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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 3042


Senator CROSSIN (2:18 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Wong. Minister, given the need to respond to the threat of climate change, can you please update the Senate on the government’s action to turn Australia’s carbon pollution around and support investment in renewable energy? How can the government ensure that the equivalent of all of Australia’s household electricity supply will come from renewable energy sources? And why, even with all the direct support for renewable energy, is the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme still fundamental if we are going to successfully tackle climate change?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I thank Senator Crossin for her question and her interest in both renewable energy and the government’s action on climate change. This is a government which is committed to acting on climate change and putting in place incentives for investment in clean energy, renewable energy and the clean technologies which will deliver the transformation our economy needs. This government will bring forward our renewable energy target legislation, which will deliver a fourfold increase in Australia’s renewable energy sector by 2020, to ensure that the equivalent of all of Australia’s household energy will come from renewable sources by that time. This will unleash investment in the renewable energy sector, something which should have happened a long time ago. Of course, this is on top of the government’s unprecedented commitment in the budget with the $1.4 billion Solar Flagships program and additional investment in the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy and our investment in Solar Homes and Communities, all of which demonstrate this government’s commitment to the reform of our energy sector and strong and sustainable support for renewables.

But the fact is that, even with all of these measures in place, Australia’s emissions would still rise to around 20 per cent higher in 2020 than they were in 2000, as opposed to being up to 20 per cent lower if the Senate is minded to pass the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The reality is that without the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme this country will not hold its contribution to climate change, without the scheme we will keep making climate change worse and without the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme we have no means to deliver our targets, which are ambitious, necessary and in the national interest. (Time expired)


Senator CROSSIN —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister update the Senate on plans to provide emissions-intensive industries with assistance under the renewable energy target and Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme? Why is it important to provide assistance to industry to adjust to the combined impact of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and the renewable energy target?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —This is a government that is putting forward a comprehensive set of policies to tackle climate change and drive investment in renewables, unlike the Howard government that was in place for so many years in this country. The fact is that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and renewable energy target assistance are linked, because this government understands that we need both of these policies in place if we are to seriously tackle climate change. This is a government that also understands that industry will need assistance in relation to both policies. So, when we were designing assistance under the renewable energy target legislation, this government listened to those in industry who asked us to consider the cumulative, combined impact of both the CPRS and the renewable energy target. This is a position we made clear in the April COAG meeting that Senator Birmingham referred to, and it is a pity that the opposition did not read the communique before time. (Time expired)


Senator CROSSIN —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Finally, can the minister outline Australia’s track record on renewable energy? In particular, can the minister outline whether the contribution of renewable energy has increased or decreased in the 10 years to 2007? Can the minister advise the Senate of any threats to turning around Australia’s carbon pollution and promoting investment in renewable energy?


Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —I think it is useful for the Senate to know just what occurred under the Howard government when it comes to renewables, because the fact is that investment in renewable energy went backwards when those opposite were in government. What happened was that between 1997 and 2007 the proportion of our electricity supply from renewables declined from 10½ per cent to 9.5 per cent. So, whenever those opposite come forward professing support for the renewables sector, they should be reminded of the stark facts which are presented and the stark reality of their own record in government, which is that they presided over a decline in renewable energy. They also went to the last election with a 15 per cent clean energy target, which included nuclear power and clean coal—so not only a smaller target but a target where solar, wind and wave would have to compete with nuclear energy and clean coal. That is their record on renewables. (Time expired)