Senate debates

Monday, 9 December 2013


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

1:46 pm

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

I rise to also speak on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013. This bill cannot be supported. There is not a logical reason to tear down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. Labor support terminating the carbon tax but we do not support doing nothing. There is no reason to get rid of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, no matter how the other pieces of legislation proceed, and the Labor opposition will not support the abolition of the Climate Change Authority.

The coalition government is trying to abolish a profitable entity simply because it is hell-bent on removing any trace of positive policy relating to tackling climate change. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is making a profit, as you have heard, Madam Acting Deputy President, from the many contributions from this side of the chamber. The corporation is making a profit, reducing emissions and helping to invest in Australia business as we transition to a low carbon economy.

So why is the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, along with those opposite, so determined to get rid of it? Is it because the Clean Energy Finance Corporation was a Labor idea—a petty-minded approach so typical of this new government? As you have heard, Madam Acting Deputy President, from the many contributions that have been given on this bill, we on this side believe that this is a typically petty-minded approach of the government to remove what is a profitable corporation. The Prime Minister, Mr Abbott, has himself so worked up about scrapping the carbon tax that he is ready to scrap a market based mechanism and replace it with taxpayers' money to pay grants to the big polluters to reduce their emissions. That flies in the face of the Liberal Party values: don't let the market dictate matters; leave it in the hands of the government. Mr Abbott's policy removes the legal cap on pollution and allows the big polluters open slather. Instead of polluters paying, Mr Abbott is setting up a slush fund of billions of taxpayers' dollars to hand to polluters. Experts agree this will cost households more while failing to cut pollution. That is in stark contrast to the opinions of the many experts that have given a view on the government's direct action policy. In contrast, the CEFC lends money for both renewable and clean energy technology investments and is set to fund emissions reductions at a negative cost to government. It is turning a profit. The government's alternative plan for an emissions reduction fund will consume billions from consolidated revenue. But Mr Abbott and those opposite are so determined to follow through on their three-word slogan that they are willing to turn their back on the very principles of their own party.

Here we have an entity facilitating loans to clean energy technology aimed at increasing power efficiency for businesses and industry. This, in turn, has been reducing carbon emissions and developing valuable renewable energy technologies. We should be lending this money to those who are reducing pollution, not paying money to those contributing to it, as the Prime Minister wants to under his Direct Action Plan. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is ticking all the boxes. It is making money for the government and is helping to reduce Australia's carbon footprint. Why won't this coalition government—Mr Abbott and those opposite—listen to reason? Why won't they listen to the Chair of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, who has pressed the government hard to spare the corporation from Mr Abbott's savage cuts? The corporation's chair is Jillian Broadbent. She told the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee on Tuesday, 26 November, that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is making money for taxpayers and that if it were to continue would account for half of Australia's 2020 emissions target at no cost—half of that bipartisan target of five per cent. Where do those opposite suggest that the slack will be made up for if they have their way and scrap the CEFC, which is making money for the government's bottom line and helping the nation reach its emissions target free? Why would you say no? No, they prefer to scrap this revenue-raising corporation in favour of handing out money to big polluters. Why would you want to scrap an entity that is making significant headway in reducing Australia's emissions? It is simply not good enough to stick our heads in the sand and leave the next generation to tackle the issue of climate change. Climate change is real. The Labor Party supports real, meaningful, effective action on climate change. Something must be done. We cannot sit back and do nothing. Our parliament, as leaders of our country, must send a clear message on this issue: why is it so important to our children and generations into the future? We must tackle climate change with a long-term view.

It will take time to effect change and reach targets, but we must stay the course set by bodies like the Climate Energy Finance Corporation. The CEFC has been strongly supported by private investors. For the $536 million the CEFC has invested, $1.5 billion has been poured in by private investors. Those private investors have seen the benefit of investing in clean energy, energy efficiency and renewable energy. The coalition should not destroy the business confidence in this growing young industry that has so much potential, especially when, at its expense, the government is taking the Direct Action Plan—that is, paying grants at a net cost to the taxpayer.

