Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Grievance debate

Opposition performance

Opposition performance

Tim RICHARDSON (Mordialloc) (17:15): Thank you, Deputy Speaker, and it is good to see you in the chair. Here we go, we will lift it up a bit. The member for Brunswick had some important points, but goodness me, it was just a bit of a dulcet tone. I have got to bring a bit of life back in, and here we go. I grieve for the Victorian people if the Victorian coalition ever got their hands on energy policy in this state again. I was there doing a few meetings online back in the office, and I saw they were a bit revved up about the member for Tarneit calling out some of the privatisation elements in the past. Someone is giving me a prank call there; you can wait. It was very noisy from those opposite. It was very noisy from the coalition because it is a sensitive area, a very sensitive area. I mean, privatisation is a bit in their DNA. It was a crappy policy that they took to the last election – the puns are going on there, ‘crappy’ being sewerage related. It is a factual thing, member for Lowan.

Emma Kealy: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, the use of unparliamentary language is not appropriate for this chamber, and I ask you to ask the member to withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I was listening to the member. I did not hear any unparliamentary language, so there is no point of order.

Tim RICHARDSON: Poo, sewerage.

Emma Kealy: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, given that you were not aware of that, I clearly heard unparliamentary language. I ask you to review the tapes and counsel the member should that be found to be inappropriate for this chamber.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have answered the point of order. There is no point of order.

Tim RICHARDSON: There we go. The shadow cabinet brought forward a sewerage privatisation policy, which is scraping the barrel of all kinds of things. That was the level of policy depth that was put forward, but at least it is an evolution from where we were.

There was a former Frankston Liberal candidate who forgot whether privatisation – free markets, as the member for Kew eloquently described, leaving all matters to free markets in the state of Victoria. ‘What is the point of government intervention or involvement? Where market failure happens, just step back.’ But the Liberal candidate for Frankston at the time, as we know, talked about whether coal-fired power stations would be built. It was a 2018 policy by the then opposition leader. They were going to build new coal-fired power stations, new gas-fired power stations. And then, after an interesting exchange for what seemed like hours with David Speers on Sky News, they admitted that that policy could only stack up with an intervention of a government policy and substantial subsidisations of such an intervention. So the free marketeers on that side, then, support that intervention into the coal space. Now, that must stand at significant odds with some of the new trendsetters that have come into the Parliament.

James Newbury: Here we go.

Tim RICHARDSON: The member for Brighton recently – lots of tickets. He is up and about. I do not know why the member for Brighton is not on this. I do not know why, but he has always got something to grieve about or go on about. This would be the thing to get on – knock off one of the backbenchers who is having a crack on the fall spot and say, ‘I want to talk about renewable energy’ and ‘I want to cross the floor.’ I saw on the camera the tension between the Leader of the Nationals and the member for Brighton. My team, we were looking on the camera, and we were seeing that. If you see the footage – if the member for Lowan wants to look back at the footage, just rewind maybe an extra half an hour – you see the tension there, the policy tension there. You have got the renewable energy target that the member for Brighton wants to enshrine. I do not think that is a coalition policy. I am not sure if he does a bit of freelancing.

James Newbury: What do you think of it, mate?

Tim RICHARDSON: Well, we support a 95 per cent target into the future, and that is the ambitious policy, not – and I have got it in my notes here, I will run through it – some of this stuff. I mean, you were not in, member for Brighton, at the time, but there was the Climate Change Bill 2016 – Deputy Speaker, you might have seen or been following that at the time, and the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Bill 2017 – there was another iteration of that in 2019. They were all opposed. In 2020 there was the energy legislation amendment, there was the Energy Legislation Amendment (Energy Fairness) Bill 2021 – no, it could not even get a pulse from those opposite.

But then what was it? What was it? It was not the science of the issue. It never was for the then federal Liberals at the time, where we saw the carbon tax campaign so viciously play out at the expense of renewable energy and climate change policy for a decade. I think, for those opposite who might acknowledge some of those very troubling situations and where we get to at the moment in the policy space – are the Victorian Liberals and Nationals different to the others? We could go on for a full grievance on that on its own.

Right. But we have got a situation now where the current coalition, and particularly the Liberals, have not come to the point of renewable energy reform because of the science, because of the merit of the issue, because it is the right thing to do for Victorians, no. Why was it? Because a bunch of teals went swaying through their federal seats. That was the only time that we saw a pulse out of the coalition, because up until 2021 even, and March 2022, they were still refusing to support the net zero emissions targets – and to promise to build a new coal-fired power station – so it was not until their political expediency was put forward.

