– Says State Energy Minister

INSTEAD of taking a question about a 400 per cent rise in energy costs for a South Gippsland dairy farmer seriously, in State Parliament last Wednesday, the Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio, turned it into an ideological debate about power generation.
It’s exactly the sort of BS that everyone is sick of hearing from our politicians.
The Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh called it for what is was.
“The State Government’s trivial response to questions in Parliament today on rising energy costs in regional Victoria is an utter insult to country business owners,” Mr Walsh said.
“Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio would rather blame others than make sure families and businesses can afford to pay their energy bills.
“Agricultural businesses are the lifeblood of our country communities, but when extra money has to be spent keeping the lights on it means there’s less to spend on wages, in local small businesses and on supporting our country sporting clubs.
“Closing Hazelwood with no plan to replace the loss of 22 per cent of our state’s baseload power supply and attempting to shift the blame to the Federal Government does nothing to support our rural and regional businesses,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Premier for Melbourne must stop putting his own job and the jobs of his inner-city MPs who rely on Greens preferences before those in country Victoria.”
By way of background, Mr Walsh provided the following details:
“The Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien took the story of the Peddles, a Gippsland dairy farming family, to State Parliament today.
“The Peddles face a 400 per cent increase in energy costs, with a 150 per cent jump in the price of electricity. They already spend about $150,000 a year on energy.
“Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio could not answer Mr O’Brien’s question on how the Peddle family, who employ eleven people in their dairy operation, could afford to pay for this year’s electricity increase.”

A question of power
Mr O’Brien’s question was as follows:
“My question is to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. The Peddle family are dairy farmers who employ 11 staff on their farm near Yarram. At the recent conclusion of their electricity contract, the Peddles found the only new contract they could get would include an increase in the energy component of their bill of about 400 per cent, with an overall increase in their electricity bill of around 150 per cent. Given their power bill is already around $150,000 per annum and the well-documented struggles in the dairy industry of late, how are the Peddles meant to keep employing Gippsland workers with these crippling power cost increases under your government?”
Ms D’AMBROSIO: I thank the member for the question. It is always an interesting proposition when we have those opposite suddenly decide that they are actually interested in people’s power bills and power costs. The fact of this is very clear…
The Minister’s response was interrupted, but she continued:
“Whether they be businesses, whether they be farmers, whether they be households and families. That is for sure. One of the surest ways to bring down energy prices for all consumers is to increase supply. That is why we have got a strong…
“That is why we have got a very strong plan to increase energy supply in this state. We have at the moment a debate happening in the Parliament about increasing renewable energy, because that is the cheapest form of new energy that can possibly come into the market. We have a plan to not only increase the supply of energy but actually make it the most affordable energy possible right now. If those opposite were serious about energy prices for farmers, businesses and families, they would actually get on board and support this government’s agenda to grow the energy supply in this state. That is the surest way to get these prices down. We also have a whole range of programs and assistance for a lot of businesses right across the state, including farmers. I would welcome any referrals to me or the government in general for any assistance, because we have a wealth of programs that are available to actually get prices down for consumers right now, today. Instead of those opposite claiming fake concern about people’s energies costs and the energy prices that are out there, they ought to get on board with this government’s plan. They have no plan for reducing energy costs. We have got the plan. They have got to get on board instead of voting against the very mechanism, the very tool, that will actually get more supply into the system and get those prices down today, tomorrow and into the future. That is our plan, and we will not be distracted by the paralysis on that side and their delivering messages on behalf of Malcolm Turnbull and a federal government that does not know how to get its way out of a massive problem nationally.”
Mr O’Brien followed up with a supplementary question: “The largest component of the Peddle family’s electricity usage comes from pumping for irrigation purposes, which they do at night to save water and take advantage of off-peak rates. Can the minister explain how increasing the proportion of unreliable wind and solar power in the grid, as opposed to always-on baseload power, will deliver reliable supply and bring down the cost of electricity for the Peddles and for farmers like them?
Ms D’AMBROSIO: I absolutely reject the reasoning and the assertions behind that question, because what it shows is a lack of knowledge and understanding about how the energy system works in this country today. The fact is this: Alan Finkel, the chief scientist and adviser to the federal government, has been very clear about this, and the independent Australian Energy Market Operator has been very clear about this. You need to also go and ask some of these practitioners, some of these farmers — Nectar Farms and Bulgana wind power. They understand what new technologies allow them to do in terms of not just having secure energy supply but the most affordable energy supply that can be made right here today. Those people opposite are clueless; they have got no plan. We are getting on with it.