Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (12:52): What absolute and complete rubbish. Let me be very clear: the Minister for Energy clearly does not have the stomach to hear what I am about to say. I do not doubt for a second that he believes what he said, I am sure he practices it before the mirror several times a day. I am sure he believes that rubbish, but let me tell you it is complete rubbish.
What is so unfortunate about this debate is that the opposition is trying to do the very best it can for South Australia. The opposition wants to get information that the government wants to keep secret, and we want to make it available for South Australians and everybody who has an interest in this issue. All the government has wanted to do for the last nearly an hour and a half is waste the parliament’s time debating the merits of two different energy policies.
The government spent $2.6 million of taxpayers’ money advertising their energy policy, so there is no need for them to do that. They are trying to sneak away from the issue of secrecy and just hope that everybody gets mixed up in the argument about the pros and cons of energy policy. Well, I will not do that. The deputy leader has brought forward a very clear, straightforward motion that says, ‘Let’s make the information public, the information about how much of taxpayers’ money the government plans to spend to fix the mess they created in the energy department.’
The state government spends $27 million per year on its own energy policy department, and it got us into this mess. It is absolutely disgraceful that they would do that. The current Minister for Energy has been in charge of energy for over six years, he is responsible for the mess we are in, but all he does is laugh and bluster and carry on and apparently swear to his departmental staff in the background, according to an ICAC report. He has no respect from people who—
The SPEAKER: Is this relevant to the question of whether evidence is going to be released, or is it just an ad hominem attack?
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: It is relevant to the debate about this motion and the previous speaker’s comments, sir.
The SPEAKER: I hope you will view with equal equanimity an ad hominem attack on a member of the opposition from a government speaker.
Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Thank you, Speaker, for that advice. The reality is that this is not about the merits of the energy policy. We can do that anytime, anywhere. This is about the government being secret. This is about the government wanting to spend more than $400 million of taxpayers’ money to purchase generators that the government says they do not plan to use. The minister made the fatal error of telling the public that he does not expect to use these generators and, if they are used, they will be used very rarely. It was a fatal error by the Minister for Energy.
Now, to cover up for that mistake, he has to cover up the amount of money he is spending on these generators because he is terrified that South Australians will find out how much of their money he is spending on these generators. It is absolutely disgraceful. His excuse for doing it is, ‘Oh, if we divulge the information, that could disadvantage the company we bought them from in their negotiations with other states.’
He does not work for other states, he does not work for the company that is selling the generators: he works for South Australia. Why does he want to keep information secret from South Australians so that the company he bought the generators from can do a better deal with other customers? What on earth has that got to do with his ministerial responsibilities? Nothing. He is going to keep this information secret from South Australians and make sure that none of them knows how much of their money he is spending.
Let me just take it back to the beginning. Of course we need to transition away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy, but it must be done in a well-planned, well-managed way that does not place too great a price, a cost, a punishment upon South Australians along the way, the way the government’s policy has done. The government says that it is okay for the prices to go up, it is okay for the reliability to decline, because the government thinks it is in the best interests of South Australians in the long run to get away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy.
But here is the hypocrisy of the whole thing: the government says it is moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. The opposition says, ‘Yes, renewable energy, fantastic, but in a well-planned, well-managed way.’ The government says, ‘No, no, it’s okay, we are rushing towards it and that’s fine.’ Then they hit a brick wall and say, ‘The solution to the problem is more fossil fuels.’ The government’s own policy to move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy has to be rescued by another gas generator. It is absolutely ridiculous logic.
Having been caught out in that ridiculous process of moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy and back to fossil fuels, and having been caught out by making it very clear that the Minister for Energy puts the interests of the company he is buying the generators from—their commercial interest and the interest of other customers who might buy generators from that company—ahead of South Australians, he now needs to try to keep this information secret.
The deputy leader is 100 per cent correct: this information should be made public. This information should be available for everyone to see. Do you know why? Because the people of South Australia do not trust the Treasurer. I challenge every single member of this house. We are all thinking of polls, we are all reminded of polls, we are all getting polling results everywhere. I challenge the government to release polling information they have about the personal rating, particularly when it comes to trust, of the Minister for Energy. Let me be wrong. If that information exists that says that the people of South Australia trust him, please bring it forward.
That is why the deputy leader has moved this motion. That is why we want this information. Because when the Minister for Energy says that the entire budget for the government’s plan to fix the mess that it created is within the $550 million, which it announced back on 13 March, we do not believe them and the public do not believe them. We want the information to be made public. The Liberal Party has a positive solution to the energy crisis in South Australia, which has been independently assessed. The government refuses to provide any independent assessment. I seek leave to continue my remarks.