Page 135 - Week 01 - Wednesday, 28 November 2012

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substantial capital upgrades in coming years, over the next couple of decades, and those costs will be passed through to electricity customers. Those sorts of long-term considerations are conveniently left out of the conversation.

On the good news on the solar side, added to the guaranteed price that the small-scale generators are giving us, there is the first round of the large-scale feed-in tariff, which has proven that large quantities of solar electricity can be generated right here in Canberra at a very reasonable price, in fact a price that will most likely be cheaper than coal within a decade, and that is why the agreement ensures that the rest of the generating capacity provided under the act will be allocated. Of course, some of that extra capacity will also be going towards wind, which is even cheaper than solar at this point. This will ensure that Canberrans get all the benefits of being the early adopters and that we have new sustainable industry and new sustainable jobs and, of course, greater economic diversity.

Over the last 20 years, according to the Energy Supply Association of Australia, energy prices have increased by about 150 per cent across Australia, and all the evidence suggests that the price increases for coal-fired power over the next 20 years will be even greater. The large-scale feed-in tariff price that effectively caps the cost of electricity for the next 20 years is a fantastic deal for Canberrans and will actually help keep prices down rather than push them up. The challenge for Mr Seselja is to show us any modelling to suggest that prices will be higher under the 90 per cent renewable plan than they will be if we stick to coal-fired power.

Undoubtedly, of course, the best way to reduce energy bills is to improve efficiency, and the agreement also deals with this. For those doing it toughest, the agreement will mean that public housing is more energy efficient and that the energy concession is indexed to the actual price of electricity to ensure that we maintain the community support for those most in need. For those in rental properties, it begins the process of creating incentives and, hopefully, obligations for landlords to make their properties more energy efficient. Again, this will predominantly help those Canberrans on the lowest incomes.

Let me turn to the question of transport. The agreement also provided for a much-improved public transport network, giving more Canberrans the option not to have a second car but to ride, walk, get the bus and, even soon, the tram instead. This is a sustainable and cheaper future that Canberrans want. It is a comprehensive package of transport reforms that will improve walking and cycling infrastructure, the bus network, and start the rollout of Canberra’s light rail network. This integrated system will give Canberrans a real choice for getting around the city. What is more, if they do have to drive, the agreement also contains an initiative to promote car sharing, making the cost of a car cheaper.

The choice is really quite simple. Do we want to lock Canberrans into a future of car dependence and congestion, forcing them to get into their car earlier and earlier every morning to get to work on time and arriving home later and later each night as congestion worsens, all the while spending more and more money on the ever-increasing cost of fuel? Or do we want to give them the option of reducing their time commuting, saving money and being able to spend more time with their families? I think most people would see that as a fairly clear choice.

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