Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Second Reading
Were you at those rallies, Senator Birmingham, with 'ditch the witch', 'axe the tax', the people's revolt and the pitchforks? I am not sure that you were. Senator Birmingham, you are one of the people who I hold in quite high regard on that side of the chamber because I know that you get climate change and renewable energy. I have no idea how you can show your face in here as we contemplate the dismantling of an entity that makes money for the taxpayer while reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs. How on earth do you people sleep at night?
As I said, we know the mentality. What kind of government would do this? A government like that of Premier Barnett in Western Australia. This is a government that is spending upwards of $330 million to resurrect the obsolete and defunct Muja coal-fired power station in Collie. What could you do with $330 million? Why not pump it into a coal-fired power station that our energy grid does not even need? The government unsuccessfully tried to kill off a feed-in tariff into solar voltaics and had to suffer a humiliating backdown when the huge number of people in Western Australia who have installed home PV marched on parliament and demanded that the government uphold its obligations and its contracts.
This is a premier who presides over the Synergy, the energy retailer that passed on the carbon tax to customers in full. People like me, who avail ourselves of the 100 per cent renewable energy product, got a polite letter from Synergy saying, 'We will be passing on the carbon tax in full; there is nothing you can do about it; you might like to consider withdrawing from the 100 per cent clean energy contract that you have.' That is the solution that they proposed. At Western Power, all 100 staff in the smart grid division have been cut and all sustainability staff, science educators and outreach staff are being pulled out. There are only two people left in the state bureaucracy with expertise over matters of climate change. They say it is federal issue at the same time as opposing any federal action. That is the template.
My colleague from Queensland, Senator Waters, no doubt has similar experiences inside the Queensland bureaucracy as anybody with the word 'climate' or 'energy' on their business card is washed out the door after the election. It is systematic and deliberate destruction of expertise within the public sector while you go about crippling private sector activity at the same time. I cannot think of any other explanation. You are not attacking the renewable energy industry because it cannot do the job; you are attacking it because it is doing the job a little too well. If there is another explanation, I would be fascinated to hear it. Just at the point that we are seeing the overtaking of investment in fossil and long-dead investment in nuclear power by investment in renewable energy in global energy markets, along you come to kick the hell out of an entity that is getting the job done here in Australia.