Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Second Reading
As you well know, Senator Birmingham, private sector industries such as energy, telecommunications or anything else are supported by the taxpayer. The taxpayer, in the public interest, created the coal-fired power stations that got the disparate colonies of the Australian Commonwealth on their feet a hundred years ago, before the Commonwealth even existed. More recently—taking the Western Australian example—getting the gas industry on its feet in the 1980s took huge public investment in the Dampier to Bunbury Natural Gas Pipeline. These are massive subsidies for industries in the public interest to broaden the energy sector and to reduce our reliance on coal-fired power. Taxpayer-funded investment in new industries is how they get on their feet when they are not mature. That is why you have a feed-in tariff for industries that are expensive, like solar PV. It props them up, and, as they become commercial, you withdraw the subsidies. That is how the German government, through the German Greens in the German parliament, got the German PV industry on its feet. Now it employs hundreds of thousands of people. It then took the Chinese government, also using strategic public funding, to get economies of scale and now we see solar at grid parity even in countries like Australia.
Under this government, Australia is not open for business. How you create and set up industries such as baseload renewable energy industries—the next generation of technologies coming down the line—is with public support and public assistance. What better way to do it than with a clean energy investment arm—people who understand the particularities of the technology and the risk; people with substantial private sector experience, taking advantage of the low borrowing cost of the Commonwealth, leveraging three dollars for every one they spend and returning a small return to the taxpayer? That, I should say, is what then tops up the ARENA grants funding for research and development. You have people—the start-ups, the innovators, the people taking risks—who need assistance to get on their feet. That is what ARENA does. If you knock over the CEFC, you knock over the mechanism that helps finance ARENA and get things on their feet.
We should also acknowledge that Tony Abbott does not go around talking about climate change as though it is crap anymore, does he? His minders have got to him and said, 'You can't actually call climate change crap. You have to pretend to care. You have to pretend to have a policy, just to sideline it, just to get it out of the way—to get it off the front page and, therefore—