at 23 per cent. We cannot see why you need to be above the federal target, so we are saying let's go to the federal target. That is the first step, and that will give some surety to these base load suppliers that they can stay in the market here in South Australia.
That is a first step that should and could happen in a heartbeat. With the stroke of a pen, we could move that forward but, again, the Labor government is so hell-bent, to the destruction of businesses, companies and families in South Australia, on pushing the renewable direction harder and faster than they need to without any control. It is like going downhill on a bike and the handlebars start to get wobbly. The Premier is at the wheel and the Treasurer is sitting on the front handlebars. The handlebars are as wobbly as anything, and they are about to crash our state once more.
I think South Australians have had enough. South Australians are seeing what is going on. They are over the smooth talking. They want to see some reality come into this conversation. They want to see people who are out there genuinely fighting for South Australia, wanting to get the best results for South Australia, not a government that keeps spending millions and millions of taxpayers' dollars on spin, promotions, pamphlets and TV commercials. They are spending taxpayers' dollars on trying to spin the wheel. As we have said in this place before, if we could harness some of the spin that goes on on the other side of the chamber and draw energy from it, we could probably power the state for many more years to come.