Tuesday, 16 May 2023


Energy policy

Cindy McLEISH, Alison MARCHANT, Martin CAMERON, Paul HAMER, Richard RIORDAN, Dylan WIGHT


Energy policy

Debate resumed on motion of Lily D’Ambrosio:

That this house notes the overwhelming support at the 2022 election for the Victorian Labor government’s plan to:

(1) bring back the State Electricity Commission;

(2) reach 95 per cent renewables by 2035 and net zero by 2045;

(3) install 100 neighbourhood batteries across Victoria; and

(4) create 59,000 renewable energy jobs.

Cindy McLEISH (Eildon) (18:09): I began my contribution last sitting week. The first thing I did was outline the hypocrisy of the government members and ministers and particularly the minister at the table, the Minister for Climate Action, in her contribution when she was saying how addicted to privatisation the Liberals are. I pointed out how the Labor government since I have been here have flogged off some $22 billion worth of state assets because they have run out of money, and you have to look at why they have run out of money. It is gross negligence, mismanagement, overspending and blowouts on every single project – from the Port of Melbourne to selling off land titles, other land packages and Snowy Hydro. At the same time, they have increased taxes. We are the highest taxed state in Victoria.

Roma Britnell: In the nation.

Cindy McLEISH: In the nation. We had a much bigger share out of the GST revenue – there was an extra $11 billion there – but still the Andrews Labor government felt it necessary to flog off asset after asset and then have the temerity to say that this is something that the Liberals and Nationals are addicted to, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I draw you back to the State Electricity Commission, because Labor members have been told something. I think they have been told also that if you say it often enough it is true, but that is not the way it works, because the facts are the facts. In 1991 Joan Kirner as the Premier began to sell off the SEC. Why did she do this privatisation process? Why did she go down this track? Because at the time the SEC was $8 billion in debt. In today’s figures that would be $14 billion to $15 billion. Imagine that: a government-owned entity or agency being that far in debt – $15 billion. The government cannot bail them out; it is just not feasible to be able to do that. So what they did, the only option they had available to them, was to begin the privatisation process.

Roma Britnell: Who did that?

Cindy McLEISH: Joan Kirner certainly did that, and this is all verifiable in Hansard. There are the appropriate transcripts, so do not just believe me – trust the record, the fact as it stands. At that time – and I fear for the government at the moment that we were heading down that same path – the Cain–Kirner governments had mismanaged money so badly that they actually had to borrow money to pay the nurses and the teachers and the police. Imagine that: you have to borrow money to pay for something that should just be guaranteed. It should be in the budget, it should be absolutely rock solid, but it was not there. They had gone so far down the gurgler that they had to borrow money to pay nurses and teachers, and I fear that we are on the same trajectory.

In this privatisation process, as it began at the time, 59 per cent of the Loy Yang B power station was sold off. It was privatised. Could they keep it in Australia? No, they could not do that. It had to go overseas so a US company, Mission Energy, in 1992 for $1.3 billion purchased Loy Yang, that 51 per cent share. So for the government to say that it is we that are addicted to privatisation, to try and rewrite the records to say that we sold off the SEC when it was something that they did, and to know that you have sold $22 billion of state assets in my time here – privatised it – it is just such a fallacy. This government have got their heads in the clouds and they are living in la-la land.

I want to talk about when we heard about the how the SEC was going to be brought back and how we were lucky in Victoria for the government to control this entity now. When it was spruiked – great, they are going to lower the cost of power bills. Well, that is something that we are all fairly keen on having, lower power bill costs. I would say that we would all like that. It is not happening. There were no dates, there were no costs, there was no business case. But we knew that there would be no business case because there is no business case on the Suburban Rail Loop either. We began to think ‘Gee, what’s really going on here?’ because we do not know. We have been kept in the dark. There have not been any details released, and we sort of imagined how it came up: ‘What can we do?’ Whilst on the one hand they are privatising things left, right and centre, on the other hand they are like ‘Oh, we’re going to own this’.

