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Pages tagged "Energy and Mining"

National Energy (Ministerial Reliability Instrument)

9 March 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to indicate the Greens' support for this bill, which will introduce a ministerial reliability instrument in other states that is already in place here in South Australia. In the transition to renewable energy, the stability of electricity is vital. This bill allows energy ministers to intervene three years before a predicted failure in the energy market.

We have seen successes here in South Australia in producing and supplying high levels of renewable energy. In 15 years we have shifted from 1 per cent renewable energy to almost 65 per cent of South Australia's power coming from wind, rooftop solar, large-scale solar and battery storage.

A renewable, reliable grid is vital to our state's energy needs. This bill allows the national energy market to implement reliability instruments, as is already done here in South Australia. Reliable energy ensures the demands of consumers can be met consistently. The ministerial reliability instrument is only for stability issues that can be forecast and thus it will not provide outcomes for storm-related blackouts, such as those that were experienced by South Australia last year.

According to the Australian Energy Regulator, there are currently three reliability instruments in place for South Australia for 2024, 2025 and 2026. A reliability instrument was in place for the current period but has been revoked. Many of these reliability instruments are revoked before implementation as the need no longer exists. What this shows us is that this is a safeguard mechanism that is only enacted when necessary. The Greens will be supporting this bill to ensure ministers can step in to provide safeguards for a reliable network in the transition to renewable energy.

But I do want to point out that it will take more than this bill to provide security for South Australians in terms of our state's energy needs. Some months ago, I proposed here in this place that the government hold a commission of inquiry into bringing back ETSA. We have seen, since the privatisation of our electricity network 20-odd years ago, the disaster that has faced South Australian consumers in terms of skyrocketing costs and the unreliability of the network. Indeed, our electricity network cannot even weather a storm.

So we need to bring our electricity network back into public hands, and the South Australian people should own the distribution and production of that network. That is precisely why the Greens have been advocating to bring back ETSA. Unfortunately, that is a position that is opposed by both of the major parties in this place. I am not sure why. They seem to be beholden to corporate interests rather than the interests of the South Australians they represent.

That said, the Greens will continue to push for public ownership of electricity. We believe that public assets belong in public hands. That is the way that we guarantee the stability of our network. But, that said, we will support the legislation that has been proposed by the government.

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.

National Energy Laws (Regulatory Sandboxing)

17 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise on behalf of the Greens to speak on the Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Regulatory Sandboxing) Bill. This bill, as part of the national energy law reforms, introduces options to trial emerging innovative technologies and business models in the national energy market.

As I have stated earlier in this place, we are in a climate crisis. For over 100 years, fossil fuels have been providing the energy that we need to stay warm, to keep the lights on and to build industry. According to the National Greenhouse Accounts, energy industries were responsible for 17 per cent of South Australia's greenhouse emissions in 2020. To move towards a cleaner and greener future, we need to evolve our electricity distribution, infrastructure, storage and generation. New technologies are vital to move to a carbon neutral society, and this bill allows for trials for energy technologies in a safe and regulated manner.

While the Greens are broadly supportive of the bill, we do have some concerns regarding clause 33, the innovative trial principles. This section of the bill focuses on developing natural gas services. As this is a national energy law, we are advised that there will be reluctance to move amendments to this element.

I do note, of course, that has happened in the past but, recognising the position of the parties and also the desire to expedite this bill, I will not pursue the amendments that I had previously considered. I will, however, ask the government some questions about that during the committee stage.

After the National Hydrogen Strategy was developed, it became clear that a new definition would be required for gas. According to a policy paper released by energy ministers, a decision was made on 20 August 2021 by the ministers that the national gas regulatory framework should:

…be amended and that the amendments should be expedited to ensure that regulatory barriers do not restrict proposed investments in projects and existing regulatory arrangements and protections continue to work as intended where renewable gases are supplied.

On 28 October this year, energy ministers agreed to amend national gas laws to facilitate this change. The public consultation draft to enact this agreement includes greener fuels such as biogas, biomethane, hydrogen and synthetic methane.

