State Electricity Commission Amendment Bill 2023

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It is a pleasure to rise and speak in favour of the State Electricity Commission Amendment Bill 2023, which is part of our legislative package to bring back the mighty SEC. There is so much work underway across government in this space as we work towards our accelerated net-zero and renewable energy targets. In fact just last sitting week in this place we voted to enshrine the boldest renewables targets in our state’s history – and I want to thank the Minister for Energy and Resources and Minister for Climate Action for all the work that she is doing in this space. We were lucky enough to sit down with her yesterday and go through what our plan is right up until 2035 and how we will accelerate that net zero and put more renewable energy into Victoria.

It is something that I have had concerns about. I studied atmospheric physics at uni, and was able to get a –

A member interjected.

John MULLAHY: Yes. There you go. And this was 20 years ago, when the science on climate change was fully understood and fully developed 30 years before that. So for 50 years we have understood the dangers of climate change and how we need to take action on this issue. So we are on this bold journey not because it feels nice or it is morally the right thing to do, which it absolutely is, we are on this journey because it presents huge opportunities for our great state, our economy, our environment and our people.

As a government we have a strong track record of delivery in this state. Since 2020 we have invested more than $3 billion into climate action and the renewables transition, and the results are already clear, with 38 per cent of electricity generated from renewables last year. We are well on track to meet and exceed our emissions reduction target of 40 per cent by 2025. This does not happen by accident, it happens when Labor governments take bold action, and the contrast could not be clearer with the Victorian Liberal Party, which all but banned wind farms when they were in government, and the Greens political party, which is talking a big game but has not delivered a single wind turbine or solar panel. Only Labor is serious about real climate action, and we are not holding back when it comes to decarbonising our economy.

Bringing back the SEC is an important piece of this puzzle. What started as a state entity to free Victoria from imported fuels back in 1918 transformed our economy and delivered quality stable jobs for thousands of Victorians – and I would like to give a shout-out to the member for Tarneit for his wonderful historical analysis of Sir John Monash and the SEC yesterday. That was until the Victorian Liberals came along and ripped it out of Victorians’ hands, creating a vacuum that was only exploited by multinational power companies. It is these energy companies that have made billions of dollars – $23 billion I believe – in profits on the back of Victorian families, and it is these companies that are now getting up and leaving as their ageing coal generators shut down. The Allan Labor government has drawn the line, because enough is enough.

In 1918 the SEC was created to support Victorians to shift from imported fuels, and in 2024 the SEC is back to support the next major shift – to renewables and a decarbonised economy. It is an enormous opportunity to drive significant renewables investment into Victoria, to protect our planet by driving down emissions and, most importantly, to create thousands of great, quality jobs for Victorians. That is something I want to focus on my contribution today, because the bill before us is more than just the proposed legal changes to bring back the SEC, it is a milestone for electrical workers in our great state, creating a bright future for thousands of Victorians, because the creation of the SEC is set to bring about the biggest boom in electrical trades work in a generation, building on the work underway on our existing pipeline of the Big Build projects.

I would like to thank the electricians that are working on the Metro Tunnel and the West Gate Tunnel and all those set to work on the North East Link and the Suburban Rail Loop East. I would also like to give a shout-out to all the members of the mighty Electrical Trades Union in my district of Glen Waverley and indeed across Victoria, who fought hard for this win for workers, because over the coming years as we continue to invest and build up the new SEC the Allan Labor government is set to create more than 59,000 jobs, including 6000 traineeships and apprenticeships.

At the start of my career I was a formworker in my dad’s small business. I knew how much it meant to have a stable pipeline of work, and I am beyond excited for all the sparkies and linespeople and renewables workers that are set to benefit from a stable career in the energy sector as the SEC grows in the years to come. There is a power of work already underway, with SEC Victoria Pty Ltd formally established and the strategic plan complete. The SEC is making its first investments of $245 million into the Melbourne renewable energy hub big battery, creating more than 155 jobs and 14 apprentice jobs and trainee roles. That is great news, and it is only the start, with more than a hundred registrations of interest received for our initial pioneer investment.

With such a massive pipeline of work it is important we invest in a pipeline of workers, and that is why the Allan government has just last weekend released a consultation paper for the Victorian energy jobs plan.

It is a guide to conversations with unions, TAFEs, industries and employers, including the SEC, about how we can deliver the workforce, the educational pathways and the local benefits and market confidence we need moving forward. I encourage all stakeholders to engage with this consultation paper and help shape the Victorian energy jobs plan we need for a brighter future. We are also working hard to set up the SEC centre for training excellence, with a power of work now underway, including engagement with industry and traditional owners on centre design and work on a detailed business case. With all this work happening we are set to begin implementation for the next year.

When put together, the SEC is not just going to be an investor, creator and retailer of renewable energy; it is going to deliver the largest scale change to the energy sector in modern Victorian history. That is absolutely a win for my community, keeping the lights on with cheap, sustainable Victorian renewable energy, all the while creating thousands of great union jobs. It is for all these great reasons that I am proud to be the member for Glen Waverley and a member of the mighty Electrical Trades Union, and I commend the bill to the house.

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