Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019 | Second Reading

Ms SULEYMAN (St Albans) (18:17:51): What a fantastic contribution from the hardworking member for Mount Waverley. I also rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Jobs and Investment) Amendment Bill 2019. I too echo the sentiments from this side of the house and the contributions that have been made so far towards this bill. As we know, the main purpose of the amendment bill is to extend the existing Victorian renewable energy targets of 2020 and 2025 to 50 per cent renewable energy by 2030 and to provide certainty to the sector and investor confidence, encouraging more investment and of course more employment and more jobs and skills training in the sector. This bill also delivers on the promise that we made at the last election, and we have demonstrated that we are a government that delivers on our promises. We have increased Victoria’s renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2030, as we pledged to do, and that is exactly what we have been doing since we were elected. As I said, once we were elected in 2014 we hit the ground running, and we have become leaders when it comes to this area and many other areas but in particular nationally when it comes to investment in renewable energy. We have been very clear about our support of—and quite frankly we have been on the right side of history when it comes to—our environment and the initiatives to support the transition to new industries. The Andrews Labor government’s decisive leadership is encouraging record investment, as we have just seen, in Victoria’s renewable energy sector and in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. As part of this we are already powering Melbourne’s entire tram fleet with power from solar farms in regional Victoria. We are making sure that regional Victoria is part of this and that the community is also working together with the government. This initiative alone is estimated to deliver a reduction of approximately 80 000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions every year. The bill continues this significant investment. It is the sort of investment that is creating thousands of jobs. We know that many of our infrastructure projects, in particular in my electorate, are providing significant investment in public transport, such as the removal of the level crossing at Fitzgerald Road. And they also create more jobs. We know that the sort of investment that we have seen in this program will mean more energy going into the grid and will drive down energy prices. That is very important to my electorate of St Albans, where we have a significant amount of households that are dependent on Centrelink benefits, that have challenges in their lives or that are actually pensioners or the elderly. This bill will increase the existing Victorian renewable energy target to 50 per cent by 2030. As I have said, this highlights the Andrews Labor government’s dedication and commitment when it comes to reducing greenhouse emissions and addressing climate change. We have seen this. It is not just an Australian problem; it is a global problem. Just in my electorate, as I have stated previously, there is investment in public transport. Just this year we have seen $2.1 billion to upgrade the Sunbury line and transition the line to high-capacity trains. This means cleaner air, a reduction of air pollution and, of course, a decrease in the use of fossil fuels. This is what leadership is all about. As I said, our government is taking decisive action and starting the transition process to have 25 per cent of our electricity generation coming from renewable sources by 2020, with 40 per cent by 2025 and 50 per cent by 2030. But of course these new targets will also play a key role in helping drive down the energy prices. As I said, this is very important to my electorate, and for households and families driving down the prices of bills is the number one priority, as well as looking at alternative sources of supply. With the action of our government we have already seen energy prices and bill prices coming down, and we expect that with the future targets the savings will continue. Households will save around $32 a year, medium-sized businesses will save $3100 and large companies will save $150 000. These reductions show that we can drive down emissions and keep putting downward pressure on energy prices. We have already heard the member for Mount Waverley talking about the investment in the Solar Homes package. We have seen the $1.3 billion rollout of the next phase because it has been so popular. You just need to look at some of the figures. We are providing rebates on solar panels, hot-water systems, batteries and zero-interest loans so Victorian households can install half-price solar with no up-front costs. We are also being very flexible in understanding that not everybody can afford the up-front costs, so providing those options is absolutely integral to the scheme, in particular for my constituents in St Albans. Just today the Minister for Solar Homes announced more rebates and more savings for Victorian households. That is fantastic. It means 23 000 extra Victorian households will benefit from solar energy rebates in the coming year. We understand that this is a program that has been successful and we are continuing to increase it so more households can benefit from it. Of course it also creates jobs; that goes hand in hand. As we have heard, our government is taking action, but communities are also coming together to do their small part, and that is important as well. Education is important, as is understanding how you look at the environment. It is with simple steps; I have heard my locals talking to their neighbours and creating a composting network, where neighbours connect and recycle their kitchen scraps. They work together by composting, worm farming and keeping animals. That diverts waste from landfill and also creates a sense of community. This is being done at the moment in Keilor Downs in my electorate, and I thank my residents who have taken this initiative. We have also seen the commitment from our government when it comes to the environment. It just does not stop with renewable energy targets. We have also seen the banning of plastic bags in order to protect the state’s rivers, waterways, oceans and wildlife. In relation to a plastic solution, in my office in particular my recycled bags have been very popular. My constituents have been extremely supportive of the banning of plastic bags. We have actually taken decisive action. We are on the right side of history. When we look to Europe I have seen firsthand examples when it comes to renewable energy, and they are far ahead of us. It is time that our federal government also took some steps when it comes to this issue. Victoria is leading the way nationally, but it also requires far more support and leadership from the commonwealth. This is about the future of our children, as the member for Mount Waverley stated quite eloquently today. If we do not take decisive action, if we do not look at transition plans for the future, then Australia will be left behind. Victoria is doing its bit when it comes to renewable energy and looking at alternatives. That is why our government continues to lead the way, not just on this issue but with every other policy. What we committed to at the election we have made sure that we have delivered on. I would like to congratulate the minister on this issue. She has worked very hard to make this bill possible. I commend the bill to the house.