The clear lesson around the world is that the countries that do develop their energy resources, if they're lucky enough to have them, have cheap energy. We traditionally have had that advantage. On our side of politics, we believe in the development of our energy resources to make Australia a strong economy, to create jobs, to support our manufacturing industry and to help households keep power bills down too.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:18):
My question is to the Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Senator Canavan. Minister, Australia is blessed to have an abundance of resources available. Can the minister please advise the Senate how Australia's resources contribute to providing affordable, reliable energy?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:18):
I thank Senator Stoker for her question. She's absolutely right: we are blessed, as a country, to have abundant resources that can be converted into cheap energy for the Australian people. The clear lesson around the world is that the countries that do develop their energy resources, if they're lucky enough to have them, have cheap energy. We traditionally have had that advantage. On our side of politics, we believe in the development of our energy resources to make Australia a strong economy, to create jobs, to support our manufacturing industry and to help households keep power bills down too. We support a strong resources sector in this country, particularly the individuals across our country who mine our coal, extract our gas, help underpin our economic development and help underpin thousands of jobs—not just in the resources sector but also in the manufacturing sector; all of the sectors. That's what we believe and that's what we are passionate about doing and developing. Right now, across Australia, our coal resources account for 60 per cent of the electricity produced in Australia, and our gas resources contribute 20 per cent on average to our energy resources. So 80 per cent of our electricity comes from fossil fuels that are developed here in this country.
Unfortunately, the other side declared a war on cheap energy. They have declared war on these cheap energy resources because they don't want to see the coal extracted. We have their energy minister out there saying there's a 'coal delusion' across the economy. We have the opposition leader, Mr Shorten, saying that people who support the coal sector are 'knuckle-draggers'. I don't know if he said that in Central Queensland, but he says people who support coal are knuckle-draggers. Finally, we have some ray of hope here that some in the Labor Party have some common sense, because the member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, has come back from Japan and said that the private sector should consider the construction of coal-fired power stations here in Australia. She has seen what's happening overseas with our coal in Japan; it can produce cheap power. That's why we back the development of this sector, we back Australian jobs and we back Australian families having cheaper power prices.
Senator Stoker, a supplementary question.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:20):
Minister, how has the Liberal-National government taken action on gas prices?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:21):
As I said, our gas industry is very important for our electricity sector. It supports 20 per cent of electricity production in Australia. Last year, that was threatened by the export of gas to other countries. When we saw—in advice to us from AEMO—that there was a shortfall potentially emerging, we as a government took action. We met with the gas industry the week after that. We imposed a gas export control framework. Since then, gas prices—gas offers to the market—have fallen by more than 50 per cent. Gas prices have fallen by about one-quarter in spot markets because we've been able to return more gas to the domestic market. Recently, just in the last few weeks, the ACCC issued a report saying that LNG producers have become more active due to a combination of factors, including 'the commitment made to the Australian government in the October 2017 heads of agreement'. We are determined to bring down energy prices. We've done that by taking action in the gas sector.
Senator Stoker, a final supplementary question.
Senator STOKER (Queensland) (14:22):
Minister, what more can be done to take action on gas prices and to increase supply?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:22):
Well, in that same report that the ACCC released on gas markets in the last few weeks, they clearly pointed out one other point I made earlier in regard to Senator Stoker's question, which was that we need to develop our energy resources if we're going to bring down prices further. Further reductions in gas prices do require a supply of more gas coming onto the market. The ACCC said:
While conditions in the east coast gas market have eased considerably since the extremes reported in 2017, only action by governments and the gas industry to increase domestic gas supply can bring material price reductions into the future …
That is the clear advice to governments: those that want to bring energy prices down have to come on the journey of supporting the development of gas supply. We need more gas supply in southern Australia. That's why we need to get rid of these unscientific moratoriums and bans in states that are depriving Australians of their gas resources, that are pushing up power prices for all Australians and that will cost jobs unless action is taken.