Standing up for Canberra

Australia's energy security must be addressed

I commend the former speaker on his contribution and also the contribution that was made by my colleague, who is in the chamber with me today, the member for Eden-Monaro. I know that the member for Eden-Monaro has been very, very concerned about energy security in Australia for a very long time. He worked on it when he was serving our nation in the Australian Defence Force, and it's an issue that he's been raising ever since he has been a member of parliament.

The member for Eden-Monaro is greatly concerned about the fact that Australia's national security could potentially be compromised by our lack of energy security, which is why he's been pursuing so rigorously alternative options to secure energy here in Australia, to secure our nation, particularly in the biofuel area. There's a lot of innovation in this area in Australia, particularly in this region, the capital region. I think that it's an area of energy that we need to be taking a closer look at. I commend the work that the member for Eden-Monaro has been doing in pursuing policies on that, pursuing innovation ideas on that and pursuing options for the future, so that we can ensure that Australia, as an island nation, as was pointed out by the previous speaker, can have the energy security of the future to ensure our national security. It's national security and military 101 that you have to have energy security to ensure a secure environment. You have to have food security and energy security. It is absolutely vital. We know that liquid fuel is the lifeblood for industrialised nations in the absence of any other form of energy source. We rely on liquid fuel to support the industries that underpin our economy as well as the Defence Force that protects our national interest.

Australia's defence strategy has primarily focused outwards—the force projection, the need to protect our interests from external threat—which has meant our strength to patrol, monitor and surveil has been in our Navy and our Air Force. Our naval history started with the passing of the Colonial Naval Defence Act of 1865, which gave Australian colonies power to officially acquire warships and to raise and maintain seamen to serve in these vessels. A year later, Victoria took the lead on naval defence and applied to the British government for assistance in establishing a naval force under the provisions in the 1865 act. The request was agreed to, and the Victorian colony was awarded a grant of 100,000 pounds towards the cost of a monitor turret ship and an old wooden man-of-war named Nelson. Construction began in 1867 near Newcastle, in England, and the ship was completed two years later, commissioned as Her Majesty's Victorian Ship Cerberus, named after the three-headed dog which, in Greek and Roman mythology, guarded the gates to the underworld. How fantastic is that image—a three-headed dog guarding the gates of the underworld! On Sunday, 9 April 1871, having spent 123 days at sea, Cerberusfinally arrived in Port Phillip Bay, with the arrival noted in the Melbourne Age:

As she came up she excited the greatest possible interest. As might be expected, she was not regarded as a handsome ship by any means. She appeared, as in great measure she is, a huge, long, square box, cut down straight at both ends, and surmounted by stunted masts, the tops of her turrets and her funnel.

I think there was a kind of mixed enthusiasm for the arrival of the ship! But the arrival of the Cerberus to the Victorian colony meant that the colony briefly possessed the most powerful warship on the Australasian station, which was the Australian naval command responsible for the waters around Australia. For over half a century, Cerberus was a regular sight at Williamstown and in Port Phillip Bay, where she spent her commission. In 1924 she was sold to a scrap company, where she was stripped of useful fittings and valuable metals, and in 1926 the hull was purchased by the Sandringham municipal council, filled with concrete and towed across Port Phillip Bay to be sunk at Black Rock, where she remains as a breakwater.

I was fortunate enough to recently visit the naval base down at Balnarring, in Victoria, named after Her Majesty's Victorian Ship Cerberus, which the Navy has operated out of since 1920. The base was commissioned in 1914. While I was at HMAS Cerberus, I was able to see the connection to Canberra, with some of the stunning buildings that house the mess and the CO's offices to this day. It's a very special site. The beauty about HMAS Cerberus is that the community can get access to it, because the local Anglican church and the local Catholic church are there, and on Sundays people can go and attend mass. The general community has access to the base every Sunday. It is a stunning base, probably one of the most stunning bases I have seen in the suite of the Australian Defence Force estate, which is vast, rich in history and extends throughout the country. But HMAS Cerberus would have to be one of the most impressive bases I've seen. As I said, it has a beautiful mess building, which was designed by John Smith Murdoch, who designed our Old Parliament House here, just down the road. HMAS Cerberus doesn't quite have the wedding cake that we have down the road, but you can see the connection with the design features there, particularly in Murdoch's obvious love of wood panelling. The mess is a stunning building. Quite tragically, it was extended in the 1960s. There was no architectural integrity in the extension, and it has, in my view, defaced that mess building at HMAS Cerberus. But I understand work is being done to fix that up so that it can be restored to its past glory. It is a very, very lovely base. I say to all Australians: if you have the opportunity to get there, either through open days or through worship on Sundays with the Anglican Church or the Catholic Church, then do take that opportunity. It's a very, very special place.

