Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Renewable Energy

3:30 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Employment (Senator Abetz) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to the Renewable Energy Target.

Before the election the Prime Minister told Australians that he supported the Renewable Energy Target. In fact, he went further than that, saying, 'We have no plans to change the Renewable Energy Target.' The minister, Greg Hunt, said, 'We also agree on the Renewable Energy Target' and:

One of the things we don't want to do is to become a party where there is this wild sovereign risk where you are, where businesses take steps to their detriment on the basis of a pledge and a policy of government.

Senator Birmingham, just before the election, said that the coalition supported the fixed Renewable Energy Target of 41,000 gigawatt hours in 2020. And it has all turned out to be a pack of lies. That is all you could say—that the Abbott government has now created such uncertainty in the renewable energy sector that billions of dollars worth of investment are now stalled and on the sidelines and existing projects are under severe threat. Infigen Energy came out only a week or so ago warning of significant asset write-down because of the uncertainty. Not only will new investments not be made but current investments are under pressure. Suntech came out yesterday cancelling research and development in Australia in the solar energy sector, and Silex cancelled its concentrated solar plant at Mildura, all because the Abbott government decided to destroy the Renewable Energy Target—any confidence in renewable energy—in favour of the fossil fuel sector. This is an absolute broken promise and it is a breach of trust.

I was at a meeting in Petrie, the marginal seat in Queensland, the other night. It is held by half a per cent by the coalition—500 votes. Five hundred votes will change Petrie. And there were more than 500 people in the room, and they all feel totally betrayed by the Prime Minister, by the Minister for the Environment, by all the Liberals who went there. And do you know that the local Liberal member did not have the courage to actually stand up and face those people? He refused to come to the meeting. What is more, Mr President, there we have Senator Abetz and yourself and Senator Bushby in Tasmania saying, 'Oh, yes, we support the Renewable Energy Target', knowing, as you absolutely do, that you have stalled and destroyed renewable energy investment. And no state has suffered or will suffer more than our own state of Tasmania, where our renewable energy has a competitive advantage, where destroying the Renewable Energy Target undermines investment. And that is on top of the millions that Hydro Tasmania is going to lose—to go from a profit of $240 million down to $20 million. That is a loss of more than $220 million in one year because of what you have done.

Senator Abetz, the people of Tasmania know that, but the people of Australia also know that you have sold them out on the Renewable Energy Target. The excuse the Prime Minister has used—'Oh, it's about power prices'—has been blown out of the water by all the reports, including ACIL Allen, your own consultants, saying that the Renewable Energy Target brings down power prices in the long run. There are no excuses except that your mates at the big end of town want you to prop up coal fired power stations. That is all this is about. And you are destroying jobs and investments. So, for the Prime Minister to say, 'Australia is open for business' is a joke. Australia is not open for the clean energy economy. Australia is not open for research and development in renewable energy technology. Australia is going to destroy jobs, destroy investment, shut down businesses in the future in the new energy economy so that you can prop up for a bit longer the old polluters who are driving global warming. It is an utter disgrace. You have absolutely breached the trust of the Australian people on renewable energy, and they know it—and they will change their votes on this issue, especially in marginal seats around the country.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

You watch Petrie, Senator Macdonald.

Question agreed to.