Industry leaders from southern Queensland have had enough of political bickering over energy policies – that was one of the strong messages to come through at the national energy summit held on Thursday by the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise group.
Around 200 people from a number of business and agricultural sectors, plus local government representatives, watched as federal Resources Minister, Matt Canavan, and state Energy Minister, Mark Bailey, tried to score points from each other at the inaugural summit.
Mr Canavan called for an end to the experimentation of energy policy on Australians, saying the population was being treated like “lab rats”, but Mr Bailey shot back that energy changes weren’t an experiment but a global phenomenon.
And it went on:
- Mr Canavan – “The states presided over a doubling of electricity prices”; Mr Bailey – “The Palaszczuk government has taken measures to shield people from excess price spikes”, or:
- Mr Canavan – “In moving to an emissions economy, we have to make sure we don’t move to a poor economy”; Mr Bailey – “Massive change is happening and we’ll imperil jobs by being stuck in the past”.
It was a clash that was almost expected, with the South West Regional Economic Development chairman, Lindsay Godfrey, putting out a media release in the lead-up to the summit, calling for energy solutions to be above politics, and to look at the energy crisis not as a case of coal versus renewables, but in terms of fixing the national energy market infrastructure and policy frameworks.
“State governments need to get over their state loyalties and look at the national vision for power projects across the country,” he said.
Taking place in advance of the COAG energy council meeting in Brisbane on Friday, the exchange left summit participants dismayed and fearing for future investment.
The summit was touted as an opportunity to explore solutions, from a region that had showed leadership in energy development to the rest of Australia, but as development consultant firm icubed principal, Nick Canto, said, “flip-flopping on policy is making it incredibly hard for industry”.
“The lack of consistency between states, and the fighting between state and federal governments, has to stop if we want a stable reliable energy source,” he said.
He was backed up by Australia Pacific LNG’s CEO, Warwick King, who said international people had choices of where to invest, and there was now a seed of doubt in their minds about Australia.
“This is not good for business,” he said.
AgForce president, Grant Maudsley agreed, saying the summit had made it clear that policy uncertainty was a key driver of misinformation and had contributed to a lack of planning certainty in the energy space.
He was preparing to attend the COAG stakeholders meeting in Brisbane on Thursday night, where he was going to push for cooperation on energy targets the mix needed to achieve that.
“Farmers are high adopters of renewables,” he said. “A mix is necessary to manage power requirements, and ultimately electricity consumers will decide which to use, based on the need to reduce costs of inputs.”
According to environmental scientist, Lisa France, industry would race ahead while governments squabbled over who’s doing it right.
“Fossil fuel versus cost is a dilemma that’s been around for ages.
“The solution doesn’t involve business as usual.
“This region has got a great opportunity to show the way forward.”
TSBE chairman Shane Charles said his organisation would talk about what pressure they could bring to a situation where ministers were nearly diametrically opposed.
“I don’t think they get our concern just yet,” he said.