It has never been about acting in Victoria’s interest. It has always been, ‘Can I survive another term with the diminishing base that we have’ because they have moved away from sensible centre-of-the-road policies in Victoria. You cannot fatten the pig up before market. You cannot come to the edge and then take a selfie down at Brighton Beach with a bit of water in the background and say, ‘Oh, I care about climate change now.’ You need to take the whole community with you. The member for Brighton and others and the member for Nepean – the inland sea inundation impact of climate change in the future across the bayside area and peninsula regions and then in the Bellarine and through the west is substantial. Those inland sea inundation issues are something that you should be calling out on behalf of your communities. But you have got to win that argument in your party room. I know you are a minority grouping in that group and you have got a few ways to go, but you cannot come to Victorians at the last minute, having opposed these really transformational policies, and suddenly say you are in support.

So this is the challenge to the coalition: will you support the SEC, which was resoundingly endorsed by Victorians at the last state election? That is question number one. Will you agree to enshrine it in the constitution and make sure that fairer outcomes for Victorians, investment in renewable energy and the jobs engine room of the nation are right here in Victoria? Half of the nation’s jobs are created here in Victoria. We are the engine room of the nation’s economy. Everyone wants a piece of Victoria. Will you get on board with the tens of thousands of jobs that will be created in the renewable energy sector? That is the key challenge – to have bipartisan support for this policy and both private sector and government investment that will be made into the future to shore up the future of renewable energy and the SEC.

There is a chance to walk it back. It is early on in the term. We are three years and eight months out. They have had a poll out; it is a bit jittery on that side. The member for Tarneit got under a few skins. The member for Malvern comes in; he is an outside chance still. He has still got some institutional muscle. He had some good results there. He might have always been in support of renewable energy – who knows? We would not know in those shadow policy discussions. The member for Tarneit got under the skin of a few, calling out some of the policy tension points on that. But let us lift the standards and have bipartisan support for investment in renewable energy. Support the SEC that was resoundingly endorsed and voted for by Victorians, because they get it. They get that privatisation has not worked. Ask anyone whether the privatisation of energy assets that was so championed by Mr 11 per cent over here –

Michael O’Brien interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: He is having a crack. The member for Malvern has got a pulse. Mr 11 per cent popularity has come off a short run-up. Come forward and say that a privatisation energy policy was in the best interests of Victorians. I mean, go and stand on a street stall anywhere in Victoria and say, ‘I reckon that’s a good deal. I reckon you’re getting a good deal with those private energy providers.’ That is the amazing thing that is put forward.

A member interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: I have got a big tribe, mate. There are more in my factional crew than on all of your side on that side, aren’t there? We have got about 56 on that and all of our sub-parts as well. So the member for Malvern might be one of three, but we have got a crew big on this side, and it bats deep. You have just seen that from some of the contributions from the class of 2022 coming in. We know that privatisation and its impact have not worked for Victorians.

The campaign launch was amazing. I think it was in the member for Cranbourne’s seat. Goodness me, I got the goosebumps going with the SEC, the Electrical Trades Union, the workers and then the jobs number of the renewable energy target. Think that 59,000 jobs could be created over that time – tens of thousands. We could be the engine room for renewable energy going forward for our nation. So let us lean in. Let us lift the standard of debate. Let us put it to one side. Let us get it done. The consultation is underway and the expert panel has been appointed with some of the most eminent people that will lead this discussion.

There is a chance to come to the sensible centre, not to chase some of the far-right policies on climate change that we have seen dog the national policy debate for a decade. We lost so much momentum. We could have been first movers in that space. We saw emissions tumbling at that stage, and then all of those emissions reduction targets were walked back. It does show, though, that you can have a moment – see the light, come towards the light – because of the contrast between the coalition’s policy under Baillieu and Napthine to then 2018, when it was to build coal-fired power stations that were subsidised by the taxpayer. The reason the private sector has not been building them? Why? It is because they are not viable into the future. It is why we need to invest heavily in renewables.

We need to increase storage and the baseload power impact into the future. That is what it is all about. We are on that transition together, and there will be opportunities in the future that we have not even envisaged in technological advancement. I remember meeting with solar industry experts that said it is like dog years – one year in solar and battery storage is like seven years. You make that advancement, the technological gains. It is an exciting policy space, and we need to lean in.