But who is going to own it? We are really quite unsure about whether it is going to be 51 per cent government owned and 49 per cent private equity share. The minister, way back at election time and then in December, said on 20 December the SEC was going to work with 51 per cent government ownership and 49 per cent private equity share. After this was done, on 20 December, not even a month after the election, when the minister was asked if energy prices were going to be lowered or were going to continue to rise, she said that it would be 100 per cent publicly owned and would operate for profit. Then, goodness, it seemed like that was not right either. Now the government has stated it will be 49 per cent owned by superannuation funds and not operated for profit, so we really do not know – flip-flop, flip-flop. The minister is at the table. She really needs to get the facts straight here and to tell people, because it is all over the place. These are your quotes; these are not made up. These are your quotes from question time and from your media releases. The minister is just disputing this.

I want to touch on energy prices being lowered under this. We had a federal budget recently, and they talked about energy prices being lowered with the initiatives that they have for small businesses. I think everybody was quite shocked to find that Victoria was the only state in the country that as part of the package that was announced by the federal Labor government had a co-contribution required by the state. So every other state decided that they were in on this and they were going to help their small businesses, but no, we have got the Labor government in Victoria snubbing small business yet again. They did not sign up to this. We had reports in a few of the print media last week, the Australian Financial Review and the Herald Sun, and we had some quotes from Paul Guerra. He will be well known to many people here, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief. He said this move would leave Victorian businesses ‘worse off than those in most other states’. They thought like everybody else that the federal government’s small business energy program might help Victorian businesses, but no, for some reason they have decided not to match it here. And this is in the face of a survey that VCCI did recently that said that 92 per cent of small business respondents are concerned about potential increased costs of energy in the next year. So the government here had a chance to help businesses lower the costs, but no, they have neglected to take up that opportunity.

We know of course the funds are pretty dry and the cupboard is fairly bare, but we need to look at why the cupboard is bare and what it is that they have done. Despite having gains from the sale of state assets and having increased taxes going through the roof – the number of taxes is in the forties now – and increased GST revenue, they have still managed to squander it. There has been an enormous amount of money wasted with budget blowouts. Level crossing removals are $3.3 billion over budget. For the east–west link they had to pay out contracts that were not worth the paper they were written on – $1.3 billion. We have just got this repeating itself and repeating itself and repeating itself. The government is wasting money like there is no tomorrow, and I do not support the minister’s motion.

Alison MARCHANT (Bellarine) (18:18): I am really excited to rise in the house today to speak to this motion, which notes the overwhelming support for the Victorian Labor government’s plan to bring back the SEC and also to transition this state to 95 per cent renewable energy by 2035, installing 100 neighbourhood batteries across Victoria. In the process of doing all that it is creating thousands of jobs – 59,000 jobs – in renewable energy. I am really proud to be a member of this house and to support these initiatives and the importance of taking action on the challenges that are posed by climate change. The Andrews Labor government has set very ambitious targets, but they are necessary in response to these challenges. I believe it is a significant step going forward for our state and our country, and again Victoria is leading the nation in this space.

First and foremost, I would like to commend the government for their plan to bring back the SEC, not only helping to secure our energy future but ensuring that Victorians have affordable and reliable electricity. The SEC has played a really significant and crucial role in our state’s history, and I am excited to see it not only returned but returned as a leader in renewable energy. I remember how proud people were to work for the SEC. I had relatives in my own extended family who worked for the SEC. I remember them wearing their T-shirts with the logo on the weekend because they were super proud to work for the SEC and they were proud of the work that they were doing for the state. I know from throughout the campaign and since, after promoting the $250 power saving bonus throughout the community, how excited people are to see the SEC coming back.

People would talk about this positive plan with me, but the key issue here though was that people knew that it was for them. This was a policy for Victorians. It was putting energy back in the hands of Victorians, because the government will own it and the State Electricity Commission will not be run for profit or for shareholders but will be run for Victorians. Also, we are going to enshrine the SEC in the constitution this year, protecting this, really, from the opposition. And I remember something very similar that we had to do was to enshrine the fracking ban in the constitution to protect it from the opposition.

As I have indicated, I am really proud that this state is leading the country in climate action. This government’s plan to transition the state to 95 per cent renewables is bold but absolutely necessary. By embracing this clean energy, like solar and wind, we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, we also know the government’s plan is to reduce those emissions by 75 to 80 per cent by 2035 with that accelerated target of net zero emissions by 2045. This is a really important global effort that we are leading on. By setting these ambitious targets and taking meaningful action we show the world that we are committed to being a leader in sustainability and climate action.

