Monday, 14 July 2014
Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014; Consideration in Detail
History will condemn this government; and I feel extraordinarily proud to have voted to keep the world-leading price on pollution that we have. I rise to speak on the Greens amendments to the Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Amendment Bill 2014. Much of the debate so far on this bill and related bills has centred around the price on pollution, but there is one other aspect to this bill that deserves attention. ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, is doing amazing work. If you ever wanted an example of 'direct action' in practice, it is ARENA.
ARENA is an organisation that was established at the Greens' request, under the previous arrangement reached with the Labor government, to ensure that $3 billion would be put aside to develop renewable energy in this country, especially that early-stage research. That agency now exists—at arm's length from a minister, so it cannot be politicised—and it is driving solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy in Australia. Of the initial $3-billion budget, $1.8 billion will be lost if this bill goes ahead—that is, $717 million over the next three years. Where is that money being spent? What are the kinds of things that ARENA is doing which will be at risk if the amendments I have moved to this bill are not passed? Well, just recently, researchers in New South Wales found a way to heat steam, using solar, to a point where that steam was able to drive turbines. What does that mean? It means that, if this technology is able to be proven and commercialised, existing coal-fired power stations could be run by solar—the existing turbines in those stations could be powered by steam produced by the sun. That is just one of ARENA's projects. There are 64 solar projects going on around the country: 14 bioenergy, 19 hybrid projects, six ocean and wave projects, and six geothermal projects—all being supported by ARENA.
Seventy per cent of ARENA funding has gone to regional and rural Australia. Members opposite who represent those regional and rural electorates where this money is going—and driving the shift to renewable energy, and actually making a difference—are about to cut $1.8 billion from their communities.
What ARENA is doing is the first stage in the chain: helping research into renewable technologies—things like storage, geothermal and solar— so that Australia can become a renewable energy world leader. And then, when those projects are proven to work, some of those projects can then go and get funding from the second stage—the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. What we have at the moment is, in fact, an ecosystem that supports the development and then the commercialisation of clean and renewable energies in this country. Whatever your ideological commitment to repealing the carbon tax—or however you want to put it—I do not think that people knew, at the election, that they were voting for ripping out $1.8 billion from solar and geothermal energy around this country. That is not what they voted for. That was not put up in lights in the coalition's policy.
Whatever one thinks about the other matters before us here today, I urge the House to support the amendments that will restore the funding to ARENA. We know now, because of a decision made by senators in the other place, that ARENA is going to stay. The government's efforts to repeal and abolish ARENA through separate legislation will not work. Given that ARENA is going to stay, we now need to give it back the funding that it was relying on—so that solar, geothermal and wave power in Australia can become world-leading.
I have had the privilege of meeting a number of people in the course of my time here. One of them was the climate adviser to the G8, and to Angela Merkel, who said: 'We Germans look at you Australians, and we cannot understand, with all your sun and your wind and your waves, why you are not leading the world in renewable energy.' Well, keep ARENA—and maybe we can.