So that is the challenge with the coalition. Commitments like 59,000 jobs for the Victorian renewable energy target. Do they support that? Do they support the SEC in the constitution – enshrining that and the outcomes that we will see? Do they support the skills and investment and pipeline of jobs and skills into the future? Do they support that as a policy? Because Victorians want to know the relevance of the coalition going forward. Do they stand for those policies? Will they keep opposing it? Who knows. I mean, the member for Brighton, he might have –

Members interjecting.

Tim RICHARDSON: The Leader of the Opposition has come in. He took on some teals, didn’t he? He had a crack. It was 1.75 –

John Pesutto interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: So it was 1.75 and he is up and about. They are just looking towards the cameras when he has a crack at the Assistant Treasurer. There is a little look sideways, ‘Is everyone ready for my go? It is time to play.’ Well, Leader of the Opposition, it is your time now. Step up. Where do you base yourself on renewable energy policy? Are you with those constituents that you doorknocked and looked in the eye and said, ‘I’m a different type of Liberal. I am not one of those from Canberra.’

That whole little report that Greg Mirabella did, the little –

Members interjecting.

Tim RICHARDSON: Was that on three pages? I am not sure how long that report was, but you all read it.

James Newbury interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: ‘One,’ the member for Brighton says. That probably gives you a sense of some of the challenges there. That has thrown me a bit – that he was that honest. But legitimately lift the standards and say –

Members interjecting.

Tim RICHARDSON: Come on, you are knocking Chelsea, mate. I will probably not put it into the Hansard. Come down to Chelsea, because we support investment in renewable energy, we support the SEC into the future – and that is the challenge. So when you are fronting up and discussing what you stand for and how much of the policy that Matthew Guy, the member for Bulleen, has put forward, what do you accept from 2018 as you evolve into the future? Will you meet the Premier on this journey of renewable energy investment, lift the standard of debate, or will you be governed by the conservative elements in your party, conservative Liberals who have taken you to the right? Will you be a freethinking leader that lifts the standards of the debate? We have got the policy will here. It is up to you. We will do it anyway because it is what Victorians voted for us to do. That is the key.

John Pesutto interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: Of course I will support the Assistant Treasurer. What a legend he is. What a legend the Assistant Treasurer is. I tell you what: I do not know if you know, mate, but while you were out of this place he has done a power of work in housing, in Treasury. He is an absolutely wonderful member of Parliament and a great mentor for a –

Members interjecting.

Tim RICHARDSON: He is a great member of Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition can chip away. They get a bit funny when you talk about the conservative elements and renewable energy policy. They get a bit funny when you ask, reach metres across the table and put that forward. But he cannot –

John Pesutto interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: Definitely not. I will take up that interjection. The member for Hawthorn and Leader of the Opposition says I am good looking. If Lozzie is tuning in today, thank you very much for that compliment. I am saying that you are diverting from what is truly an important topic. There is a chance for you to knock off whoever is next on the speaking list. It might be the member for Kew. I do not know if any of you know.

A member interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: No? It might be your chance to jump up.

A member interjected.

Tim RICHARDSON: Sandringham. The doppelganger for me. Jump up, Brad. Jump up, member for Sandringham. Jump up there, and in your dulcet tones, the baritone, put forward what you stand for for the constituents of Sandringham. We have seen your mate up the road in Brighton go out on a bit of a policy folly. That is not coalition policy to support some of these, enshrining it into legislation. We might welcome some of these ambitious targets. If only his party supported that as well.

But the Leader of the Opposition has come in here and clearly has a moment to join us on that policy journey. Do you support 59,000 more jobs in renewable energy? Do you support a renewable energy target at 95 per cent, or do you support some of the troglodyte policies of building new coal-fired power stations subsidised by the taxpayer into the future? Lift up. When you eyeballed those constituents in Hawthorn and said you would be a new type of Liberal, that is the challenge going forward. Victorians voted for this policy. Do not let them down in this Parliament. The member for Hawthorn and Leader of the Opposition said he would lift the standards. Here is the chance to back in the Premier’s ambitious and bold policy that is leading the nation in renewable energy and has got Victorians excited and really is leading the nation in that policy discussion.

That is the opportunity that comes forward. We have got ambitious plans, and I congratulate the Premier and the Minister for the State Electricity Commission and Minister for Climate Action. It is an exciting agenda that we have got ahead, and there will be many more conversations that we have in that space. If only we had more partners. But if not, we will do it alone and we will go it alone, because Victorians voted resoundingly with an increased majority to get this done, and that is what we do. We will get this done.