Having come to this place after fighting for a fracking ban, I actually know personally the level of interest and eagerness in the community to get on with this transition to renewables. It is immense. Communities who declared themselves frack-free were doing so to protect their agricultural land, their environment and their clean and green agricultural sector and to protect our food bowl. Again, with Victoria leading the way in this space in banning fracking, communities knew then at that point that the government was on a path to transition to renewables – and Victoria again is leading. These communities are ready. They are ready for this transition. They are eager and they clearly are ready, with that resounding support at the election, to have Victoria lead in this space.

Coming from a farming background I know that many in the agricultural sector are also working towards goals and assisting the state in our goals. Clearly they are very much at the forefront of climate change. They definitely feel the effects of drought, fires, floods, frost and disease, and this government has proudly supported our Victorian farmers with, for example, the $20 million fund to create climate action plans, innovation and technologies for the agricultural sector. So I think everyone is playing a part, and I am really proud and pleased to see farmers stepping up to that challenge as well.

Excitingly, too, there will be 100 neighbourhood batteries for this state – and that is super, super exciting. This is really an innovative approach to energy storage. It is our future, and we are grabbing it with both hands and taking it on. It is going to make it easier for our households to store that excess energy generated by their rooftop solar. It is going to reduce waste and improve inefficiencies. It is also going to help reduce the costs of households and businesses and contribute to that transition. This also is going to mean, though, that households will have access to that cheaper renewable energy even if they do not have solar on their roof.

At this past election Labor did make a commitment to have one of these neighbourhood batteries in my electorate in the local government area of the Borough of Queenscliffe, and speaking with local residents and community organisations such as the Queenscliffe Climate Action Now group, I know how excited they are to see this come into reality. I know that they already had a plan to do this, but they just know how important this is not only for today but for the future of their town. This neighbourhood battery that will be in the Borough of Queenscliffe is just one piece of the jigsaw that they are trying to put together and to realise at the Borough of Queenscliffe, led by community action, in a response to their Climate Emergency Response Plan, which has been adopted by their council. They are a very active community, they are dedicated and they are doing their own climate action locally. This climate action and this community advocacy do take me back to those grassroot days of – excuse the pun – people power, where the community takes action, and there is so much power in that community action and community-driven projects, and I do thank all those that put their hand up to get involved and be part of the solution. So congratulations to the Borough of Queenscliffe and the Queenscliffe Climate Action Now group.

Finally, I will just sort of touch on this. The positive plan that we have is going to absolutely create opportunities for this state in terms of jobs – 59,000 jobs in the making for the renewable energy transition. This does represent a significant opportunity for our state to develop and deploy all of those new technologies and innovation and industries and to be that hub for clean energy. This transition, the investment in business, the training of new workers and the building of new infrastructure, is going to create these thousands of jobs, and it is so exciting for jobseekers, those who may be looking for a different career, students, tradies, TAFEs, businesses and future workers. This SEC is going to train the next generation of tradespeople – maintenance workers, electricians, welders, painters and mechanics – and what is probably more exciting for me is to see that these jobs will create apprenticeships and traineeships, delivering secure jobs for those young people as well. We will also establish the SEC centre of training excellence to coordinate and accredit courses in clean energy and connect our TAFEs, registered training organisations, unions and the industry and, very excitingly, add clean energy to the VCE vocational major. We want secondary school students to get that experience through the SEC. So this is a little bit of a call-out to all those who want to be involved: we are going to need you, we want you and we want those workers to be getting involved.

In conclusion, I really urge members of this house to support this motion before us and continue to work together to support this plan to bring back the SEC, this transition to renewables, our reduction of our emissions and installing these hundred neighbourhood batteries across Victoria, creating thousands of jobs on the way. This is a critical part of our future. It is going to secure our state’s energy future. It is the future of our planet and our climate action, and I am really pleased to support this motion, and I commend the motion to the house.

Martin CAMERON (Morwell) (18:28): Thank you, Acting Speaker Addison, and it is great to see you in the chair this evening. SEC, bringing it back – well, it is in my wheelhouse as the member for Morwell. The Latrobe Valley has been powering the state of Victoria for generations, so it is great to be able to stand up and have a little bit of a chat in here tonight. The locals down in the Latrobe Valley are a little bit nervous. These are the mums and dads on the street. They are wondering how all this is going to work. So as you can well imagine, with the power industry down there, a lot of their husbands, wives and things like that actually work in the power industry, so when I talk to them, they are just a little bit unsure how it is all going to fit in. Another thing they are really nervous about is once the coal-fired power stations shut down, what are we going to be left with, with three huge coal pits that need to be filled in or filled with water? But I will come back to that.

