Matters of Public Importance - Economy

11 September 2023

I also rise to speak on this matter of public importance. There is a lot of ground to cover, but I'll start with some economic context to the senator's remarks just made. It is not uncommon quarter-to-quarter for the per capita measure to move in this direction. In fact, it has gone backwards in one in every four quarters since records began some 50 years ago. For context, that is about 48 times out of the past 199 quarters, so we need to keep that in context. But of course there is no doubt that we are seeing the impact of high interest rates, high-but-moderating inflation and global uncertainty.

These things are absolutely hitting households across Australia, including households in my state of South Australia, and our economy. At the same time, we have a rebound in population growth driven by the reopening of our economy, and the return of international students in particular. I believe that that is a good thing. It's showing up in stronger service exports, which is good for both the education and the tourism sectors in Australia. It's good in my state of South Australia. It's a good thing that the students are coming back, given the impact of the pandemic on student numbers and movements. But we also know that overseas migration won't catch up to the coalition's forecast levels until the end of the decade. Context is important in this debate. Facts in numbers are important in these debates.

In terms of the implied context of this matter of public importance put by Senator Roberts—that is, that net zero is causing the sky to fall in—that is simply not true. Despite what Senator Roberts has said, the net zero transformation is a defining economic opportunity for our country and a defining economic opportunity for my home state of South Australia. With our abundance of natural resources, we as a nation have the potential to be a renewable energy superpower, and there are opportunities for our children in that. The government is absolutely committed to ensuring that we do not miss out on that potential and that opportunity, and we are working towards ensuring we have the policy settings to enable us to benefit from the economic revolution that being a part of net zero and taking serious action on climate change offer our nation.

For a decade we had a government that was facing its own existential crisis about whether climate change actually existed, about whether the climate crisis on our doorstep was a real thing or not. They oversaw 22 energy policies and failed to land one of them. We saw their internal battles and leadership tensions get in the way of delivering sensible climate policy. Indeed, for more than a decade they defined themselves by being wreckers on climate action and wreckers on energy policy, ignoring the science and diving headfirst into the sand pretending that the climate crisis doesn't exist. Because of that we missed out on a decade of progress and work. Our government is onto fixing it because our government sees climate action as being necessary not just for the future of our planet, not just necessary for preserving a future for our children and grandchildren, but because there are economic opportunities in it. There is economic potential in my home state of South Australia.

In the May budget we included an additional $4 billion to help get our transition to renewable energy moving, taking our government's total investment to more than $40 billion. Investing in renewables is good not just for the future of the planet but for Australia's regions. It's good in South Australia. In towns like Whyalla, the potential of a world-leading hydrogen power plant will provide not only energy for future generations in our state but economic opportunity as well.

Australians want to see action on climate change. They didn't spend the past 10 years having an internal debate about whether it was real. They didn't spend the past 10 years torn up in knots about it. Every South Australian I speak to says, 'This is science. This is fact. This is coming down the line.' But for a decade we had a government which refused to engage, which couldn't land even one of 22 energy policies. There are economic opportunities here. The sky is not falling in. The economic potential is huge for South Australia and for our country.