Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Questions without Notice
I can't wait. My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, whom I believe is Minister Ruston. We are in a climate emergency, yet this government is reportedly once again pouring billions of dollars into propping up fossil fuels, including gas—threatening our country's economy, people and nature. Why does your government remain in the pocket of the fossil fuel corporations and the mining billionaires?
I thank Senator Waters for her question; however, I'm going to have difficulty in answering it because it actually isn't correct in the assumptions and statements she has just made. The Australian government remain absolutely committed to ensuring that we have a system in Australia where Australians are able to access affordable and reliable energy, but at the same time we're making sure we meet our obligations—as at every instance, as Australia, we have always met our international obligations—when it comes to the issue of carbon emissions. It will make no difference, I'm sure. Whatever I say in this place will not be accepted by the other end of the chamber. But we are absolutely committed to being completely agnostic around how we deal with this issue. What we are absolutely focused on is that we know the application of technology, and not taxes, is the way that we can ensure a secure future for Australia—for Australian businesses, for Australian taxpayers, for Australian households, for all Australians.
I think everybody on this side of the chamber would be as committed as anybody else in Australia to making sure that we play our role in making sure that, on carbon emissions, the future of our planet is secure. But we are not going to do it just on a whim, on the kind of proposition that gets put forward by the Greens. We will do it systematically, based on the science that's provided to us. We will do it in a way in which we can apply technology, because we are the most innovative country in the world, and the fact that we are able to apply that innovation in such a way means we are the envy of the rest of the world. We will continue to do that, because we believe that the most important thing we can do as a government is to be responsible. We need to be responsible to make sure affordable and reliable power is available because our economic recovery will not be successful unless Australian businesses and Australian consumers are able to get access to the energy that they need for the recovery. But I can absolutely assure you that this government is committed to doing so within the responsibility we have for global climate emissions.
Minister, can you confirm Australia Institute figures that fossil fuel subsidies from the federal government cost Australians a staggering $9.13 billion in the current financial year, which means that, for every minute of every day, $17,378 of public money was given to coal, oil and gas companies and major users of fossil fuels?
What I can tell Senator Waters is that this government is absolutely committed to investing in the technologies of the future. We are absolutely committed to making sure that we provide the appropriate frameworks so that the investment that is being made by our modern technology sector can meet the requirements of the Australian economy and Australian households whilst at the same time we can secure the future that we want for our children. So I can absolutely commit that both Minister Taylor, the minister for energy, and Minister Pitt, the minister for resources, are absolutely committed to working to—
Senator Waters, I take your point. I can't instruct the minister to address a specific part of the question, but the question was about a report with respect to claimed subsidies to fossil fuels. I remind the minister of that part of the question.
In response to the primary component of the question that Senator Waters just drew my attention to, there are any amount of numbers that you could extract from any amount of data analysis if you chose to do so. The Greens actually have quite an astounding track record of being able to extract the most unbelievable statistics out of the information that's provided to them—
Does this ideological attachment to fossil fuels explain why Resources Minister Keith Pitt recently vetoed federal funding for a wind farm proposal in my home state of Queensland and why he couldn't bring himself to utter the word 'battery' and answer yes to the simple question of whether batteries can back up wind farms? Minister, can you now confirm whether batteries can back up wind farms?
What I can say is that Minister Pitt takes very, very seriously his responsibility and obligations, as the minister who is responsible for the NAIF, to make sure that, when he gives approval to particular projects, he is entirely satisfied that those projects can deliver the outcome that they're seeking. Minister Pitt has already committed—I think even this morning—that he is going to provide his statement of reasons why he chose not to approve the particular project that you are referring to. As you would also know, firming capacity is a subject of some dissension, in the sense that it is a bit like asking, 'How long is a piece of string?' But what I absolutely can commit to this chamber is that we are absolutely committed to affordable and reliable power, but we are also committed to dispatchable electricity, absolutely committed to making sure that, when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow, we've still got power supplying households and businesses.