Thursday, 13 May 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Senator Seselja. Can the minister outline how the Morrison government's 2021-22 budget secures Australia's energy needs, secures Australia's economic recovery and protects jobs in our regions and cities?
I thank Senator Van for the question. Yes, I can. The Liberal-National government is securing Australia's recovery with investment of more than $1.8 billion in the 2021-22 budget to boost jobs and support affordable and reliable energy. Through our 'technology, not taxes' approach, this year's budget will continue to provide reliable, secure and affordable energy to all Australians and to increase investment in technology solutions to reduce emissions in a way that supports jobs and economic growth. Australia's competitive advantage has always been based on cheap energy, and gas will be central to our ongoing economic recovery. We're advancing our gas-fired recovery and ensuring that Australian gas is working for all Australians, with $58.6 million to support new initiatives. We're taking action in three key areas to boost the east coast gas market across the entire supply chain. We are unlocking supply, delivering an efficient pipeline and transportation market, and empowering gas customers. We've delivered on the National Gas Infrastructure Plan interim report, which shows that both local production and new infrastructure is needed to alleviate the forecast shortfall in southern states.
The government can't sit back and allow the gas shortfall to eventuate. It would have a devastating impact on the economy. That's why we're backing the critical projects through $38.7 million of targeted support. Without the action we're taking to address supply, industry and households will be faced with higher prices from price-gouging energy companies and more blackouts, just as South Australia experienced in 2016. On this side, we understand that gas is a critical enabler of Australia's economy. It supports our manufacturing sector, which employs over 900,000 Australians, many in the regions. Gas will be critical to providing the dispatchable and affordable power generation we need to keep prices down while also deploying new technology into the system. (Time expired)
Our investments in this year's budget will create more than 9,000 jobs across the country, grow our economy and ensure Australia continues to meet and beat our international commitments. I know that Senator Whish-Wilson will be very pleased with that. Through the 2021-22 budget, we are investing an additional $275 million to accelerate the development of an Australian hydrogen industry. This new funding will increase the government's total support for a hydrogen industry to over $845 million. This package will support an additional four regional hydrogen hubs, in addition to the $70.2 million committed in last year's budget for the first hydrogen hub. We look far and wide around the nation for potential sites, from the Eyre Peninsula in the south to Darwin in the north. Together with our investments in carbon capture and storage, this will create around 2,500 jobs, delivering on our technology-led plan to secure the economic recovery and continue the jobs growth.
Unlike those opposite, Liberals and Nationals understand that delivering affordable, reliable and secure energy is critical to protecting jobs and securing the economy. That's why our budget funds new gas generators and invests in technologies we need to lower prices for families and businesses. What is Labor offering? Just what their Greens counterparts would like. They only have a recipe for more taxes, more power blackouts and higher prices. They have Chris Bowen in charge of energy policy, who's never seen a tax he didn't like. They have Murray Watt, who continues to support the resources sector. They are completely divided when it comes to the role of gas in the system. They apparently have an energy plan for 2050 but not for 2030. They simply can't be trusted to deliver the reliable, affordable energy Australians deserve. We reject Labor's attempt to hoodwink Australians. Australians know it will be technology, not taxes, that will secure our recovery, and that is exactly— (Time expired)
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Birmingham. Tuesday's budget was a shocker for the planet. With just 0.3 per cent, 30c in every $100 of budget spending, dedicated to addressing the climate crisis and just 0.2 per cent of the budget, 20c in every $100, dedicated to the environment, the environment is suffering. Why did the Morrison government make the environment and climate change the biggest losers out of this year's budget?
I completely reject Senator Hanson-Young's question and the assertions in her question. I invite Senator Hanson-Young to take a look at the ocean strategy outlined in the budget to see the measures there, measures indeed consistent with a blue economy. I invite her to take a look at the waste reduction strategy there, measures consistent with our government's action to ban the export of recyclables and waste from Australia. I invite her to look, indeed, at the climate and emissions reductions measures that are there, outlined in detail and, most importantly, delivering results. According to the forecasts of emissions, we will avoid in the order of 250 million tonnes of emissions each year by 2040. This is building on the fact that we have continuously met and exceeded our nation's commitments. We expect to see around $20 billion of investment in low-emissions technology over the decade to 2030 as the government helps to secure around $80 billion in total investment from the private sector and governments. It's working, it is meeting and beating our targets and we're committed to policies that will continue to do so.
Funding for biosecurity protection has fallen under this government by 28 per cent. Spending on biosecurity is to fall over the next three years to make it half of what it was in 2013. How many more native species and members of the Australian wildlife family will be extinct before this government starts funding biosecurity properly?