Workers in the current power industry also cannot work out how it is going to work. All of them to a person talk about being able to have a base power load to be able to secure the power generation for the future. We all realise that the renewables are coming in, and we are all embracing that, but to keep this constant power supply, if one of the generators goes off, they need X amount of power to be able to fire it back up again. These workers that I talk to are my experts. They are the ones that have worked in the power industry. Their parents have worked in the power industry. They are the real experts about what is going to happen, and I love being able to sit down and talk with them and, you know, listen to where the government wants to go and where the government wants to get to within its time frame. It really is enlightening to talk to these workers, and their time frames for it all to marry up and work are miles apart.

Hazelwood power station is shut, and they are starting to do some rectifications on the actual mine there – some rehabilitation. Yallourn power station is shutting in five years time. Loy Yang power station follows in the early 2030s. So with our current power source looking like it is going to be gone, we currently have zero of the proposed wind farms or solar farms in place and we have no transmission towers or transmission lines agreed on, let alone built, for how they are going to bring the renewable energy from the wind farms out in Bass Strait onto land and then into either Loy Yang or the ex-Hazelwood power station, into where they house all the power stuff that comes to Melbourne.

Let me talk about the transmission lines. The member for Gippsland South has spoken about this for many years. Being a new member, it is something new that I am actually now engaging with the community and the residents of the Latrobe Valley on. They are a very divisive thing, these transmission lines. They are going through farmlands. For generations these families have lived there, and it is actually pitting family member against family member. Do the transmission lines go above ground? Do we put them below ground? It is a really hard one to fathom. It is making a big impact on the communities where it is going to impact, and they still have not bedded down exactly where these transmission lines – the source of bringing this renewable energy in so we can use it – are going to go.

A nice thing to be able to do, because these towers are pretty big, would be to have a replica tower and a wind turbine in Melbourne so the people here and Melburnians can actually see how big they are. They are absolutely huge. Once again the country, especially the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland South, will wear the ugly brunt so Melbourne can bang on about having clean energy. We are the ones that are going to have to have these transmission lines and transmission towers and look out to sea and see these wind farms.

The transmission towers are 80 metres tall. The ones that you see, the big towers you see in Melbourne, are about 35 to 40 metres tall, so we are doubling in size. They are huge. The wind turbine blades – this is not the tower that they are going to sit the turbine and the blades on – are 100 metres long. Each blade is 100 metres long. If one blade comes up to be at 12 o’clock and you measure to the bottom of the lowest blade, it is actually taller than the Rialto building that sits in Melbourne. So on your way home tonight in your Uber or when you are walking home have a look at the Rialto tower, and that is as big as what the blades are, let alone what the actual towers are to hold the turbines up in the water. For the look of what we are going to be left with we really need to do some work on that. It would be lovely for people to be able to see the actual impact of it all.

Workers in the industry say they will not have enough, as I said before, baseload power to keep this generation going. Of course we are going to have the renewables coming in, but with such a short time frame we need to make sure that we have a smooth transition. Once again, the experts that I am talking to are not sitting behind a desk. They are not running models on computers. They are the people that have been in the industry for generations and know what it takes to keep the lights on throughout the whole of Victoria. They are the ones that I deal with on a daily basis.

I have touched before on the rehabilitation of the mining pits. They are massive. We talk about filling them with rubbish and filling them with water. I invite the Minister for the State Electricity Commission to fire up the big red Andrews bus and burst through the Pakenham border. Bring everyone down – we will do a little bit of a school excursion. Come down and actually see how big they are. They are enormous. We drive past them on the highway, and you do not actually take into account how big they are. At the Hazelwood mine they actually run a tour. You can go down and see it from the other side. It is mind blowing for someone that has lived in the community all their life to actually go into the pit and see what we need to do, because we do not want to be left with just some open holes that are no longer going to be used. We need to make sure that whatever happens at the end of their life they are rehabilitated so they are something the people of the Latrobe Valley can use and be proud of. What that is we do not know as yet, but we would really like to make sure that that is on the agenda also.