We should not need to wait for a future bill to change the terminology in this proposed legislation. We should be doing it here and now. I will certainly be pursuing the government on that matter. By changing the terminology in this bill, we will move away from natural gas, and we could make provisions for future fuels such as green hydrogen. Creating an environment where we can be agile in our energy and trial new innovations will be beneficial to the transition away from fossil fuels. It is in that spirit that the Greens will be supporting this reform.

National Energy Laws (Gas Pipelines)

17 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I am speaking today on behalf of the Greens on the Statutes Amendment (Natural Energy Laws) (Gas Pipelines) Bill. The bill before us will simplify the regulatory framework for gas pipelines, increase market competition and improve transparency. The Greens' position on gas will be very clear to everybody in this place. We are in a climate emergency and we know that is caused by burning fossil fuels and we need to phase out the use of natural gas.

At this year's COP 27, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, provided a stark warning to the world, claiming that we are on a 'highway to climate hell'. Fossil fuels such as natural gas have been a major contributor to climate change. We need to urgently switch to renewable energies such as solar, wind and green hydrogen.

I want to recognise the Malinauskas government's significant investment in green hydrogen in this state—at least this is something that I understand they are planning to act on during this term. Of course, the Greens are supportive of moves towards clean, green renewable fuel, but in this transition to green hydrogen we need to ensure that the pipeline infrastructure is well regulated and transparent.

This bill refers to natural gas, which is something that is of concern to the Greens. Natural gas is a non-renewable fossil fuel comprised of matter that has decomposed over millions of years. The extraction and burning of natural gas is harmful to our environment and our health. In fact, the extraction of natural gas damages our farming land, water table and land stability. It is harmful to our health, and up to 12 per cent of childhood asthma is a result of cooking with so-called natural gas. To address the climate crisis and protect our environment and health, we must urgently put a stop to all new natural gas projects.

We have been advised that there has been agreement by the national energy ministers to bring a future bill to change the wording in legislation to expand the definition to include future fuels such as green hydrogen. While we are disappointed that such a definition has not been included by the government in this bill, we are supportive of that change and look forward to future legislation being introduced in that regard.

The bill before us today provides for a greenfields incentive determination, which will be available to service providers prior to the commissioning of new pipelines. The Greens do not support greenfields gas developments for natural gas, but we do acknowledge that there will need to be new infrastructure to supply and distribute green hydrogen.

The Greens are supporting this bill with the understanding that gas infrastructure is required to support the green hydrogen industry. We also anticipate the changes of wording to ensure that future green gas options are defined in the national energy law rather than simply referring to traditional gas, methane gas, one which we know locks us into serious damage to our environment and indeed our health. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Question: Energy Infrastructure and Reviving ETSA

15 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Regional Development on the topic of regional energy infrastructure and resourcing.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: As a result of the storms that swept across South Australia over the weekend, a number of regional communities are still without power, I understand, in the Riverland, Yorke Peninsula, Fleurieu Peninsula and the Mid North. On 28 October this year, the Secretary of SA Unions, Mr Dale Beasley, wrote an open letter to the Premier, Mr Peter Malinauskas, that called for the reversal of privatisation of electricity, stating:

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.

My question to the minister therefore is:

1. Does the minister believe that there has been sufficient investment in energy infrastructure and resourcing in the regions?

2. Would the minister support reviving ETSA to ensure that our electricity network meets the needs of our communities, particularly those living in regional South Australia?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): I thank the honourable member for his question. Of course, electricity services in regional areas are incredibly important and, in the general sense, are part of the need for regional development. However, in terms of the specifics, I will refer the question to my colleague in the other place the Minister for Energy and Mining.



Reply Received 7 February 2023:

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries): The Minister for Energy and Mining has advised:

1. SA Power Networks advises that it spend approximately $300 million per annum in capital and operating costs on maintaining and upgrading the electricity network across all of SA—much of this expenditure is made in regional and remote areas of South Australia.

The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) determines both the operational expenditure and capital expenditure allowances for SA Power Networks for each five year regulatory period. The AER's expenditure assessment criteria require that SA Power Networks is awarded efficient levels of expenditure to maintain ongoing levels of safety and reliability of the electricity network.

