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Tuesday, 29 May 2012
Page: 6085


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (21:21): I rise to very strongly oppose the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012 and the associated measures. I do so because I think the member for Fremantle, in fairness to her, outlined just then a very stark difference between the sides of the House. The Labor-Greens alliance, the coalition of Labor and Greens, believe very much in market intervention. They believe very strongly in taxpayers providing funding to what would not normally be commercially viable businesses.

Ms Plibersek interjecting

Mr BRIGGS: The Minister for Health would be a big supporter of that. She does not know if she is a Green or a Labor Party member, but I tell you: at the next election she will have the Greens right on her door. I think the second highest primary vote around the country for the Greens at the last election was in the Minister for Health's electorate. Labor are now doing deals with the Greens to fund Christine Milne's pet project. It has gone from being the Bob Brown bank to the Senator Milne bank with the change in arrangements for the Greens. But what has not changed is that the Labor Party and the Greens are in coalition and this is the very worst of their policy positions.

As I said at the beginning of my remarks: in fairness to the member for Fremantle, she is very honest about what she believes the role of government is in society. I appreciate that in this place. There are not a lot on that side who are now honest about what they think the role of government is in society, but she is very honest about what she thinks is the role of government in society. It is that governments should pick winners and that governments should take taxpayers' money and make decisions that the market would not otherwise make. That is in effect what she has just said.

We heard the member for Fremantle say what a great job the government had done to build up the solar panel industry. Of course, they also tried with the pink batts industry with their assistance in that area. That did not work out so well. When they spent $1 billion trying to build up the pink batts industry, which, again, was all to the purpose of creating a clean energy future, they wasted $2 billion on the way through because it did not work—and this will not work either. This is $10 billion, however, and that is the most concerning part about it. In the last couple of days during estimates hearings it has already been admitted that over the forward estimates this agency is expected to lose some $300 million of taxpayers' money, which is on budget. Of course, this $10 billion is off budget very deliberately. It is another one of the off-budget schemes that the government are trying to pursue, like the National Broadband Network. They are trying to hide the fiscal loss to the Commonwealth by putting it off budget.

We already know from estimates hearings that the witnesses have at least been honest enough to say that they expect well over seven per cent of the money they are investing to fail—$300 million of Australian taxpayers' money on businesses that will not succeed. We should think about that. They are spending Australian taxpayers' hard-earned money on pet projects of the Australian Greens, Senator Christine Milne and the member for Fremantle. These guys are making these decisions because it suits their ideological pursuit, but it does not suit working families—remember them?—who are working hard every day to try to put away money for the Greens and their coalition partner, the Labor Party, to go and pursue their own ideological needs and desires. That is the worst aspect of this.

I think one of the most insidious parts of the climate change package that this government has brought before the parliament is this bill and this $10 billion. We have already seen how much waste is created by the Australian Labor Party. These are projects which the commercial sector will not fund. There are already very successful renewable energy companies in the marketplace that this money will undercut. One of the great ironies of this Clean Energy Finance Corporation is that the money it will invest will undercut the money of entrepreneurs who are already out there in the marketplace trying to do exactly what the Labor Party and the Greens will tell you they seek to do—create alternative energies. This bill will create a situation which will undercut the work and efforts of those companies.

We know that this bill has been designed by the former leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, and his replacement, Senator Christine Milne, who was a Co-chair of the Multi-Party Climate Change Committee. I remind the House: this was a committee that was formed after the election because at the election the Labor Party's climate change policy was to have 150 Australians get together to tell them what their climate change policy should be, along with cash for clunkers. That was the climate change policy of the Labor Party at the last federal election. After the election, the Prime Minister, of course, did a deal with Senator Brown and Senator Milne and created this climate change committee, out of which emerged the so-called 'Bob Brown bank'.

As Senator Milne made very clear in her comments about the corporation, it was designed such that:

With a legislatively guaranteed stream of funding outside the budget, no future government will be able to undermine it without changing legislation.

It is a very deliberate means of getting Australian taxpayers' money and putting it into the areas that the Greens and the Labor Party favour. They will seek to provide government funding to commercial enterprises that the market has decided are not worthy of funding. We know how wise the Labor Party are with investing in private enterprise. Those of us who live in South Australia and Victoria know how well the Labor Party ran banks in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It happened in Western Australia as well. They turned South Australia from being one of the strongest states in a fiscal sense to being, now, the weakest state in a fiscal sense, excluding Tasmania, because of the damage that was done by their behaviour in trying to act like a bunch of bankers in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They do not run things well. Governments do not run things well. Governments do not make investment decisions which are in the best interests of Australian taxpayers. And this bill will not lead to a change in this regard. It will lead to billions upon billions of dollars being piled into non-commercial prospects. It will lead to massive waste. It will lead to pink batts writ large. It will lead to Australian taxpayers wondering yet again why it is they go to work and pay their taxes. It should not just be for Senator Milne and the Labor Party's frolics in spending Australian taxpayers' money. This is a very bad bill.

Debate interrupted.