Where I come from we are the home of power generation, and do you know what – we actually saw through the smoke and mirrors of the SEC. The one true indicator for the much-hyped SEC when we were going through the election was all of a sudden it popped up out of nowhere. We had the Labor candidates and the people handing out how-to-vote cards with the old SEC caps on and the old SEC shirts. I would say even rusted-on Labor supporters in the valley saw through that – that it was not right. You can stand there and you can say, ‘We want to bring back the SEC.’ You can say that you are going to create 59,000 new jobs. The people of Victoria overwhelmingly voted this in. It was called out by the people where power generation matters, down in the Latrobe Valley, the people who live in the home of the founding of the SEC and the ones who do keep the lights on for us and the entirety of Victoria.

How do I know this? Well, I am exhibit A. The valley did not vote for the Andrews government and the SEC – bringing it back. Country Victoria did not vote for the Andrews government and bringing back the SEC. It was those that want the soft touch of ‘We are using clean energy to power our lives’ but do not want anything to do with the visual pollution of wind turbines and transmission line towers. What we need to do is make sure that we do transition responsibly and do not actually have such a short time frame because, as I say, my experts who have been in the power industry a very long time with generations and generations of workers are calling it out, saying that it will not work in that short time frame.

Paul HAMER (Box Hill) (18:38): It is a delight for me to rise this evening to support this motion. It is particularly pleasing to see the Minister for the State Electricity Commission in the chamber at the moment – I must say, a minister who I believe has done more for climate action than any other minister in any other jurisdiction in the nation to push the case along for climate action. I do want to start by looking at those opening words of the motion, which is about overwhelming support at the 2022 election for bringing back the SEC. That was certainly apparent in my own community in Box Hill; we had probably the highest primary vote but certainly the highest two-party preferred vote that was ever recorded for Labor in a Box Hill election since the electorate was established in 1945, and that was reflected I think in many other seats in the east and of course in many other seats across Victoria, including your good seat, Acting Speaker Addison. I know there are many seats neighbouring yours which also have many renewable energy assets, and the community by and large are very supportive of those renewable energy assets because they want to be able to have the benefit of the renewable energy that those assets generate.

I just want to look back. I have been looking at the history of the SEC, and not just in terms of the privatisation, which in itself seems to be a case of some people having some different views. But I will go back to the early days, when the SEC was initially set up, just over a century ago, and the reasons why it was set up at that stage. Prior to that stage the energy supply was largely provided at a municipal level or to run the tramways. Some people may be familiar with the old power station that was in Spencer Street, which was owned by the City of Melbourne to provide energy to local residents in the City of Melbourne. As the energy demand grew, the reliability of supply became a bigger question for the community. The resource of the Latrobe Valley had been recognised and known for quite a number of years, but the technology at that time was not there to generate reliable power. That was towards the end of the First World War, when there had been enough technological developments overseas that they had identified that this was a resource that could be used. The purpose of setting it up, as I was saying, was really to ensure a reliability of supply, because most of the other energy that was generated at the time was reliant on coal imports – black coal imports, specifically from New South Wales.

I see a lot of parallels with where we are now in terms of the renewable energy sector. The energy sector has grown and developed significantly over the last 20, 30 years to a point where there is efficiency of those renewable energy assets, particularly the investment in batteries. We see in the motion the recognition of the 100 neighbourhood batteries. I also note the government’s significant investment in the battery outside of Geelong, I believe the largest battery in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a combination of assets and a combination of renewable energy resources, and we now can fully utilise and fully realise the capacity of those assets. When we look at, I guess, the bands of the state, in the north of the state we have fantastic solar resources to maximise the use of solar energy. Both in the highlands around the range and in the southern part of the state near the coast – and now off the coast, offshore – we have wind energy and the reliability of that wind energy. Particularly on the south coast we have one of the most reliable wind resources probably anywhere in the world. There is literally no land between South America and those southern tips of Victoria which the wind has to cross or where it dies down at all. Anyone who travels down that coastline is very familiar with that wind.