Maintenance and operational costs can be higher per customer in rural and regional areas when compared to those in the metropolitan area however customers in these regional areas are protected by a 'postage stamp' approach to the network portion of their electricity bill.

The power outages following the recent storm were widely caused by falling trees, tree limbs and lightning strikes to powerlines and stobie poles, many startling images of this damage have been circulated in the media.

2. The Australian Labor Party opposed the privatisation of ETSA and during its periods in government has had to fix the mess that privatisation caused.

Privatisation did not only affect regional residents of South Australia. All residents and businesses are paying the price of that foolhardy decision.

Motion: Reviving ETSA

2 November 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this council—

1. Notes that the commonwealth budget released last week forecast:

(a) a 56 per cent increase in electricity prices over the next 18 months; and

(b) a 44 per cent increase in gas prices over the next 18 months;

2. Notes that Adelaide recorded the highest quarterly rise in CPI in the country with a 2.6 per cent rise for the September 2022 quarter, and an annual rise of 8.4 per cent;

3. Recognises that cost-of-living pressures are continuing to increase for South Australians;

4. Acknowledges that the privatisation of ETSA was a failure of market regulation and contributed to an increase in electricity prices; and

5. Calls on the Malinauskas government to establish a commission of inquiry to examine reviving ETSA and returning South Australia's electricity distribution and transmission network to public ownership.

This motion is calling on the government to establish a commission of inquiry looking into reviving ETSA and returning our electricity service distribution network back into public hands. The reason why the Greens are making this call is because we recognise the significant cost-of-living pressures that South Australians are facing at the moment.

While people are sleeping in tents due to skyrocketing rental prices and low vacancy rates in housing, every day essentials are becoming more and more out of reach. Indeed, just this week we have seen interest rates increase once again, and we have seen predictions around inflation hitting 8 per cent, or more than 8 per cent, here in South Australia.

Last week's federal budget, the first federal Labor budget, forecast a 56 per cent increase in electricity prices over the next 18 months—a 56 per cent increase in electricity prices—and a 44 per cent increase in gas prices over the same period. Such a dramatic increase in energy prices, given the already skyrocketing cost of living, will be devastating for people who are already struggling to stay afloat in our state. Sadly, it is always the most vulnerable who are affected. South Australians should not have to choose between necessary groceries, turning on the heater during this winter period or having appropriate air conditioning when the weather finally warms up.

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Adelaide recorded the highest quarterly rise in CPI in the country for the September 2022 quarter. Over the last 12 months, the CPI for Adelaide has increased to 8.4 per cent. Over the same period, wages have increased in South Australia by only 2.3 per cent. We have wage stagnation while we have inflation skyrocketing out of control. Where are people going to find the money for extra power bills? The average energy price in South Australia is $1,840 per year. An increase of 56 per cent would equate to more than $1,000 per year for the average household, so in 18 months' time, low-income workers will be spending up to 13 per cent of their income on energy.

The privatisation of ETSA by the Liberal Olsen government delivered higher energy prices—that is a fact—and South Australians have paid dearly for that appalling failure of leadership from that ill-fated Liberal government. Research from the Australia Institute in 2019 found that 40 per cent of South Australians blamed the privatisation of ETSA for power price increases, and they are right because we have seen power prices increase over a long period of time. We know what happens when you sell off key utilities like our electricity network. When you sell off key utilities like electricity, then you let the free market decide, and what we see is utilities working for the interests of shareholders, not the interests of the community.

That is why we are calling for this commission of inquiry to look at bringing back ETSA, re-establishing that as an independent statutory authority that operates for the interests of all South Australians rather than the business of shareholders. The people of South Australia deserve an energy service that is managed by South Australians for South Australians. Over the border, the Victorian Labor government have committed to reviving their State Electricity Commission with a majority share owned by the state should they win the next election. I encourage the Malinauskas government to take inspiration from Daniel Andrews over in Victoria.

