Wednesday, 18 June 2014
Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No. 2]; Second Reading
Firstly let me thank all senators who have contributed to this debate on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No. 2]. Let me also say that the Australian people have already voted on this legislation. Indeed, the government took a very clear policy to the last election, which was to abolish the carbon tax and to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The judgement of the Australian people is very clear. Labor and the Greens are about to ignore the government's mandate in relation to this for the second time, in defiance of the Australian people and the judgement they made at the last election.
Fundamentally, we do not believe it is appropriate for the government to continue to borrow in order to underwrite a $10 billion taxpayer funded bank which cherry picks investments in direct competition to the private sector. This is really what goes to the crux of the issue. Australia does not have a good history when it comes to running government owned banks. I suspect Senator Xenophon would be very well aware—indeed you, Mr Acting Deputy President Fawcett, would be very well aware—of the history of the great state of South Australia when it comes to the issues that developed with government owned banks. Some senators in this debate have again asserted that this Clean Energy Finance Corporation, this government owned bank, is delivering a commercial rate of return. To make that assertion less than a year after this government bank has started to write loans is very heroic indeed. It reminds me of the former Treasurer Wayne Swan in May 2012 asserting that he had delivered a surplus. Of course we know what happened to that. You cannot make judgements and you cannot make assertions about what an organisation like the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will deliver in terms of a rate of return until you have come to the ultimate conclusion on the loans they are currently writing.
Fundamentally, we do not think this is an area government should be involved in. Fundamentally, we do not think it is appropriate, given our fiscally challenging circumstances, that we continue to borrow money in order to underwrite this sort of activity. We do have a superior policy when it comes to achieving the emissions reduction target of five per cent by 2020, which we will continue to implement. But, consistent with the judgements made by the Australian people at the last election, we urge the Senate to support this bill. I can flag that the government intends to reintroduce a bill to abolish the CEFC next week, ahead of the new Senate taking effect from 1 July 2014, if this particular bill should be unsuccessful.