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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 7235

Ms PARKE (3:23 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism. Would the minister update the House about Australia’s plans with respect to membership of the International Renewable Energy Agency and outline why action on climate change is urgently required?

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) —I thank the member for Fremantle for the question. It is a further statement of her interest not only in the energy debate but in the all-important issue of clean energy. On 17 May the Prime Minister announced that Australia would join the International Renewable Energy Agency. It is on that basis that I will be travelling to Egypt on the weekend for the purposes of signing on behalf of Australia at the formation of the international institute and participating in a debate about the work of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Historically, Australia’s participation internationally in the energy debate has gone to the work of the International Energy Agency, and for years that debate has been on the question of energy security. Given the challenge of climate change and the need to move to a low-emissions global community, the debate about energy has become far more complex. It is no longer just about energy security; it is also about energy security in the context of moving towards clean energy. Our participation in IRENA is very much part of that. It is about Australia leading internationally, in the same way in which we are leading domestically, on the clean energy debate.

I have already referred to the fact that it was Australia’s leadership that has now led to the formation of the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, which is about making sure that we maintain energy security in Australia whilst guaranteeing the future of our coal fired power stations because, as we all appreciate, they supply 82 per cent of Australia’s energy. In terms of the international energy debate, it is also our responsibility not only to invest in technology domestically but also to participate in the international technology debate. I say that because technology has created this challenge of climate change, and technology will be the solution. The role of IRENA is to promote the sustainable use of renewable energy on a global scale. It is also its responsibility, as it is Australia’s responsibility, to devolve that technology to developing nations. If we are to make a contribution globally, then one of our responsibilities is to invest internationally in research and development and to assist less developed countries to pick up and use that technology on a commercial scale.

The question also went to our responsibilities domestically on the climate change front. I remind the House that the budget actually provided for an investment of $2 billion by the Australian government in accelerating the demonstration on a commercial base of renewable energy in Australia. That commitment included $1.6 billion for the Solar Flagships Program and an additional $465 million to the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy. That raises the issue of certainty. It goes to the heart of our requirement as a nation to put a price in place on carbon and also to establish once and for all a set target on renewable energy. I say that because the energy security debate requires investment horizons that enable the private sector to make investment decisions in Australia. As we all appreciate—

Mr Hunt —You’ve had a year.

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —It has been a year of hard work. The member for Flinders needs to be reminded of a comparison with the work we put in place over the last four months. We put in place the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and we also put in place the renewable energy target that will facilitate investment in Australia, but he was part of a government that had 12 years to do something and actually did nothing on the climate change debate.

That also raises the nature of question time today. This government has actually focused on a serious debate throughout the course of question time this afternoon, and I compare that with the other side of the House. Just think about the issues that we have confronted this afternoon, and not only this afternoon but over the course of the whole week, while the opposition has continued to wallow in the gutter. Let us go to the nature of those questions: the all-important issue of jobs and the state of the Australian economy—an issue that never confronted the previous government over 12 long years.

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, on a point of order under standing order 104: he was not asked on this subject and he should not answer on it.

The SPEAKER —The minister will relate his material to the question.

Mr Albanese —Move he be no longer heard, Tony!

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the House!

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Mr Speaker, I was going to the issue of climate change and the importance of the economy. Our investment in climate change actually goes to the issue of the future of the Australian economy, because unless we invest in clean energy we do not have energy security in Australia. And energy security goes to the heart of the debate in the House this afternoon in question time: the strength of the Australian economy, our capacity to invest in infrastructure and our capacity to create new jobs in Australia and to skill Australia in new challenges with respect to job growth and investment by the private sector in Australia. It also goes to the issue of productivity—just like climate change, another issue that the former government never confronted over 12 years. So, as we leave question time this afternoon, at the end of a long parliamentary session, just think about this comparison.

Mr Abbott —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The SPEAKER —Member for Warringah, the minister is being relevant to the question, but I urge him to commence summing up his answer.

Mr MARTIN FERGUSON —Yes, the truth does hurt. This side of the House will continue to solve the problems the Australian community expects us to solve to invest in our future, while the opposition continues to wallow in the gutter.