I note that yesterday Premier Malinauskas announced a National Energy Crisis Committee of Cabinet to investigate measures to mitigate the impact on the community of price hikes. In the Premier's ministerial statement, he said that South Australia's prices are expected to be lower than in the Eastern States, which rely on coal-fired power stations. That is correct. The SA Productivity Commission's annual report, tabled yesterday, finds that:

…the State's ability to take advantage of these natural advantages has been limited by problems in the local electricity market which reduced the pass through of these lower prices to consumers…this means that South Australia is not currently [at] a competitive advantage due to renewable energy.

We need to fix the electricity market to ensure our power prices stay low so that we can take advantage of our potential position. While the National Energy Crisis Committee of Cabinet is valuable in terms of mitigating the impacts on consumers, bringing back ETSA, returning our electricity network to public hands, would ensure the government can play a vital role in keeping our local energy market on track.

During the last state election, the Labor Party made a commitment to return our trains and trams back into public hands and establish a commission of inquiry to enable that to happen. I know that the Minister for Transport several months ago announced that it was not necessary to progress with that commission of inquiry because he had been working with Keolis Downer to return the train network back into public hands—we welcome that—but that means that the commission of inquiry that was budgeted for by the Labor Party has not been commissioned, and we believe that money should be reallocated to a commission of inquiry looking into bringing back ETSA. That would be a worthy project for this government to undertake.

I welcome statements made to date by the Premier and the Treasurer and other ministers in the Malinauskas government, where they have stated that every option is on the table. I hope this is an option to which they give serious consideration. I hope they seek inspiration from the Daniel Andrews government over in Victoria and look at what is happening in other places around the world, where publicly-owned utilities are able to better serve the needs of the community.

The Greens of course continue to advocate a range of policies that are about not only improving affordability for consumers but also mitigating the impacts of climate change. I note that gas continues to skyrocket out of control; I note that petrol prices continue to skyrocket out of control. The Greens will continue to advocate for alternatives to these. I have a bill before this parliament that would end gas connections to all new homes, and I hope that the Labor Party will give that serious consideration as well.

In the meantime, let's get the commission of inquiry happening, and let's look at how we can bring our electricity network back into public hands so that it operates for the best interests of all South Australians, rather than shareholders of a large corporation. With that, I conclude my remarks.

National Electricity law (Consumer Data Rights) Amendment Bill Speech

20 October 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I also rise in support of the bill on behalf of the Greens. Giving consumers better information regarding their electricity is a key element of the transition towards renewable energy in this state. This bill allows customers the right to transfer their data to compare and switch between products and services. Consumers will need to consent and provide authorisation before their data is shared. This measure is already available in the banking and finance sectors, and by allowing it in the energy sector we can create better options for electricity consumers.

The Productivity Commission, in its 2017 report into data availability and use, found that Australian consumers have little capacity to choose how digital data regarding them is used. The report recommended that consumers be given the right to use their digital data. According to the report, consumer data rights will result in increased market competition, wider service choices and innovation in services.

In 2019, a report by Deloitte investigated consumer data rights in the banking sector. In this survey, they found that trust is key to determining whether or not consumers are likely to share their data. In light of the recent Optus data breach, many consumers will be concerned about the security of their data when it comes to transferring this information. For this reason, the need for security is paramount, but we are satisfied that no data can be shared without the consent of the consumer with respect to this bill.

As we transition away from fossil fuels, giving consumers the right to their data will allow people to have greater choice about where their electricity comes from. The increase in innovation of services that has been forecast is welcome. If electricity providers are forced to transform services to suit customer need, we might see more green options in the energy market, and of course we in the Greens would welcome that.

Nearly 70 per cent of South Australians want full renewable energy by 2030, according to the Australia Institute. While we transition at a state level, we can also give consumers a greater right to their data to allow them to vote with their feet and choose providers that are offering services that are better for our planet. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in support of the motion moved by my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks. Ongoing investments in fossil fuels by Australian governments put us not just at odds with the science but with the rest of the world. They pose a threat to our trade and our economy as well as to our climate.

In South Australia we have declared a climate emergency and it is now time for us to declare our support for a fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty. This would be an empowering next step for our state, demonstrating how even small jurisdictions can lead the way by joining with other cities, states and nations around the world to speak with one clear voice.

