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Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Page: 6075

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (20:43): I would like to thank the member for Bradfield for his very positive and optimistic contribution to this evening's debate. That is the kind of positivity and optimism you might expect from Thomas Hardy or from Dickens—something of that nature—though not really unexpected from those opposite. It is interesting to me that in summary the member for Bradfield's contribution to this evening's debate is all about the inelegance and the inappropriateness of government intervention into a marketplace. It is curious therefore that his side of politics is in fact opposing one of the most significant market mechanisms that this country has seen, through the introduction of a carbon price mechanism. It is extraordinary that his side of politics is this evening so vehemently objecting to intervention in the market through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation by government and yet seeks to impose a $1,300 impost on each household to fund what their side of politics has called a Direct Action Plan, which has been described as a tree in every lounge room. It is a most extraordinary proposition to put forward and then come into this place this evening and oppose the proposition to support the development of renewables in this country through the establishment of an appropriately thought-through mechanism, developed in consultation with experts and as part of an overall clean energy package. It is extraordinary that the opposition come in here this evening, having opposed household assistance, having opposed things like the Carbon Farming Initiative—which indeed will help some to the National Party's constituents, some of their farmers. They oppose that and they manage to oppose household measures and tax cuts. They have presented us with a crude so-called Direct Action Plan to address one of the most significant problems facing not only our country but our globe. It is amateurish that they come in here and present us with these thoroughly inadequate responses to significant policy problems across the globe.

I mentioned optimism earlier on, and it is disappointing once again to come into this place and have the opposition merely say 'no' to a well thought-through, well crafted policy proposal by this government. It is not simply a policy proposal of this government. I was reminded of that this week when I met some of the young people who came in to see me from the 100% Renewable Campaign, which is a community campaign working with over 100 local groups right around Australia, some of which are in my own electorate of La Trobe. They are groups that have been out polling community members right around the country; they have polled around 8,000 people face-to-face and around 4,000 people online, they tell me, about their views on the solar industry and for government investment in the renewables sector as a whole. They tell me that those results show that 94 per cent of people they surveyed support building large scale solar, for instance, in Australia and that 95 per cent support the government's new proposal for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It is compelling to me that there are people who have by their own resources and by their own means—some of them very limited means, I would expect—come to Canberra to speak to members of parliament about their vision for clean energy in this country. The member for Bradfield and I am sure many other opposition members throughout the course of this debate and the broader debate within our community have asked: 'Well, what we do we get back for this investment that is being made in the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which in turn will support renewables?' What we get back is the opportunity to establish new industries, the opportunity to establish new jobs for Australians in a country and a globe which is going through economic transition. We get the opportunity to support new industries for Australians. It is not surprising that this is the next step in the government's clean energy package of measures, because our commitment to a clean energy future is absolutely apparent and has been apparent for some time. Whether it is through the carbon price, the Carbon Farming Initiative—that I mentioned as being so disappointingly opposed by people who purport to support farmers in this country and who purport to support people who could well derive an income stream by means of the Carbon Farming Initiative—or whether it is through the establishment of renewables targets or whether it is through the establishment of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation this evening, it is simply part of the sequence of events that this government is going through to build a new future for our country, one which is not reliant on old energy and which is not reliant on carbon polluting technologies.

