Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the SA Government has been left scrambling with their energy policy. (ABC News: Nick Harmsen)
The Prime Minister has delivered a fresh broadside at the South Australian Government over electricity, describing Premier Jay Weatherill’s pursuit of renewable energy projects policy as “ideology and idiocy in equal measure”.
Speaking at the state Liberal Party’s Annual General Meeting at the Adelaide Convention Centre, Malcolm Turnbull said South Australia had been subjected to an energy “experiment”.
“People should really conduct these experiments as dangerous as that privately somewhere in expert company, rather than inflicting it on a whole state,” he told party members.
“I’ve often said that Labor Party’s approach to energy is a combination of ideology and politics, whereas on the other hand, we as Liberals are focused on economics and engineering. But on reflection I think I’ve been too kind to them.
“It is actually ideology and idiocy in equal measures.
“If you want it to replace coal-fired power with lots of renewables, it would dawn on you, you would think, with a moment’s thought, that the sun doesn’t shine all the time. And the wind doesn’t blow all the time.
“This is not a revelation.”
Mr Turnbull said SA’s power was the least reliable in Australia because Mr Weatherill’s policy had made the state reliant on renewables, mostly wind, which often changed due to conditions and did not provide backup or storage.
“The response of the State Labor Government here has been a scramble, a battery here, a gas plant there, and now a fleet of diesel generators to try and cover the gap.”
SA’s battery isn’t the answer
Mr Turnbull ridiculed the South Australian Government’s $50 million investment in the world’s most powerful lithium ion battery, to be built by Tesla and Neoen in the state’s Mid North.
“What we are doing is not buying a battery at huge expense that would be helpful if you are 100 megawatts short for an hour, but not very helpful if you are, say 150 megawatt short for one hour, or two hours,” he said.
“What we are doing is putting in place the largest storage, pumped hydro storage in the Southern Hemisphere, Snowy Hydro 2.0.
“It will be able to deliver 2,000 megawatts of power not for an hour, not for an hour and a half, but for 7.5 weeks. That’s the scale of the vision and the planning that a Liberal Government puts in place when it talks about storage.”
The Prime Minister blamed soaring gas prices for recent hikes in electricity prices across the eastern seaboard.
But he made no mention of South Australian Liberal Party’s policy of a moratorium on fracking for natural gas in the state’s south-east.
PM, SA Liberals at odds on the Murray
Mr Turnbull also addressed allegations of water theft and meter tampering in the Murray Darling system, an issue that has caused consternation across political spectrum in South Australia.
Nick Harmsen’s tweet: Opposition Leader @marshall_steven uses SA Liberal AGM to make a plea for majority Liberal govt in 2018.
Liberal MPs in the South Australian Parliament have banded with Labor, Australian Conservatives, the Nick Xenophon Team and the Greens to call for a judicial inquiry into the allegations first aired on the ABC’s Four Corners program.
Mr Turnbull made no comment on that call during his speech, but said South Australians could have confidence in Assistant Water Minister, Riverland-based Senator Ann Ruston.
“Ann is making sure that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, in addition to the inquiries set up in New South Wales, thoroughly checks the compliance with water use and water regulation and management right across the basin,” he said.
“Because we have to make sure that every drop counts, and no water goes amiss or contrary to all of the regulation and rules we’ve set up over the years to ensure that water is used effectively.”
The absence of a commitment to a judicial inquiry left state Liberal leader Steven Marshall disappointed.
“From time to time we don’t agree with the position of the Liberal Party or the Coalition in Canberra,” he told reporters.
“Nothing short of a judicial inquiry will satisfy the people of this state.
“We feel very strongly about the Murray and we will do everything we can to protect the interest of all South Australians.”