We all know the historical and ongoing contribution fossil fuels make to climate change, and this industry—one that is aided by the Australian government, propped up by both of the major political parties—has ongoing expansion plans. We cannot accept this and so instead we are calling for a solution that matches the scale of the problem. We must cooperate globally to address this global problem and everybody, every state, every city, every individual has a role to play. In the words of Professor Lesley Hughes:

…every fraction of a degree of warming is doing us harm. This means that every day we delay cessation of fossil fuel burning, we come closer to catastrophe.

It is people who created this crisis and it is the people who must stop it. Our state has a proven capacity to be a renewable energy powerhouse and I do recognise the work of all sides of politics in this regard. We are a state that is largely powered by the sun and the wind and soon will be powered by hydrogen as well. But emissions and their impacts—whether they are generated here or by other states—do not stop at our borders.

What happens in one place affects us all. Indeed, that has been the story of this climate crisis. While South Australia has been a leader when it comes to renewable energy, our federal government continues to subsidise the fossil fuel industry to the tune of about $10.3 billion per year. Who can forget the forgotten years, the forgotten decade under the failed leadership of Scott Morrison, the do-nothing Malcolm Turnbull and the hopeless Tony Abbott.

We must therefore call on all of our colleagues, both interstate and federally, to face the reality that climate change is here, and to avoid making it worse we need to keep coal and gas in the ground. To that end, earlier today I introduced a private member's bill to ban gas connections to new homes from 2025 as part of the Greens leadership in this place in taking action on this climate crisis.

Any ongoing fossil fuel extraction and burning would deny us the chance of a safe climate future. By advocating for this treaty, South Australia could join the ACT and be a pillar of a strong national and international approach to pursuing efforts to limit temperature increases to 1.5º above pre-industrial levels.

We have had some incentives, but we need more. We need incentives for sustainable transformation of the energy sector in our state but with that it is clear that we also need disincentives, the carrot and the stick, to deal with the consumption and the production of fossil fuels. The ongoing extraction of fossil fuels via coalmining and oil and gas extraction, including coal seam gas, shale gas, tight gas, shale oil and underground coal gasification, pose unacceptable risks to Australia's land, our water and our industries, such as agriculture, grazing and tourism.

We need to take this seriously. How long can we watch our communities be consumed by flames and floods at an ever-increasing rate? These disasters are not inevitable. We must demand a different path, one that embraces renewable energy sources and that allows our communities to live in harmony with ecosystems and thrive within the limits of our planet. After all, it is this planet that constrains us all. A fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty is the next logical step on such a pathway. I commend the motion.


Bill to Ban Gas Connections to New Homes Introduced

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Gas Act 1997. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill seeks to ban all new gas connections for new builds from 2025. We are taking this step because we are in the midst of a climate emergency in South Australia. The South Australian parliament has passed a climate emergency declaration and it is time for us to take action to transition away from dirty fossil fuels. Unless we keep global warming to below 1.5º, the IPCC claims that South Australia will see more hot days, declining rainfall, more drought and more dangerous fire conditions.

To meet climate targets we must reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and that includes natural gas. Gas is a non-renewable resource and we need to start transitioning to sources of energy that are not going to run out over time. Some argue that gas produces less emissions than coal and should be used as a transition fuel source, and it is true that gas is less emitting than coal, but if we power our electricity grid with renewables rather than coal, electricity is a far cleaner option. The Grattan Institute states:

The transition fuel argument should not distract from the fact that Australia, and the rest of the world, must consume less gas over time to reduce the effects of climate change.

Fifty-six per cent of South Australian homes are connected to gas. As a non-renewable resource, gas is going to increase in price as supply reduces. The Grattan Institute report indicated that gas prices will climb in the coming year, putting extra pressure on families who are locked into gas connections in their home.

Renewable energy is now seen as substantially cheaper to produce than natural gas, with prices continuing to fall; therefore, our best solution for household energy needs is to transition to solar and wind to reduce emissions rather than relying on gas and non-renewable fossil fuel. This bill starts the process by banning future connections from January 2025.