This evening's bill, which contemplates the establishment of a Clean Energy Finance Corporation, is important because it ensures that new renewables technologies get the financial support that they need to become larger operations and to ensure that we have increasing numbers of employees engaged in those new industries. We know that clean energy technologies face a range of obstacles in attracting financing: current global financial conditions, the cost of renewable energy, the complex nature of Australia's electricity markets and the preference of some investing institutions for listed assets all contribute to the inhibiting of the financing of the clean energy sector at present. It is appropriate that we establish a mechanism to counteract that.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will make individual decisions about investment which are independent of government. They will be referential-backed to an investment mandate which provides a mechanism for the government to articulate its broad expectations of how that corporation might invest and how it might go about its work. In April this year we released the expert review panel's report on the design of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The government accepted the recommendations of that report and so it is implementing them through this bill. It has taken appropriate advice in a timely way in accordance with the range of measures which we have implemented to respond to the clean energy needs of our country and is implementing this measure through this bill.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will make investments for the development of Australian-based renewable energy technologies—low emission technologies, energy efficiency projects and businesses that supply the required inputs. I might say as someone who not so long ago was in commercial practice and acting in relation to clean energy opportunities that other countries' businesses had taken on, it was disappointing for me to see that the same opportunities were not being taken up by Australian companies. It is a great source of pride to me this evening to be participating in a debate that will try to support Australian-based renewables businesses. The bill before us requires the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to have at least half of the corporation's investments in renewable energy technologies by June 2018. The government will provide around $2 billion of funding to the corporation per annum for five years, starting in 2013-14, with profits being available for reinvestment. But why have a Clean Energy Finance Corporation? The investment of $10 billion in the corporation will mean that we can unlock new and very substantial private investment in clean energy projects and the supply chain that feeds into those projects. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will enable the leveraging of private sector financing for renewable energy, low-emissions and energy efficiency technologies—investments which are critical to the transformation of the Australian economy. It will mean that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation can make investments and encourage private sector investment in clean energy technologies. It is ultimately the key to changing the economics of clean energy projects and making them more competitive in our country. It is necessary so that we can overcome potential market barriers that currently prevent those projects from going ahead—for instance, where investors are not appropriately informed about or familiar with emerging technologies.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation will have a number of means available to it to tailor investments to address current and potential market barriers, including the capacity to provide funds, change the allocation of risk amongst participants, and offer a concessional cost of funds. Ultimately it will act as a catalyst to enable private investment which is not currently available and thereby enable a contribution to be made to carbon emissions reduction and cleaner energy.

So this is a unique opportunity this evening and it is part of the broader package of measures being put in place by this government to respond to the needs of our community to develop industry opportunities, to develop employment opportunities in new technologies industries, and ultimately to respond to the challenge of climate change which affects Australia and which affects the globe. I am keenly aware of the impacts of climate change very close to home on things like biodiversity in a very sensitive part of the world—the Dandenong Ranges. I regularly have conservation groups—organisations such as Emerald for Sustainability and other groups which support the promotion of biodiversity and maintaining biodiversity in the Dandenong Ranges. They regularly come to me and remark on how positive they feel that action is now meaningfully being taken by Australia to respond to climate change—that action is not being taken in a piecemeal way through a so-called Direct Action Plan but is being taken in a way which supports industry, which supports those who are landowners and agriculturalists, which supports households while we make the transition, and which ultimately comes back to supporting our environment and protecting that environment for future generations.

This government is strongly committed to reducing Australia's carbon pollution because we know that, if Australia takes no action by 2020, our carbon pollution could be, for instance, 20 per cent higher than in 2000. The Australian government is investing more than $5 billion in developing and commercialising clean energy technologies because we know that they will be crucial to Australia's efforts to reduce its carbon pollution emissions.

We have set a Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent by 2020, and this means that by that stage one fifth of Australia's electricity will come from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power. It is for all those reasons that this important measure being considered this evening—the establishment of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation—is necessary. It is for this reason that we are taking steps to not only provide incentives for high-polluting business to alter its practices so that it becomes lower polluting through the carbon price mechanism. It is not only through this mechanism that we seek to change behaviours. It is not only through that but through the Carbon Farming Initiative that we seek to offer opportunities to capture carbon emissions and to offset emissions. And, finally, it is through this measure that we enable a market mechanism to be assisted by the intervention of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to provide business opportunities, to provide employment opportunities, which go to support a properly functioning clean energy economy and our clean energy future.

It is for all of these reasons that this government has acted in a systematic, timely and well thought out way to develop a package of measures which enable our country to most efficiently make the transition to a clean energy future. There is a great deal of work yet to be done and we have engaged some of the best advice through those expert advisers who have provided their review on the operation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It is through scientific advice and economic advice that we have formulated a range of policies—the carbon price, the Carbon Farming Initiative and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation—to deliver a package of reforms which provide us with a comprehensive means to respond to a clean energy future.

It is disappointing that those opposite have come here tonight once again simply to stymie debate on these issues. It is disappointing in the context of so many young people in my electorate and right around the country who have made their voices clearly known to me not simply through this week but through the course of my term as an MP and far beyond that period about the kind of future they want to see, about the clean energy economy that they want to see, about the opportunities that they want to see for our future. I am not going to squander that opportunity. Those of us on this side are not going to squander it. We are going to take the opportunity to change Australia for the better and we are doing it tonight through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012.