I thank the Member for Swan for this motion.  

I too agree that Australia’s future should include a strong, diverse economy with greater opportunity and security for all. 

And I believe such a future should especially be realised in regional, rural and remote Australia.  

I support the aims of the programs in this motion, the National Reconstruction Fund, the updated Clean Energy Finance Corporation Investment Mandate and the Capacity Investment Scheme. 

Deputy Speaker, our environment and our economy need us to bring our industries into the future and realising the full potential of clean renewable energy is part of that. 

But as the renewable energy rollout continues at pace in regional Australia, I am concerned the prosperous future described by the Member for Swan is not being realised. 

Because at the end of the day these batteries, solar, wind and hyrdo will be build in the regions. 

In small farming towns across my electorate of Indi – like Dederang, Ruffy, Meadow Creek, Bobinawarrah – plans are being made for solar and battery energy systems.  

However at this moment these communities are feeling like the massive clean energy shift is happening to them, not with them. 

It’s important to remember that these farming communities have never seen energy infrastructure like this before. This is not the same as the communities phasing out of aging coal power stations and preparing for renewable energy generation.   

And Deputy Speaker, in this moment of change, my communities have legitimate questions about bushfire risk, biosecurity risk and insurance premiums.  

So, in response to these growing concerns, last year I took action and along with Senator David Pocock drafted Terms of Reference for an inquiry on community engagement on renewable energy infrastructure developments, undertaken by the former Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Professor Andrew Dyer. 

Professor Dyer’s Final Report confirmed what my communities have long been telling me.  

A survey undertaken by the review found 92% of respondents were dissatisfied with the extent of community engagement that project developers were undertaking. 

Professor Dyer found, and I quote, that ‘poor engagement practices experienced by landholders and community members have led to a material distrust of project developers’.  

He also found that ‘the transition cannot succeed without community participation and effective engagement over a long and sustained period of time’.  

This goes well beyond mere social licence to operate. It’s clear that if we are to realise a clean energy future in Australia, we have a massive hurdle in front of us.  

The Review recommended an independent developer rating scheme to provide transparency on developer track records. So if you’re a farmer and a company comes knocking on your door, you know if they are reputable.  

Professor Dyer said that Governments should only select developers for programs – like the Capacity Investment Scheme – that demonstrate best practice when it comes to community engagement.  

The Review also recommended that the Commonwealth Government has the responsibility to develop and execute a communications program that provides local communities with a clear narrative about the pragmatic reasons for energy transition.  

Landholders, like those in my electorate, shouldn’t have to rely on the information of companies who are ultimately seeking to make a profit to know what’s happening to them. An independent, accessible source of information is dearly lacking right now.  

The final recommendation of Professor Dyer I would like to draw attention to is perhaps the most important– that Governments must work with community groups to proactively identify opportunities for the broader community’s benefit, and take ownership of these opportunities. 

When we look back in ten, twenty, fifty years, regional and rural Australians should reflect on these multi-billion investments as the time when we developed our regions with well-built roads and bridges, world class housing, cheap and reliable electricity and secure and well-paid jobs.  

So, I call on this Government to take urgent action, including in the upcoming Budget.  

Deputy Speaker, we must legislate best practice for community engagement, we must fund trusted programs to communicate what clean energy is and we must forge pathways for communities to tangibly benefit from this energy. 

Without these reforms, this Government will fail to reach its goals for clean energy, for the environment and for the economy. But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

As an Independent, I stand ready to work with the Government on ensuring regional Australia realises the prosperous future it deserves.  

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