Senate debates

Monday, 25 June 2012

Bills

Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012; Second Reading

7:54 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

A motley crew, indeed.

Senator Polley interjecting—

I am grateful for the attention of the senators opposite. Let me just remind you: 6.1(a):

… Australia must tackle climate change and that reducing carbon pollution by 2020 will require a price on carbon. Therefore the Parties agree to form a well resourced Climate Change Committee which encompasses experts and representative ALP, Greens, independent and Coalition parliamentarians who are committed to tackling climate change and who acknowledge that reducing carbon pollution by 2020 will require a carbon price. The Committee will be resourced like a Cabinet Committee. The Parties will, by the end of September 2010, finalise the structure, membership and work plan of the Committee.

This document goes to all of five pages—a five-page political commitment worth $10 billion. There is a very hefty price and, dare I say it, the Greens should be congratulated on extracting such a handsome deal from a Labor government. As I said, it is not the Magna Carta but it has shamed our political landscape in this country.

If you look closely at the document it is also worth noting that it was not a one-way street when it came to political payments. The agreement also stated that Labor and the Greens are predisposed to a system of full public funding for elections. The September 2010 deal was grubby. I will not meander into my views about electoral funding of political parties, but to give a party like the Australian Greens a continuous and uninterrupted source of public moneys for their campaigns would be reprehensible.

As I said, the September 2010 deal was grubby. It was more about saving the political life of Labor and giving the Greens greater leverage over our policy direction, the direction of the government and now this parliament. So here we are this evening, with a demonstration of the political pulling power that is the Australian Greens over the Australian Labor Party and its position as the government.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012 realises the government's commitment to establishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, a $10 billion fund dedicated to investing in clean energy and mobilising investment in renewable energy, low-emission and energy-efficient technologies, all with the aim of allegedly supporting Australia's transition to a lower carbon economy. According to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation's website, its purpose is to overcome capital market barriers that hinder the financing, commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy, energy efficiency or low emission technologies. In plain English, what that means is that we are establishing a $10 billion corporation to finance projects that even the government concedes are not commercially viable. How on earth does that make sense in the year 2012? What we have, just a few days from the imposition of the carbon tax is a typical Labor-Greens idea, the throwing away of $10 billion worth of taxpayer money to get people to spend money on things that they do not want to buy. That is what this government is doing: spending $10 billion to try and subvert the market. It is utter madness dressed up as an environmental measure.

It is worth reflecting on some facts before I continue. It was revealed during estimates that a loss of 7.5 per cent on this venture has already been factored in by Treasury. That is $750 million ripped from Australia's hardworking taxpayers; just gone; disappeared. Worse still, knowing this government's form when it comes to waste, $750 million is probably a very conservative estimate. And I will come to the very poor tale of success when it comes to this government's renewable energy programs.

The real paradox here, however, is that we have been told for almost 18 months that the reason we need a carbon tax is to make investment in renewable energy more attractive. Yet at the same time we are introducing the world's biggest carbon tax we are also setting up a $10 billion fund to attract new players in renewable energy. If the carbon tax was going to work as the government would have us believe then presumably the market would attract people to renewables as they sought to avoid paying the carbon tax. The creation of a $10 billion fund makes it pretty clear to me at least, and I am sure to others, that this government has no confidence whatsoever that its carbon tax is going to lead to the outcomes it claims. They have to set up a massive slush fund to placate the Greens and try to get the outcome another way.

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