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Tuesday, 16 March 2010
Page: 1895

Senator BERNARDI (2:23 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water, Senator Wong. Given media reports that just one football club actually received 17 taxpayer funded hot-water systems and, incredibly, even received an offer for more for just four showerheads—and there are many other similar examples—will the minister advise the Australian people just how many millions of their taxpayer dollars have been wasted on Labor’s bungled energy efficiency scheme?

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water) —I was thinking that this was a change from Senator Birmingham, but Senator Birmingham might actually have got his facts straight before asking the question. Senator Bernardi is asking me a question about a loophole in John Howard’s energy scheme.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Wong, resume your seat. The difficulty is on both sides of the chamber. When we have silence we will proceed. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG —This was an issue within the renewable energy target—the legislation originally introduced by your government, Senator Bernardi—and a loophole which this government fixed up. Under the renewable energy target, community organisations such as football clubs are eligible to receive renewable energy certificates for the installation of solar and heat pump hot-water systems, as they were under John Howard’s renewable energy policy.

We became aware last year of the fact that some installers had been inappropriately claiming renewable energy certificates by installing multiple heat pumps, and this government moved to ensure that that problem was resolved. We moved to close the loophole and in September last year we introduced regulations to prevent the oversizing of heat pumps, which I think is what the senator is referring to. It would be useful, Senator, if perhaps rather than simply reading old articles from last week—is that how long it takes you to get something through the tactics committee?—you might want to look at the facts of the question you are asking.

Senator BERNARDI —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Once again I will ask the minister whether she will detail to the Australian people how many of their taxpayer dollars have been wasted through their bungled hot-water scheme, through their 560 per cent blow-out in the solar power program and the $175 million Green Loans fiasco.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! One moment, Senator Bernardi. You are entitled to be heard in silence. The clock has stopped; I will give you the call when there is silence. Order! Senator Bernardi, continue.

Senator BERNARDI —Thank you. Interjections are disorderly, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Bernardi, you should know that!

Senator BERNARDI —I would like to know who in the Labor Party will take responsibility for this grotesque waste of taxpayer money.

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water) —I think Senator Bernardi is trying to muscle his way through a credibility gap there. You have to do a little bit better, Senator. You asked me a question about something which occurred under the renewable energy target. That manifests not as an increase in terms of taxes but as a small increase in terms of electricity prices, which you also supported. I remind you that this was a policy you introduced. You supported our increases to the renewable energy target last year through the Senate and the government moved to close the loophole that I have outlined. We will continue to respond to issues as they arise.

In terms of taking responsibility, Senator Bernardi, I have come in here and made a very clear ministerial statement on the Green Loans issue; Minister Combet has made a very clear statement on the Home Insulation Program—we have been upfront about those issues. But that was not the question you asked. You did not even bother to find out which program you were asking— (Time expired)

Senator BERNARDI —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the failure of the minister to detail exactly how much taxpayer money has been wasted and squandered, the only question that remains is: why was this minister handpicked with Greg Combet to oversee a failed and bungled program given her disastrous track record revolving around the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme?

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT —Order! When there is silence on both sides we will proceed. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water) —It is true I do not get a vote inside the Liberal Party room—guilty on that, Senator. That is true. Of course, we know that Senator Bernardi’s contribution to this important policy debate has been to ensure that he disrupted a leadership that actually wanted to do something about climate change—your views on this are well known. But I have to say I find it difficult to know which aspects of the question you in fact want me to answer. If the question is about the renewable energy target, I have answered that question—that was an issue inside your legislation which we fixed up. If the question is about the remainder of the energy efficiency programs, certainly in relation to those bits which are my responsibility I have given a ministerial statement on Green Loans to the Senate. The reality is that we on this side are determined to deal with the issues in the energy efficiency programs that have occurred. Minister Combet has made that clear and I have made that clear. (Time expired)