Canberra's energy ineptitude no obstacle for WA

Monday 29 Jul 2019

The Federal Government has been copping it from all sides this year over inaction and uncertainty on energy policy.

This time last year it appeared that there might finally be some stability after years of false starts when then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was trying to push through the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

We all know how that ended: Mr Turnbull’s Prime Ministership ended and so did the NEG along with it.

Since then, we’ve had a new Energy Minister, a new Prime Minister, and a Federal Election. Surely after all of that, the Federal Government would be closer to having its act together and fixing this issue.

Not by a long shot.

In July we had Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor ducking questions in Parliament about emissions data while talking about keeping an open mind about nuclear power.

If you were hoping for leadership on this issue, you’ve come to the wrong place.

The lack of a policy on energy has been slammed by major Australian businesses like BHP and Woolworths. It was slammed by analysts like Ernst & Young. It was slammed by industry groups like the Ai Group and the Property Council.

And of course, as power prices have skyrocketed across the country, Australians have been left wondering what Canberra is going to do to fix the issue.

Now the nation’s top public servant, Dr Martin Parkinson, has delivered an extraordinary spray on his way out the door about the federal government’s failure to deliver desperately needed certainty on this area.

Dr Parkinson didn’t mince his words, insisting that power prices in Australia would be lower now if an emissions trading scheme had been put into place over a decade ago.

"At the moment what we've got is a lot of burden falling on energy prices,” he told 7.30.

"If we had an ETS it would have smeared that cost across all parts of the economy."

"And until we have a sensible set of policies that can be sustained in the long run, then we will have prices above what we need to have."

The outgoing Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has seen successive prime ministers and federal governments try and fail to navigate the labyrinth of privatised power systems on the east coast since 2007.

Both sides of politics have been unable to find a solution. It’s undone more than one prime minister.

It’s clear that for most of Australia, this issue will continue to put the pressure on households and businesses as power prices continue to climb. This is why WA has such a major advantage over the rest of the country.

We own our power system. We own our natural gas.

We can determine our own pathway to delivering efficient, low-cost and low-emission power for all Western Australians. 

We’ve already seen the State Government launch its own Energy Transformation Strategy this year to develop long-term policy certainty for WA households and businesses.

And Premier Mark McGowan has travelled to the eastern states to make the pitch to big business: relocate here and benefit from our low gas prices

By keeping our power system in public hands, we’ve kept the ability to determine our own future. We’re not stuck waiting on Canberra for leadership.

If that’s not a good reason to keep WA’s energy system in the hands of the WA public, we’ll walk east.