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Motion: Establish a Commission of Inquiry to Examine Reviving ETSA

30 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: First off the bat, the Greens will not support the Liberal Party's amendment, which I submit is designed to rob the motion of its veracity, and is in keeping with the Liberal Party's revisionist view of South Australian history, this idea that they cannot take any responsibility for the original sin that has bedevilled our electricity network in this state, that is, of course, the disastrous decision of the Olsen government to sell off ETSA, to dud South Australians and to negotiate a totally dud deal for our state, one that has resulted in higher electricity prices and an insecure electricity network.

There is something seriously wrong in our state when we have an electricity network that cannot weather a storm. It is unacceptable that we had thousands and thousands of South Australians being denied power for days and days on end following the storm that occurred the other week. On the one hand, some will say, 'Well, acts of God happen, we are going to see freak weather events, that's part of life'. Certainly, as the climate continues to change, we will see more freak weather events, but that is why it is so vitally important that we have an energy system that is fit for purpose.

The private sector has not been delivering on the energy needs for South Australia because there has not been the appropriate investment in resources in the workforce over time so that we can be prepared for these sort of events. The Greens certainly stand with the union movement in its critique of the approach that has been taken to electricity in our state.

I must say that I am a little perplexed by the position that has been taken by the Labor government because, on the one hand, they purport to support many of the elements of this motion, yet they do not intend to vote for it. With all due respect to the Hon. Russell Wortley, who made a contribution on behalf of the Labor Party, it is not what people say in this chamber, it is what they do with their feet, it is how they vote that is the important test. If the Labor Party is really serious about looking into bringing back ETSA, if the Labor Party is really fulsome in its condemnation of the appalling record of the Olsen government, they will support my motion. The proposition is very simple.

I flag with honourable members that I intend to test that proposition by calling a division on this matter. In summing-up, I also want to read into Hansard an excerpt of a public letter that has been sent from Dale Beasley, the Secretary of SA Unions, to the Hon. Peter Malinauskas MP, and it is a letter that has been published publicly. He says in this letter:

Privatisation of the South Australian electricity system by the Olsen Liberal government has been a boon for foreign owned corporations but has been a disaster for South Australian electricity users.

Clearly it is not in the best interests of South Australians that the natural monopoly of public electricity supply is run by private corporations to create huge profits. This model has seen under investment in maintenance and replacement of electricity distribution infrastructure and a failure to build the renewable energy generation and grid scale energy storage that we require to maintain security of supply and price stability.

We in the Greens agree. The letter goes on to say:

SA Unions respectfully suggests that your Government consider establishing a public trust (ETSA may be a good name) to plan, build and operate electricity generation and storage assets for the benefit of all South Australians.

We agree with those sentiments. Many will say that this cannot be done, that we cannot bring back ETSA, we cannot unscramble the egg. I urge those who make that claim to consider the remarkable success of the Andrews Labor government in Victoria last weekend, a remarkable achievement given the appalling fear and smear campaign that was run by some in the right wing media and the appalling misinformation campaign spread by the Liberal Party in that state.

One of the really exciting elements of the platform of the Labor Party in Victoria is their commitment to revive the State Electricity Commission with a majority share owned by the state. They are wanting to bring back public ownership of their electricity. Why can we not do it here in South Australia?

When the Labor Party came to government here in this state, they promised a commission of inquiring into bringing back public ownership of the trains and trams. The transport minister has announced more recently that that is not necessary because the government is going to progress with it and we welcome that, but why not take the same approach when it comes to electricity? If it is good enough for our public transport network, why not do it for our electricity network? That is why the Greens are testing that proposition with this motion today.