Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Second Reading
I rise to oppose this bill in the strongest possible terms. That we are even here debating this bill is an indictment on this government, a government that seems to take perverse pride in its destructive attitude to the renewable energy industry and anything else that might prevent our slide towards climate chaos. What kind of government brings forward as its first act, its highest priority, the dismantling of a functioning carbon price scheme? What kind of government lines up every political and legal weapon that it can muster to attack the Australian clean energy sector? What kind of government takes stock of the collective years of experience of the public sector, bolstered with the kind of private sector expertise that we see within the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and immediately embarks on a process of mass sackings and redundancies? Well, the same kind of government that we see in Western Australia and in Queensland. We know who has set the template: people like Colin Barnett and Campbell Newman, a yawning vacuum of imagination, yesterday's men who have somehow deluded themselves into thinking that something as powerful and dangerous as the global climate system can be subordinated for momentary political advantage.
So this is the finest hour of the Abbott regime and is arguably your entire reason for being. Yours is a government that was defined from opposition almost entirely as negative space, an opposition defined by the absence of anything approaching an agenda apart from dismantling the achievements of the last two parliaments. So this is your big moment. This is the moment where you propose to dismantle the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will cost the budget something in the order of $200 million a year and crash the renewable energy sector in Australia just as it is finding its strength. What I do not understand is why all of you on that side of the chamber are suddenly looking so shaky. All the bluster has gone out of you. The Liberals put up one speaker yesterday, Senator Abetz, who quickly ran through the same tired talking points that he has been reciting for three years and then sat down. The rest of the Liberal Party have stayed in their offices and the Nationals have not showed up at all at your moment of triumph, and that is what I am struggling to understand.
Who remembers Tony Abbott's people's revolt? Does anybody remember that? It was the anti-environment movement that was meant to rise up. I can remember some revolting placards and a handful of desperately overhyped rallies that ran out of puff after a couple of weeks once Alan Jones's attention started to wander, but that was it. The people's revolt—the people rising up against the socialist renewable energy industry and the carbon price—actually never happened.
In one year, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has already achieved nearly four million tonnes of carbon emissions abatement—more than half of our annual target. For all of the strange financial illiteracy on display on the other side—people calling it a hedge fund or Bob Brown's bank—this is not a grants organisation and this is not writing out cheques that the Commonwealth does not get back. It is making money for the taxpayer of approximately $2.40 for every tonne of carbon abated. Who knew that you could actually make a financial return to the taxpayer at the same time as eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs in the sunrise industries of the 21st century? It is generating a 7.3 per cent return on investment, which is nearly four per cent above the standard government bond rate. It is an entity that is filling the budget vacuum that has been left by your proposals to abolish the carbon price and the mining tax and it attracts just under $3 from the private sector for every dollar that it invests.
How awkward for you to discover in a committee hearing that this entity that you propose to wreck is actually making a financial return to the taxpayer. How exactly does that square with your budget emergency and your desperation to attack the Public Service, cut education spending, cut health spending and abolish public transport funding because you are in such a desperate budget emergency? Yet, at the same time, you line up to kick apart an entity that is making, and intends to make, a $200 million return on the taxpayers' investment. How awkward for you. How interesting that Senator Abetz in his contribution yesterday, before he scurried back to his office, did not mention the words 'Clean Energy Finance Corporation'. He ran through the three-word slogans and then he went home. He did not mention that the premise of the bill is to attack and dismantle this entity that is already doing so much to show how we can actually take control of our greenhouse gas emissions.
The CEFC, as others have noted, is one of 14 co-financing institutions around the world that are catalysing and creating huge investment in renewable energy. Bloomberg New Energy Finance believe the investment in one year is upwards of $58 billion in renewable energy and $109 billion in energy efficiency globally. At last we have the Australian parliament and the Australian government doing its bit. As the empty government benches show, maybe you are not quite as proud of this as you might have displayed during the people's revolt.