I know that one of our local branch members is very passionate about wave technology. We have also got some very reliable wave patterns, particularly off the south-west coast of Victoria. I do not think the technology is quite there to harness all of the wave technology, but there is a lot of research that is being put into that. But overall, as a bloc there are a lot of renewable resources that are available in the state of Victoria, and that industry has matured over time so that we can harness those different resources and pull them altogether utilising battery technology to provide a continuous reliable source of renewable energy power. This is part of a much broader mix of what we are doing as a government to reach our 95 per cent renewable energy target by 2035, our emission reductions target from 75 to 80 per cent by 2035 and net zero carbon emissions by 2045. Stationary energy and energy usage is obviously just one component. It is a very significant component of those net zero emissions, but emission reductions cut across almost every single industry. Obviously, we have put a lot of investment into the zero-emission vehicle fleet and enhancing that fleet, particularly in terms of our bus fleet. From 2025 we will be making a significant investment in our future, with all buses having zero tailpipe emissions. Across the broader transport fleet and other government operations 100 per cent of government operations will be moving to renewable energy. Think about all of the different government operations that that entails – hospitals, trains, trams, police stations, schools et cetera.

We are also looking at investing $77 million to help land managers restore and protect natural landscapes and vegetation through natural restoration and $20 million to help Victorian farmers make climate action plans and support cutting-edge research, innovation and technologies for the agricultural sector, along with the $15.3 million Victorian carbon farming program to help farmers plant trees. The agricultural sector is a huge contributor to the Victorian economy, but it has a reliance on making sure that it understands what the climate is going to be doing in the future and making sure that it is playing its part. Many of them do want to play their part, and we have to assist them in that process by making that transition easier for them.

Richard RIORDAN (Polwarth) (18:48): I rise tonight to try not to laugh at this motion that the government has put forward. I note that the Minister for the State Electricity Commission is here, and I am glad she is here because I know in my part of the world people regularly want to contact the minister to discuss some of her delusional visions on the rollout of the SEC and the state’s capacity to meet the targets that this government continually trumpets.

We do not have to look very far to see how ridiculous this motion is. First of all, the government is asserting that people voted hand over fist to have the SEC reinstated. I can assure the minister that no-one in Polwarth was voting on having the SEC come back, because there is not really a fondness for it. The SEC conjures up for many people the disasters of the death knells of the Cain–Kirner regime when they were here and broke the state.

The minister asserts in one of her points that 59,000 jobs will be created. I mean, that is just a crazy figure. It is unsubstantiated; the minister is yet to provide not only to this Parliament but to the people of Victoria where on earth that figure comes from. In my electorate and in my counterpart the member for South-West Coast’s electorate we share some of the largest quantities of wind farm and renewable energy projects in the whole state. I can tell the minister, because she is sitting very close, that about eight blokes in a ute drive to Mortlake, eat a few pies at the pie shop and drive back home. That is the extent of the long-term employment opportunities that her rollout is funding, so where the 59,000 ongoing good, long-term jobs for Victorians are in this motion I have no idea.

It is important to realise that tonight just before taking the floor I had a little look at where the rollout is going for the moment, and the government is right: there has been a great effort by all Victorians to do more in the renewable space. But it is a big job, and this government has a responsibility to sell to the community how vast and enormous that task is. Just some basic facts tonight, at 6:45 in fact: here in Victoria at the moment the renewable rollout has seen an installed megawatt capacity in renewable energy now greater than the traditional energy sources we had of carbon-based coal and gas. At the moment renewable energy is about 3 per cent ahead of traditional energy sources. But tonight at 6:45, despite the fact that there is now more renewable energy capacity in the state, it is still only able to produce 27 per cent of our supply of energy here in Victoria.

What the minister fails to understand is that while people have a desire for renewables, they actually have a greater desire to make sure the power stays on when and where they need it. Why is this important? This is important for electorates like mine and the member for South-West Coast’s because when we leave Melbourne at the end of a Parliament week and we head up over the West Gate Bridge and look west, 75 per cent of the energy consumed west of the West Gate Bridge is consumed by about 15 businesses. It does not matter how many households the minister says she is providing energy for, she never refers to the amount of productive capacity that that energy is producing. Why is that important for the people of western Victoria and Geelong and elsewhere? It is because the energy being used creates jobs, it creates opportunities, it creates wealth and it creates exports. It is the reason our communities exist – turning energy into production. The minister categorically forgets this when the government goes on its rant about how wonderful the SEC will be.

