September 19, 2017  |  Second reading

Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017

MR HOWARD (Buninyong) — I certainly wish to speak on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017 that is before the house at the moment, and I do so with no joy because it is somewhat sad that we are back to where we were some years ago in moving for the Victorian government to show leadership in the area of power generation by renewable energy. We know that back in the Bracks and Brumby days we were frustrated that under the John Howard federal government, despite years and years of advice from scientists from around the world that we need to show leadership in addressing climate change, that certainly was not happening. His government, like the later Abbott government and like those on the other side of the house, still do not get that unless we address climate change and show leadership on climate change there will be huge costs to the people of this state and to people across the country and around the world in years to come, as we know and as we keep hearing of the outcomes of gradually creeping global warning.

We know that there are extreme climate events that continually happen at a more regular rate and more extreme rate. Out of every one of them — whether it is the hurricanes that we are hearing about in North America at the moment, whether it is those dry summers that cause bushfires and so many other issues of climate extremes — there will be huge costs to the people of the world and the people of Victoria if we do not address climate change. We want to address that and at the same time ensure that we have a secure power supply in the years to come that is not going to add to climate change and is not going to add to carbon emissions. It is in fact going to use renewable clean energy to provide certainty to investors across this state to provide an ongoing source of power into the future.

It is so sad that our government at a national level still does not get it. A number of years ago I had the opportunity to go to Europe and have a look at what they are doing there. I went to Spain, I went to Germany and I went to Denmark — countries where they do get it. We know that the European Economic Community (EEC) have put requirements upon all EEC members, but a number of them have gone way ahead of renewable energy targets. Denmark some years ago got past 50 per cent of its energy supply coming from renewables, and in Spain likewise. They have been investing strongly in wind, solar and a range of bioenergy and other sources of renewable energy so that they are more and more moving towards 100 per cent of their energy supply coming from renewables.

Where are we back in Australia? We are coming back, in 2017, to where state governments have to show leadership because the federal government simply will not. Back in the Bracks-Brumby days, to show leadership we introduced the Victorian renewable energy target (VRET). Fortunately then John Howard was voted out, the Rudd government came to power and we were able to hand over responsibility for the renewable energy target to the federal government. We moved from the VRET to the mandatory renewable energy target, so we had a renewable energy target across the country. That was a significant advance and what should have been happening all the time. Sadly we know that we now have a federal government that simply wants to deny the need to support investment in renewable energy and that wants to deny climate change issues. So here we are back again where our government needs to show leadership and show that we are going to establish our own renewable energy target. We are going to try to push from 17 per cent renewable energy at the moment up to 25 per cent by 2020 and up to 40 per cent in 2025.

It is so sad that after the Bracks-Brumby days not only did we still not have the federal Liberal government showing leadership but then under the Baillieu government what did they do with the progress that was being made? How many new wind power stations came on in the Baillieu-Napthine days? The answer is none. They killed them off immediately because they listened to those people who said, ‘Oh, we don’t want a wind turbine somewhere near us’. They allowed everybody who might live within 2 kilometres of a wind turbine to say, ‘Oh, we don’t want one’. Therefore we had no renewable energy in Victoria — no plan at all from the coalition in their four sad years of government.

So we are back here now, saying, ‘Well, we’ve got to show leadership again. We need to give some proper signals to our wind energy’. As somebody who has a farm in Waubra, I did see the progress of the wind industry in my neighbourhood there, where we had 220 wind turbines established, many of which I can see from my farmhouse there. I know that the wind industry has provided significant jobs not only in my area. I see the member for Ripon in the house. She knows how many jobs have been created in the Ripon area as a result of investment in the wind energy industry, and she knows none of it happened when her side of politics, the Liberals and The Nationals, were in government. It all came as a result of Labor’s support for the alternative energy industry, which we are starting up again now, and it is pleasing for me to see that.

I was in Ballan last week and I went and talked with Goldwind, who are now about to establish the Moorabool wind farm, something that was proposed and permitted under the former Labor government but could not progress while the others were in power because there was no incentive to invest. Now we at last are going from permit to establishing a new wind farm soon in Moorabool and also the Lal Lal wind farm in Elaine and Yendon. Not only will they see our grid getting more energy and supplying power for people across the state but they will also supply significant jobs in regional Victoria. We saw Keppel Prince in Portland have to close down while the other side were in government, because there were no new wind farms being built. They were providing the towers for the Waubra wind farm and other wind farms. Now they are back producing towers again for those companies that are finally being able to invest in wind again.

As a result of this bill and actions that this government has already taken, we see significant new investment in renewables. We have got to keep that happening to get more energy supply. The other side simply want to go back to the dark ages, deny climate change and criticise us. The company that ran the Hazelwood power station said, ‘We can’t invest in this energy. We don’t want to invest in dirty coal-fired power stations that have run through their lifetime’. They said, ‘We want to get out of this because we want to be seen to be providing clean energy’, and that is what they did. We know it is not appropriate and not economic to support dirty coal-fired power stations that have lived their lives and need serious investment just to keep them pumping out more greenhouse gases into the air.

We need to see sensible support, and that is why it is so sad to hear the other side crowing, saying they would do away with this, do away with these investment signals to companies producing solar and producing wind — producing renewable energy and investing in regional Victoria. To hear the Leader of the National Party proudly say, ‘We’d do away with this’, just shows they do not have a clue about investment in jobs, they do not have a clue about investing in new energy and they do not have a clue about dealing with renewables and a pathway to a cleaner future, reducing global warming. That is why I am certainly pleased that this Labor government is in office. I would love to see one in office federally that would show leadership in the area of providing positive signals to renewable energy investors and dealing with climate change.