Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Questions without notice

State Electricity Commission

Jackson TAYLOR, Daniel ANDREWS

State Electricity Commission

Jackson TAYLOR (Bayswater) (14:11): My question is to the Premier. Premier, the Andrews Labor government was resoundingly re-elected on the promise to drive down bills and bring energy back into the hands of Victorians by bringing back the SEC. Constituents in my electorate have been eager to tell their stories about what the SEC meant to them. Premier, can you please update the house on how this government is not wasting a day to bring back the SEC and drive down Victorians’ bills?

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Frankston can leave the chamber for 1 hour.

Member for Frankston withdrew from chamber.

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! Premier! Members will be removed from the chamber without warning. I ask members to follow the lead of the Speaker. The member for Frankston has been removed from the chamber for 1 hour.

Daniel ANDREWS (Mulgrave – Premier) (14:12): I am asked whether I can update the house on the fact that we are not wasting a day in delivering the new and improved SEC, and I am delighted to be able to receive this question from the member for Bayswater. In his opening, he noted that the government had been resoundingly endorsed and re-elected, and that is exactly right. It is great to have the member for Bayswater here, a great champion on behalf of his local community and someone who knows and understands that with the community supporting a new SEC – government-owned, renewable energy that is for people, not profit – what the community has endorsed also is the fact that privatisation of our electricity was a spectacular failure. It did not deliver lower prices, it did not secure jobs, it did not –

John Pesutto interjected.

Daniel ANDREWS: Some are supportive of privatisation, and whilst they find their voice in very few circumstances, they get very loud whenever you criticise the privatisation of critical utilities.

Members interjecting.

Daniel ANDREWS: Let Hansard reflect that the new Leader of the Opposition is a strident supporter of privatised electricity, just in case there was any doubt.

Members interjecting.

Daniel ANDREWS: Keep going, keep going. It can further be reflected in Hansard that the Leader of the Opposition is quite up and about to be called out on this. So the community got it wrong, it would seem, and the member for Hawthorn, the Leader of the Opposition, knows better. He knows better. Let the record reflect that. Instead –

Members interjecting.

A member: Just yabbering to himself.

Daniel ANDREWS: Pretty much. What I would say to the member for Bayswater and all Victorians is the government has not wasted a moment. In only these few months since being re-elected for a third term in office, we have appointed a CEO. We are in the process of reorganising that entity that was on the shelf, as it were, having been shelved by we-know-who sitting opposite us now. Today the minister and I announced the appointment of a special advisory panel with experts in engineering and experts in energy policy, consumer advocacy, financial markets and private investment. All of those experts have agreed to be part of our concerted effort to re-establish the SEC. And what does that involve? What it involves is a fundamental recognition that if we wait for private industry to replace themselves, they will have no interest in doing so. The scarcer electricity is, the higher the price will be and the higher their profits will be. Apparently that is a concept that evades the logic of the Leader of the Opposition.

AGL have told us they are leaving. Well, goodbye to you. We are going to replace you with something better, and that is 100 per cent renewable electricity that is owned by Victorians. Profits that are generated as a community by our 51 per cent, our overall majority, interest in those assets will be reinvested in further renewable energy. Again, back to the central point –

John Pesutto: What are the profits on the other 49 per cent?

Daniel ANDREWS: From someone who supports 100 per cent of the profits going offshore. If you want a debate on this, bring it on. You are all over the shop. You are literally all over the shop. If you want to be Jeff Kennett’s lackey, then just be that. You sold it. You should not have. No-one has benefited other than shareholders.

James Newbury: On a point of order, Speaker, the Premier would know that question time is not an opportunity to debate extraneous matter to the question, which he clearly is doing. I would ask you to bring him back to the question.

The SPEAKER: Order! The Premier will come back to answering the question.

Daniel ANDREWS: The catastrophic failure of energy privatisation is not extraneous. It is very relevant to every household, every business and every worker who was promised their job was safe and then got sacked. It is absolutely relevant to the fact that ever since this privatisation we have seen the degrading of skills and of the supply of skilled labour. We are bringing back the SEC. Some people are very much opposed to that. Today’s announcements in relation to –

John Pesutto interjected.

Daniel ANDREWS: The Leader of the Opposition seems unaware that there is a difference between ownership –

John Pesutto interjected.

Daniel ANDREWS: Well, who owns the land titles office? Who owns registration and licensing of VicRoads? Victorians do. Who owns our electricity generation?

James Newbury: On a point of order, Speaker, I again bring you to the point about debate. Clearly the Premier is debating the Leader of the Opposition. I am sure that there are other forms of the house for him to do that. Question time is not an opportunity for him to have a private debate.

The SPEAKER: I ask the Premier to come back to the question.

Daniel ANDREWS: It is a very public debate because it is about public ownership. Keep the points of order coming. It is about public ownership and it is about a fundamental recognition that the privatisation, the transfer of ownership – that is what privatisation means. You would think the biggest fans of privatisation would know what it actually was. It is called a sell-off and a sellout of working people – pensioners, families, businesses who struggle under offshoring of profits. We are about offshore wind, not about offshore profits, and that is why we will deliver in full, despite the noise of those opposite, what Victorians have voted for: a better way, a recognition that electricity privatisation has failed, public ownership of renewable energy, 100 per cent renewable electricity, Loy Yang A. And in the event that Loy Yang B needs replacing, we will replace that too. Whilst others are absolutely wedded to privatisation and corporate profit making, the government will not deliver that agenda. We will instead deliver an agenda that Victorians have voted for, and that is the SEC – for jobs, for skills, for people, not for profit.