Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail
I move the amendment circulated in my name:
(1) Schedule 5, page 18 (lines 1 to 7), omit the Schedule.
The amendment does a very simple thing. It removes from this bill the cuts to ARENA, full stop. As we know, there are over a billion dollars of cuts to ARENA proposed in this bill. We anticipate that there are going to be some subsequent amendments moved to confirm that there will be over half a billion dollars in cuts to ARENA in this bill. If we are talking about half a billion dollars then the question is: can this chamber and this parliament find a better place to raise half a billion dollars than by cutting renewable energy?
We know that the Australian Renewable Energy Agency has the support of the renewable energy industry, but even more importantly it has the support of companies that run coal-fired power stations, like AGL, and it has the support of multinational companies like GE. They have all said and pleaded with this government and with the Labor Party, 'Please don't kill ARENA.' We now have the opportunity to say, 'Let's work together to find a better place to raise half a billion dollars.'
I think it is not beyond the wit of Labor, Liberal and the Greens to find, for example, a way of winding back superannuation tax concessions to raise half a billion dollars. All sides of this parliament have said that superannuation tax concessions are too generous and need to be wound back. We know that it costs around $30 billion a year—this is what Treasury tells us—to prop up the super system. Everyone has said there is a need for some reform. Okay. So let's give ARENA a stay of execution and instead work together to find half a billion dollars from superannuation. I bet we could do it.
There are plenty of other places that we could find half a billion dollars from as well. We could wind back some of the tax breaks that we give to large mining companies. We could wind back some of the tax breaks that we give to the banks. These measures might have the agreement across the parliament; they might not. But there has to be—I am convinced of it—a better way of finding half a billion dollars than by taking it from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
We heard some statements during the second reading debate that ARENA had been saved. Well, now is the chance to do it. No-one is holding a gun to Labor's head and saying they have to cut ARENA's funding by half a billion dollars. No-one is holding a gun to Labor's head and saying they have to cut clean energy to help balance the budget. No-one is forcing them to do this. I say to the opposition: please support us on this amendment and we can find other ways when it gets to the Senate of making up the difference. Please support us on this amendment because this is a chance to save the Renewable Energy Agency.
I say to the opposition: you found other areas on which you were prepared to stand up to the government and say, 'No go.' And I am glad that you did that, because some of those areas were things that we had previously worked on together, like dental—although, as the member for Denison says, we still do not know what is going to come out of that; it might still be on the chopping block if this deal is any indication of what is in store for us. But if you could say no on some things then say no on this. Say 'No', Labor, to cutting half a billion dollars out of renewable energy. Find that spine that you found on the other measures for renewable energy, because this is critically important.
I say to Labor: please support us on this amendment. And I say to the government: please support this amendment and give ARENA its full funding back and let's work together to find other ways to raise that half a billion dollars, because in the context of the overall budget that is a very doable ask. If Labor and Liberal are really saying that the only way we can repair the budget is by taking money out of renewable energy then they are not looking hard enough, because we can point to billions and billions of dollars in tax concessions going to the top end of town. It would be much better to take the money off those who can afford it rather than taking it out of renewable energy. I commend this amendment to the House.