Murdoch's master plan for HMAS Cerberus was reminiscent of the military style of architecture developed for training establishments in Great Britain. He created this through open areas and building forms that instilled hierarchy, routine and unity. It was pleasing to see that Defence noted in its Cerberus redevelopment submission that any new developments will take into account the historical elements that Murdoch instilled into the buildings. The orientation of the proposed new buildings will also be consistent with the design principles first implemented by John Smith Murdoch and include axial and symmetrical emphases, the orientation of buildings to face the parade ground, as well as sympathetic use of scale and massing.

HMAS Cerberus is one of the leading training institutes for Navy personnel in Australia. The base has a permanent workforce of about 980 people with about 6,000 training places each year and over 300 courses, ranging in duration from one week to one year, with an average of 1,100 trainees at any one time throughout the year. It's a hive of activity in terms of young Navy trainees going through a range of courses in that facility. When I was down there recently getting a briefing on the PFAS contamination issue, I had the great pleasure of visiting the fire training facility. I understand this training facility is the only one of its kind in Australia in Navy. They have quite an impressive set-up there. The young trainees who are coming through, to go on to great and interesting careers in Navy, are put through their paces—and I'm glad it's them, not me!—and they get the chance to put out fires, be they fires from liquid fuels or other inflammables. For example, they have to put out fires in a very tiny area that has been flooded. Not only do they have the challenge of water streaming in and knocking them off their feet, but they are also in quite a confined space and, of course, they are also wearing very heavy protective safety gear. These young trainees managed to put the fire out without in any way getting affected—I take my hat off to them, because it would be a challenging environment for anyone. Well done to all those trainees who were put through their paces in that training. Well done also to the people who were training them. Speaking to those trainers, I know that they were very proud of the work they did. Some of them had been doing it for a very long time and had seen thousands of Navy trainees come through their school. I take my hat off to them as well, and I thank them for their contribution to training our future Australian Defence Force.

I'd also like to thank Commander Matthew Hoffman and those we met during the visit to HMAS Cerberus. I have a very strong interest in architecture, particularly architecture that has a connection with Canberra, as it does at HMAS Cerberus, and he not only gave us a tour of the beautiful architecture but also a really comprehensive briefing on the PFAS contamination issue there, as well as on some of the other challenges that the base is experiencing at the moment. He also gave us a broad overview of the great work they do in training young Navy personnel.

One of the main purposes of this legislation we are discussing today is a plan to return to compliance. I'm quoting there because I know that my colleague, the member for Eden-Monaro, has some concerns about the achievement of that aspiration, with our obligations as a member of the International Energy Agency. As part of the agreement under the international energy program, it requires members to hold stocks equal to 90 days of the previous year's oil imports. Australia has not maintained its side of the agreement since 2012. I am acutely aware of it, because of the many conversations with the member for Eden-Monaro about the fact that this has been actually allowed to happen. The fact is that people have dropped the ball on. How has this been allowed to happen in an island nation that looks outwards? We need our energy security for our nation's security. It is vitally important, which is why I endorse the member for Eden-Monaro's concern about this and the fact that he has had an ongoing concern about it. He is the reason I'm talking about this issue today, because he has been in my ear for a very long time on this issue. So I thought I owed it to him to get up and speak on this bill.

Part of this plan to 'return to compliance'—I say that in quotation marks—is the purchase of 400 kilotonnes worth of oil stock tickets in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years. Australia's non-compliance has been attributed to decreases in domestic oil production and increases in fuel consumption. In 2014, an NRMA-commissioned report on the nation's liquid fuel security showed that Australia's liquid fuel stocks were heading towards 100 per cent dependence on imported liquid fuel and oil for transport, hence the member for Eden-Monaro's concern. With Australia becoming ever more reliant on oil imports, it has a chain reaction on many industries including Defence. An article in Australian Defence Magazine in 2015 noted the combined cost of Defence's liquid fuels is already the second biggest component of the sustainment budget, and, overall, Defence's energy profile is heading in a direction that is strategically unsustainable over the medium to long term.

As I noted before, Australia has been non-compliant as part of its agreement under the international energy program since 2012, meaning this government has had four years to address this issue and has failed to do so. We welcome this legislation, but we cannot take our eye off the ball on this. This is just a return to compliance, an aspiration. We cannot take our eye off this. We need to ensure that Australia's national security is assured through energy security, which is why we need to keep our eyes on this issue. We need to hold the government to account on this issue, and, as the member for Eden-Monaro has pointed out time and again, we need to start looking at alternative energy sources so that we can ensure we have our energy security and, through it, our national security.