Ms WENDY LINDSAY (East Hills) (15:29): My question is addressed to the Minister for Energy and Environment. Will the Minister update the House on how the Government is continuing to deliver lower energy bills for hardworking families and businesses across the State?
Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (15:29): To paraphrase the Prime Minister, how good is the member for East Hills? In fact, she is the best member for East Hills since the last one! She is doing an outstanding job in advocating for lower energy prices for the people of East Hills and New South Wales. The Government is focused on driving down energy prices across the State and it has taken powerful action to do that. In fact, we have already stripped $7 billion out of the energy networks in New South Wales as part of our network reform program that is all about ensuring those costs are not being passed on to households and businesses.
We also have the Empowering Homes Program that gives citizens and households the ability to access cheap, renewable energy through rebates for installing solar panels and battery systems on their homes. It is not only about cheaper power but also about cleaner power. The Government is doing a number of other things. We also have the Energy Switch program, which I can see Mr Speaker is very excited about. The Energy Switch program is all about empowering citizens to find the best deal to give them the best price on their energy bills, whether they use electricity or gas. That initiative driven by this Government gives households the opportunity to find the best deal that meets their needs. People who have signed up to the program have saved, on average, $400 per annum. I encourage every member who cares about driving down power prices in their communities to encourage their constituents to sign up to the Service NSW website, where they can find the best deal for them to start saving money today.
Those are just some of the proactive and positive changes the Government is delivering to drive down power prices in New South Wales. Many vulnerable people in this State are doing it tough at the moment, which is why we have a number of rebates to make their lives easier. We are delivering over $342 million back to vulnerable families and citizens through a number of rebates, including the NSW Gas Rebate and the Low Income Household Rebate. In July this year the Government introduced a new Seniors Energy Rebate that gives independent seniors in New South Wales $200 off their energy bills every year. That is a great win for our senior citizens. Can anyone believe that members opposite did not want the Seniors Energy Rebate to be delivered in this state?
Dr Geoff Lee: Unbelievable!
Mr MATT KEAN: I note the interjection of the member for Parramatta. He is outraged by this. Government members always stand up for our senior citizens. It is not just about delivering cheaper power but also about delivering more reliable energy to New South Wales, which is exactly why the Government has a plan to increase supply in this State. We understand it is important to increase new generation like wind and solar, but it needs to be backed by dispatchable energy. We will back gas and we will also look at other ways to deliver that. I know the member for Myall Lakes is keen to see more baseload power come into the system. We will work to deliver that in a technology-neutral manner. We will not demonise coal just for the sake of it. I say that for the record.
It is not just about delivering reliable power; it is also about delivering sustainable power in New South Wales. That is why we are looking to create new renewable energy zones in New South Wales to bring new energy into the system and create jobs in the regions. We are going to invest in ensuring that we deliver new generation capacity into our regions. We have identified three regions—in the south-west, the Central West and the New England area. The member for Northern Tablelands is very excited about clean, green energy coming into the grid and about new investment and new jobs being created. He is so excited by it. [Extension of time]
I am excited about our positive plan to deliver affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for the citizens of this State. The Government wants to make sure that heaters work when people turn them on this winter and that people's power bills are reasonable.
The SPEAKER: I call the member for Wollongong to order for the third time.
Mr MATT KEAN: We want to make sure that families know that their power source is not going to pollute the environment. The Government is focused on those objectives. A lot of people are excited about that. I am pleased that we have got a lot of good feedback from our stakeholders in the energy space. One key stakeholder in the energy portfolio who provided feedback was in fact a brave union whistleblower from the Electrical Trades Union [ETU]. His name is Mr Paul Lister—the communications manager at the ETU. His tweet last week said, "It is disappointing, to say the least, that the leader of the Opposition backed Ernest Wong over Mark Buttigieg for the New South Wales upper House prior to the last election." Prior to the last election—
Ms Kate Washington: Point of order—
The SPEAKER: The Clerk will stop the clock.
Ms Kate Washington: My point of order is taken under Standing Order 129. I do not understand why the clock has been stopped given that I am entitled to take a point of order on relevance when the Minister is being absolutely irrelevant to the question he was asked.
The SPEAKER: The Minister has been highly relevant for most of his answer. My consistent approach to most answers is to give some leeway. For the answer to the last question on a Thursday I give a bit more leeway. I will allow the Minister to continue for the last 30 seconds, given that he has been highly relevant during the rest of his answer.
Mr MATT KEAN: I am very interested to see that the Leader of the Opposition backed Ernest Wong—who will be a star witness at an upcoming inquiry—over poor old Mark Buttigieg, who is now in the upper House. The question must be asked: Why was that the case? Why did she back him after the media reported that Mr Wong had been unknowingly cultivated by Chinese intelligence operatives?
Ms Kate Washington: Point of order—
The SPEAKER: The Minister will resume his seat. I could not hear the last part of what the member for Port Stephens said, but I did hear her raise a point of order.
Ms Kate Washington: Mr Speaker, you probably did not hear the Minister because he continued to talk after you asked him to stop when a point of order was taken. The last time that happened, you put the Minister on a call.
The SPEAKER: I understand that. What is the member's point of order?
Ms Kate Washington: It continues to be under Standing Order 129. You say you are allowing some leniency, but the Minister is going way beyond anything that should be given any leniency.
Mr Ryan Park: Point of order: Three times today Ministers have refused to sit down after you have explicitly asked them to do so.
The SPEAKER: I have made it clear that when I give a member the call on a point of order the Minister should resume his seat. There are occasions when I have to say it a second time because the Minister is in the course of delivering a sentence. It is my judgement call as to whether or not they are ignoring me deliberately. The Minister has 15 seconds left to give his answer.
Mr MATT KEAN: Members on my side of the House are focused on delivering cheaper, reliable and sustainable energy for the citizens of this State. Members opposite have serious questions to answer about why they are supporting somebody who will be a key witness in an upcoming ICAC inquiry.