January 23, 2021

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NSW upper house passes renewable electricity bill after rejecting One Nation amendments | New South Wales politics

New South Wales upper house MPs have finally passed renewable electricity legislation after a marathon parliamentary sitting in which almost 250 One Nation-proposed amendments were rejected.

The government upper house leader Damien Tudehope on Tuesday suspended the Legislative Council’s midnight adjournment to work through the 249 amendments to the electricity infrastructure investment bill.

The amendments were put forward by One Nation’s Mark Latham in an attempt to thwart the bill’s passage, which is supported by the Coalition government, Labor opposition and Greens.

Some 65 amendments had been addressed by about 7.30am on Wednesday and almost 130 amendments were addressed by 11.30am.

The amendments were all addressed and the bill read for a third time just before 6pm on Wednesday.

The premier, Gladys Berejiklian, had demanded upper house members pass the bill before the end of the year, which required them to soldier on and work through every one of Latham’s 249 amendments before parliament ends on Thursday.

The government argues its “Electricity Infrastructure Roadmap” will enable $32bn in private sector investment in energy by 2030 and bring 12 gigawatts of renewable energy and two gigawatts of storage online.

While the government says its plan will reduce annual power bills by $130, Latham believes prices will increase by up to $400.

The federal energy minister, Angus Taylor, said the NSW government’s priority should be reducing energy prices, not altering the energy mix.

He said he had spoken to NSW counterpart Matt Kean this week and voiced his concern the legislation could prompt the closure of coal-fired power stations.

“What we don’t want to see now is premature closure of coal-fired power stations or policies that are going to stop investment in new generators like gas generators that AGL and Energy Australia are proposing – so that has been a concern,” Taylor told 2GB radio on Wednesday.

“I’m confident we can work it through but there needs to be a relentless focus on what customers need which is affordable, reliable electricity.”

However, NSW deputy premier John Barilaro on Wednesday told reporters the policy had the full support of the government, opposition and the Greens.

“Mark Latham has his democratic right to put up amendments and go through the democratic process of the House, and we as the government and crossbench will debate those amendments,” he said.

The lower house will be recalled on Friday afternoon, after earlier breaking for the Christmas period, so that it can vote on the amended energy bill.

Richie Merzian, the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director, said the legislation would help turn NSW into a renewable energy superpower.

He said: “This renewable plan shows how cross-party climate policy can work, including for the benefit of workers and regional communities.

“If NSW wants to meet its net zero emissions by 2050 then it needs to take serious action in its most high-polluting sector, electricity. Today it delivered.”

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