We will continue to invest in those areas that are essential for environmental protection. I don't accept the assertions or the way in which the Greens have made their own budget calculations. It will come as little surprise to anybody that I'm not accepting the assertions or the ideas that the Greens' budget calculations are likely to be accurate, truthful or honest. I give the commitment that our government continues to invest in practical environmental initiatives to improve our landscape across Australia, to protect our oceans, to deal with waste and to reduce emissions.
Minister, why does this budget do nothing to save koalas from extinction by 2050? Why does this budget do nothing to save swift parrots from extinction? Why does this budget do nothing to protect platypus, quolls, pygmy possums, potoroos and the hundreds of other species that are left on the list? Our wildlife is suffering, and you are doing nothing.
Yet another one, indeed, Senator Abetz. It's unsurprising to anybody on this side of the chamber or to anybody who has heard the Greens over the years claim of course, endlessly, that things aren't happening when in fact they are. We've all heard the Greens say that we wouldn't meet any of our emissions reduction targets over the years yet each time we do meet them, we do exceed them. The Greens say this endlessly. Yes, we take very seriously the importance of wildlife protection, the preservation of endangered species, and the pursuit in relation to measures and policies to help support them is one we will continue.
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Senator Reynolds. Can the minister confirm that 99 per cent of new infrastructure funding announced on Tuesday for the Northern Territory is beyond the forward estimates?
I thank the senator for the question. I can confirm that since 2013 the Australian government has committed more than $3.2 billion for infrastructure in the Northern Territory. And, in the 2020-21 budget—
My key message is that there are many, many different programs across the federal budget over multiple budget years that are putting money into the Northern Territory. So not only are there the City Deals—for example, for the City of Darwin that's a 10-year partnership, and that's $320 million—in this budget alone we've got $150 million for phase 2 of the Northern Territory National Network Highway Upgrades, $173 million towards a six-corridor upgrade under the Roads of Strategic Importance and $3 million for a development study for a proposal at Tennant Creek.
I have been listening carefully to the minister's answer and I have allowed you to specifically remind her of that. If a question asks about a matter in the budget paper in a portfolio area, the minister is constraining her comments to, in essence, infrastructure projects in the Northern Territory. If I'm being asked to insist that she uses words to address the point of order in the specific nature you make it, I believe I'm crossing the line into instructing a minister how to answer the question. The minister is not straying into broader commentary about alternative policies but is speaking about infrastructure in the Northern Territory. I believe that is directly relevant. There is of course the opportunity after question time to debate it. Senator Wong, on the point of order?
On the point of order, I am not clear whether the minister is continuing to speak about the past but what I would submit is that for a question about the forward estimates and beyond that an answer that refers to past investment is not directly relevant to the question. Temporally, it makes no sense to suggest that you can answer a question about future spending only by referencing past spending.
I think, to be fair, the way I heard the minister answering the question was the minister was addressing and listing projects currently underway, not beyond the forward estimates. I think going into the territory of instructing a minister that in a portfolio area they can't talk about the budget to that degree of specificity is actually getting into the content. If the minister is talking about projects currently underway but they are within the forward estimates, there's an opportunity to debate whether the minister has answered the question to your satisfaction after question time, but I don't think can I say that's not directly relevant because the minister's constraining her comments to that specific issue of that policy area.
The point I was making is that we have been supporting the Northern Territory in a wide range of infrastructure projects, for all of the budgets, I believe, that we've had since coming into government—and don't forget that we do this in partnership with the Northern Territory government, and in fact we support projects that they put forward and that are shovel ready. I've just had a look, and, over the last budget and this budget, I can count at least 30 separate projects which are in various stages of construction—some are in planning, some are approved—and they go out well beyond the forward estimates. The fact that funding goes beyond the forward estimates is a good thing, because that means there is a steady pipeline of projects in the Northern Territory to sustain jobs, probably for at least a decade, if not more. So that, I think, is a great thing done by this government.
I'd have exactly the same answer as I did for the Northern Territory: there are very significant projects, across multiple projects, that have been funded in this year's budget. Again, it's done in consultation with the Victorian government in terms of the readiness of the projects and the duration of the projects.
On average, the Morrison government delivers $1.2 billion less a year on infrastructure than it promises. Last year, Mr Morrison delivered $1.7 billion less in infrastructure. How much less than promised will be delivered this financial year?
Like many things those opposite say, that is simply not true. This government has got a $110-billion, 10-year infrastructure program, and it is very clearly laid out in the budget. And we are spending more on infrastructure, year-on-year, and we do that in partnership with the state and territory governments.