I understand that only 7 per cent of South Australians use gas for cooking, but many cooks and chefs have now publicly stated that they are turning to induction cooking, given it is superior in terms of precision and speed. I will have to take their word on that. I am not renowned for my cooking skills, but I have heard that the induction cooktop is a lot better.

I commend the Malinauskas government's commitment to green hydrogen as an alternative fuel source, but the reality is we are not yet in a position where we can pump green hydrogen through the existing gas network, so what we really need to be doing is banning gas connections for new builds. I do not intend to provide much further detail on this bill at this point because you will be hearing a bit from me over the next little while. With that, I conclude my remarks.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.

Better Conditions for SA Power Workers

6 July 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in support of the hundreds of SA power workers who are fighting for better pay and conditions. These workers have been at the forefront in responding to local disasters. After bushfires, they were some of the first people on the ground, getting power back to homes. They work around the clock after a storm to ensure that we can all access power. They are frontline, essential workers and we need to protect their rights.

South Australian power workers have been in a two-year negotiation with SA Power Networks and Enerven over their enterprise agreement. In that time, their wages have been frozen while the cost of living is soaring. Since early 2020, the power workers have been fighting against a reduction in conditions and a pay increase below the current rate of CPI. What we are seeing is a case of a private company putting its profits before the interests of its workers.

Last week's strike was a joint effort between the Australian Services Union, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union and Professionals Australia to rally against the proposed changes by their employer. This follows six months of industrial action taken by the unions. There have been over 20,000 hours of strike actions, with workers walking out of depots across the state daily. I want to commend the actions of the unions in their continued fight for the rights of working people, and I want to assure those unions and those workers that the Greens stand with them in this fight.

The joint group of unions have called for a 3.5 per cent wage increase each year over a three-year term, more secure employment, greater opportunities for women and better workloads for their employees. These are all fair and reasonable requests for this workforce. SA Power Networks and Enerven have proposed a two-tiered wage system that would adjust minimum wage rates for new employees to 80 per cent of current wages. This would undermine new employees, as their remuneration would be less than that of current employees.

As reported in The Advertiser last week, the CEPU SA Branch Secretary, John Adley, said, and I quote:

SA Power Workers are fighting to protect not just our own working conditions and job security, but we’re also standing up for the next generation of apprentices, and the future of our industry. It's only fair that workers doing the same job, should be paid the same.

The Greens agree. The company are proposing a wage rate rise of 3.5 per cent per annum, while CPI is currently sitting at 5.1 per cent, while they are also seeking to erode the conditions of power workers.

One of the clauses that SA Power networks have put forward is a forced labour clause. This clause takes away the autonomy of workers by forcing them to work outside of usual hours in emergency situations, under threat of disciplinary action. Having power workers on call at any time of the day or week, regardless of their roster, is unsustainable for those workers and it diminishes their work-life balance.

This is a matter of respect and of fair work conditions. Power workers are essential for running our state. Without fully functioning power, we are unable to function as a society. These workers need to be paid fairly with conditions that do not undermine their work-life balance. The CEPU tells us that Utilities Management has been testing legal principles, effectively aiming to use the judiciary to halt industrial action and reduce the rights of workers to stand up for themselves against corporate interests. Workers who participate in industrial action have been stood down, and this includes apprentices.

Yet again, what we are seeing is the disastrous effects of privatisation, where profits have been the priority in a key public service, with little care for the needs of workers on whom the service relies. I have spoken in this place before about the increased costs to consumers that flow from privatisation, but we also need to examine the effects of privatisation on these workers. If this is an example of how private essential services treat their workers, then it is a shameful situation.

Questions have been asked about who is paying for this protracted campaign against workers. Is it our power bills that are covering this campaign? Is it the power bills that are suffering while SA Power Networks and Enerven prioritise profits over negotiating a fair outcome for their workers? The Labor government has committed to deliver safer and fair workplaces. The Greens call on the Malinauskas government to uphold their opposition to privatisation by bringing SA Power Networks back into public hands and doing everything they can to protect the rights of these workers.