21st February 2024 16:24
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan) (16:23): 

I would like to firstly thank Mr Davis and the opposition for bringing this motion before the chamber. I would also like to at the outset acknowledge the more than 500,000 Victorians who were affected by the power outages and also the amazing first responders who stepped up as always to support their communities. I am sure everyone in this place has a similar high regard for the work that those people undertake for little or no pay and under the most difficult and challenging circumstances.

Mr Davis in his motion has raised some important issues with regard to the rights of Victorians to have confidence that they have a secure, reliable energy system. I do not think anyone in this place would deny that that is a critical consideration. It is a part of our lives. We take it for granted, and when incidents like this occur it shakes us all, doesn’t it, because suddenly it is not there.

If there is this event that has occurred, there is a major question as to why and how the system failed and adversely affected so many Victorians. There is also a second question of at least the same or greater importance, and that is how this is to be avoided in the future. Mr Davis’s motion – and excuse me for paraphrasing here, Mr Davis – has broadly four elements:

how reliable the system is, what happened on 13 February, the cost of developing a more sustainable electricity system and the role of new technologies and evolving power generation and maintenance systems into the future. The proposal is that this inquiry that is being put forward by the opposition would occur over the period to June 2025, about 16 months away.

Now, these are all important questions, there are no two ways about it, but the issue that we on the crossbench have been considering is how these and also important broader questions are best addressed, and addressed in a timely manner. I would like to personally express my appreciation to Mr Davis and also to Ms Crozier for the very courteous and professional discussion that we had in considering this very question.

The question we ask ourselves then as crossbenchers is: is this actually the best way to deal with the issues facing the Victorian community?

Juxtaposed to those conversations we have also had discussions with the government, and I would like to express our appreciation to Minister D’Ambrosio and her staff for their likewise courteous and professional approach to addressing these issues. Arising from those discussions with the government

we effectively have a two-staged approach, and this has been canvassed by Mr Galea and Ms Watt. Firstly, there will be an independent expert inquiry, with agreed terms of reference and agreed membership, into what actually happened and why, because I think that is a really big question that every Victorian would like answered, and they would like it answered not by people like us. They want it answered by people who know what it means, who are steeped in the industry, who understand the engineering and who understand the realities of the generation system and the distribution system.

From our discussions with the minister there is a recognition that this report will take quite a long time to do. It will take at least 12 months I believe, but – and I think this is really important – the government has committed to the production of an interim report that addresses those most urgent questions within six months. And that six months is very important for those of us who are committed to another process that is underway, and that is, as Dr 

Mansfield alluded to, the inquiry into climate change resilience and adaptation.

All Victorians I think know the climate is changing, yes? We are beyond the point where we ask: is it going to happen? The question is: how much of it is going to happen, what is it going to mean and how are we going to respond to it?

Mr Galea referred to the events that happened at places like Anakie, and I am sure anyone who saw those six high-tension towers that were snapped as though by an act of God thought this was the product of a freak meteorological event. It was a freak event, but it was also a freak event that is going to become more and more common.

We are also going to have a whole lot of other things to deal with, like increasing temperatures, increasingly unreliable precipitation and rising flood levels. So if as a state we are to respond strategically and responsibly to those changes, then we also need to have an inquiry that does not simply focus on the events and the outworkings and specifically the power industry, because the power industry is one subset industry within a broader context that all Victorians want to know about.

How are we going to adapt to climate change? How are we going to make our state more resilient? How do we keep the lights on? How do we feed our community? These are big issues, and it requires a broad perspective for them to be addressed.

In that sense the inquiry into resilience and adaptation that will be commencing in a few months time, in the middle of the year, will be informed by other works.

The first one I have already alluded to, which is the independent expert panel looking at the causes of and the response to the power outages. The second one is the Council Environment and Planning Committee, which has spent a long time looking at the response to and the causes of the 2022 flood event, which affected Victorians across the state. That committee has heard really heart-rending stories of disadvantage arising from those floods.

We need to, as a Parliament and as a community, be thinking through these big issues. The inquiry that will kick off in June into resilience and adaptation will be informed by the technical analysis of the power industry and it will also be informed by the findings of the flood inquiry, and it will hope to engage a broad cross-section of the community to consider these issues.

I guess the other thing that is really critical is that it will do it in roughly the same time frame as the proposal from the opposition.

We would like a more comprehensive and a bigger picture that meets the needs of all Victorians to be our focus. So in that context and after a lot of discussion and careful deliberation, Legalise Cannabis Victoria will not be supporting the opposition’s motion.


Similar Posts