As reported in the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday, 27 November, Ms Jillian Broadbent and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Chief Executive Officer, Mr Oliver Yates, put the strong case for keeping the corporation going to the Senate environment and communications legislation committee. They said the $10 billion loan facility was exceeding all expectations. They said it was making money for the government. They said it was effecting real reductions in emissions. But this is a coalition government that shuts down independent advice and any organisation that dares to accept that climate change is real. This is a government that thinks it knows better than the experts. This is a government with its head in the sand on climate change. This is not the government the Australian people thought they were voting for. This is a government that would rather lose money from its budget bottom line than face up to the fact that climate change is real and that something must be done by this generation to tackle it.

The CEFC is one of about 14 organisations across the globe that are a catalyst for investment in renewable energy and clean technologies. It fills an important role in mobilising capital for investment. It is absolutely not a slush fund; it is making the Australian taxpayer money. In contrast, the coalition plans to keep a pile of dollars to dole out to big polluters. The average return on the CEFC's investment is seven per cent, a clear argument for retaining it. Ms Broadbent and Mr Yates made it clear that abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation would cost the Australian government and Australian taxpayers up to $200 million a year in lost revenue—that is, up to $1.5 billion by 2020. All that while reducing carbon emissions. Ms Broadbent said it would cost the taxpayer more to shut down the CEFC than it will save. I will repeat that: it will cost more to shut down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation than it will save. What is this government thinking?

This is a naysayer government of climate change deniers that cannot get its head around the issue, so it will torch everything associated with it. This government, when in opposition, slammed the setting up of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, saying it would fail and cost the taxpayer. Not for the first time when it comes to climate change action, the Liberals and the Nationals were wrong. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is a roaring success by the two most important measurables: it is making money for the government bottom line and it is putting a dent in this country's emissions output. It beggars belief that the government would want to junk this successful enterprise, but as part of Mr Abbott's three-word scrap the tax policy, it is on the chopping block. He would rather bankroll the polluters at taxpayers' expense.

Senator Bernardi interjecting—

Mr Abbott wants to scrap the meaningful steps made on climate change under Labor and put in his poorly thought out and widely ridiculed Direct Action Plan—probably authored by Senator Bernardi, who has a lot of poorly thought out policies that he puts forward—and an emissions reduction fund plan. Guess what: if direct action goes ahead, the Climate Energy Finance Corporation could work under direct action as well. Ms Jillian Broadbent told the Senate environment communications legislation committee as much on 26 November.

Mr Abbott will thumb his nose at science, logic and reason. He is prepared to put pressure on the budget bottom line simply to get his way. He is prepared to turn his back on the Liberal Party philosophy of letting markets dictate affairs rather than the government. Mr Abbott is more prepared to hire a stack of bureaucrats to task them with the job of writing cheques to big polluters. Mr Abbott is happy to rip up $200 million a year in revenue from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from the taxpayer. All because he denies the science and does not believe that action should be taken.

Mr Abbott could not be more in contrast to what my party, the Labor Party, believes. We know climate change is happening. We put measures in place to tackle the problem. In government, we knew it was not good enough to just leave the problem to a future generation. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation was a key plank in our body of legislation to take on the challenge of climate change. The Labor Party cannot support abolishing an effective entity that will cost the taxpayers of Australia. It is the Australian people who will pay for this mean-spirited, antiscience and expensive move if Mr Abbott's government has its way. And as the Australian Financial Review's chief political correspondent, Phil Coorey, wrote on 27 November this year:

It is set to be abolished along with the carbon tax and the government has budgeted a saving of $760 million over four years from its demise. But because the CEFC is making money, the combined blow to the budget from its abolition could be as high as $1.5 billion.

That is $1.5 billion out of the budget bottom line, along with the handbrake of effecting meaningful reductions to Australia's carbon footprint.

Ms Broadbent and Mr Yates went on to say that the Climate Energy Finance Corporation had lent $536 million, which had seen—

Debate interrupted.


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