The government say to us and in their budget papers they are allocating $20 million a year for the next four years to create this SEC engine that is going to power Victoria into the future. Well, let us have a look at what renewable energy costs. I can tell the minister that in my electorate the Mount Gellibrand wind farm, which I believe the minister came to open, creates 132 megawatts of energy at full capacity; tonight it is 21 megawatts, so it is very much underperforming on its overall capacity. That cost $258 million. The Berrybank wind farm – again, 180 megawatts; it is producing 31 tonight – cost $284 million. And the very controversial Mortlake South wind farm, at 157 megawatts, producing only 10 tonight – $280 million. Minister, for the princely sum of $822 million we just have three quite small wind farms. They are incredibly expensive installations that have to be created, and there is no way any rational Victorian, anyone who has a figment of understanding about how these things work, could possibly believe this government is going to recreate the SEC to power Victoria into the future for a paltry $20 million a year. And this is from a government who spent $3 billion over the last four years on its Big Housing Build and has created a net gain of houses in Victoria of only 74.

This government’s capacity to imagine the magic pudding, to create amazing, desirable outcomes with its resources – clearly it is unable to. We only have to look, for example, at the West Gate Tunnel. All of us who travel down the West Gate Freeway remember fondly, in the lead-up to 2022, that that tunnel was going to be open and operating by 2022 – and here we are in 2023, and it is still just a tunnel with lots of concrete and nowhere close to being open. We also know, for example, that we have had promises of a Geelong women’s and children’s hospital. That was promised at least one election ago, and it is still a ‘to be announced’ funding program in the government’s budget line items. This government talks big and acts very, very tiny when it comes to getting things done as it says.

Do Victorians really believe this government’s ability to roll out the SEC? I do not think they do. I do not think they trust a government who struggles to get ambulances to people in a timely fashion. Certainly in country Victoria we have record low attendance rates at our schools, and this government has done nothing to encourage kids back to school and have them attending school. These are important basic requirements of a government, let alone one that wants to reimagine itself as an energy provider.

The minister has made out that one of the reasons the government are taking on this quest to do the SEC for $20 million a year – I am sure they are probably going to plan to pay their government-appointed CEO about that much every year, but anyway – is, they say, ‘We’re doing this because we’re reversing all the terrible things the Kennett government did.’ Can I remind this Parliament and can I remind the minister that it is this government that has just in the last eight years flogged off the Melbourne port, which has been hugely detrimental to much of the agricultural export from certainly my part of the world, this government has just recently flogged off VicRoads and of course it has flogged off the land titles office. They are just three very large-scale state government basic services that Victorians expect to be well run and well managed, but this government has flogged them off. So to come out and tell the Victorian population that it is getting back into the nationalising of energy is just a ludicrous concept. We know it is ludicrous because they have not put the resources and they are not putting the commitment into the funding required to do it. They are certainly not putting the infrastructure in place, because it is just physically not possible.

We have seen this minister now bungle around and mess around with the lives and livelihoods of communities from Truganina out to the back of Ballarat, and that is just one piece of infrastructure, just one part of the very complex web that has to be put in place to provide a sustainable long-term renewable energy system. We have been going now I think for nearly eight years trying to get a consensus, trying to find a route, trying to find a funding mechanism and trying to get community licence to put powerlines up, yet this government want us to believe that for $20 million a year they can create an energy system that is going to return profits to Victorian taxpayers.

Lily D’Ambrosio interjected.

Richard RIORDAN: It is beyond a fanciful notion, Minister. It is fanciful because you also mentioned in the motion that you want to have the hundred neighbourhood batteries, and I think the biggest one that you have created, at Moorabool, says it runs houses in the area for half an hour. Can I remind the minister: batteries do not generate electricity. They can store electricity, but they do not generate it. Minister, it does not matter how many batteries you put around the community, they are not going to generate the electricity when and where you need it, and certainly not for a prolonged period of time.

Dylan WIGHT (Tarneit) (18:58): It is an absolute –

Sam Groth: I draw your attention to the state of the house.

Quorum formed.

Dylan WIGHT: It gives me absolute pleasure to rise and follow one of the more extraordinary contributions that I have seen in this place in my short time here. The member for Polwarth spoke about our motion about the SEC but did not just speak about that. We had the situation where he strayed into the West Gate Tunnel. He strayed into school funding.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member will have the call when we return to this debate. I am required under sessional orders to interrupt business now.

Business interrupted under sessional orders.