Senate debates

Monday, 9 December 2013


Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013; Second Reading

5:57 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Families and Payments) Share this | Hansard source

As I was saying earlier in my contribution to the debate on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013, Ms Broadbent and Mr Yates said that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation had lent $536 million, which had been matched by $1.5 billion in private investment. That is $2.2 billion in loans invested in clean energy, increasing energy efficiency for business and industry, renewable energy and lowering carbon emissions. These are loans that would otherwise be missed by normal commercial banks.

That is the role the CEFC plays. It facilitates investment in renewable energy. It is making money by doing so. It reduces pollution by doing so. It allows these new, ambitious renewable projects to get a foothold. As the shadow environment minister, Mark Butler, told the House of Representatives on 18 November, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is:

… a body making loans on commercial terms to help new, ambitious renewable projects get a foothold—projects like the Macarthur wind farm, the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere.

Do we want to see these sorts of schemes fall by the wayside? Do we want to see smart, environmentally intelligent businesses fall over or head overseas? They are making money. Why should this initiative stop? It defies logic. Many parties including the government, no less, are making money from the CEFC. There is no reason at all to disband it, especially when that would happen at a considerable cost to the taxpayer.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation should be allowed to continue to drive investment, reduce carbon pollution and boost the government's bottom line. The value of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation extends beyond carbon pricing. It impacts both our economy and our environment in a positive manner. Regardless of the other policies that the government seeks to implement, there is no valid argument that the CEFC should be disbanded—absolutely none. How then under those circumstances can senators and those in the other place vote to tear it down? They should not.

Is this a government that wants to shut down profitable government enterprises at a time when it bleats about a budget crisis? How can that be justified? It was reported in The Australian Financial Review that the projects that receive these loans already account for an annual reduction of 3.9 million tonnes of carbon emissions. The projects account for a net benefit to taxpayers of $2.40 a tonne. Mr Yates went on to say that the CEFC's actions were 'probably the lowest cost action' the government could get. So why spend more? Why destroy an entity that is achieving so much? Why take the hit to the budget bottom line?

Those opposite surely cannot argue that it should be solely driven by private lenders. The government must show leadership in this area. Many of those enterprises who have received the loan would not have under the traditional banking model as they would have been seen as too risky, too small, too unprecedented. Significantly, none have defaulted. Those businesses have been given the incentive to take their ideas and run with them. Surely the Carbon Energy Finance Corporation must be persisted with. To scrap it at a cost of up to $1.5 billion to the budget and then implement a direct action policy Mr Abbott wants to jam through makes no sense. All Direct Action does, as we know on this side of the chamber, is pay the polluters. Surely we should be lending money to those who are reducing pollution, not paying those big polluters who contribute to it. That is what those opposite want to do. They want to pay polluters by destroying initiatives that are reducing pollution.

The Australian Financial Review's political editor Laura Tingle sums it up perfectly in her 27 November column 'Numbers add up to keep Clean Energy Finance'. She writes:

Not only has the CEFC been a screaming success, making a positive return on taxpayers' funds, with virtually no exposure to concessional loans, its very existence only once again highlights the flaws in the Coalition's alternative Direct Action plan.

If this government is scrapping the CEFC simply because it proves how ineffective Direct Action is then they really do have a problem. Their problem is that they are stuck with a hopeless, anti-science policy that no one with any economic or environmental nous or clout will back. But Mr Abbott and his main advisers and ministers are too narrow minded, too bloody minded to listen to the experts. They know better than the leading scientists. They know better than the leading economists. It is a frightening attitude when dealing with an issue crucial to the future of Australia and the world. (Time expired)


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