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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5645

Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (1:06 PM) —As I pointed out earlier, a very significant initiative in the budget was the establishment of the Renewable Energy Future Fund, a $652.5 million fund to support the development and deployment of large- and small-scale renewable energy projects—such as, for example, investments in geothermal, solar and wave power—and to improve the energy efficiency of Australia’s industrial and commercial businesses as well as residential energy efficiency. As I think I also indicated earlier, the broad priorities of the Renewable Energy Future Fund will be indicated in the not too distant future. They will be based upon consultation with a host of stakeholders on the best way to ensure that it is targeted in the most effective manner to drive the further uptake of clean energy in Australia.

With the opposition that has been experienced to the emissions trading scheme in the Senate, ensuring that we remain firmly on our path to the achievement of the renewable energy target of 20 per cent of electricity to be supplied by renewable energy sources by the year 2020 is especially important. However, that alone will not achieve the targeted reductions in emissions that the government has adverted to. If no action were taken at all on a business-as-usual scenario, in the year 2020 Australia’s emissions would be about 21 per cent higher than for the year 2000. It is a very significant challenge to achieve the reduction that has been the subject of, I think, continuing bipartisan support: a five per cent reduction in emissions on an unconditional basis. The member for Flinders, the shadow minister, is nodding his head, meaning that the coalition remains committed to that unconditional cut in emissions by the year 2020 of five per cent over the year 2000 levels. Alternatively, the targets are for 15 and 25 per cent levels of reductions by the year 2020 contingent upon the quality of international commitments that are achieved. But, absent further progress on that front, a five per cent reduction target is a significant one. Nonetheless, we need investments in renewable energy, but also this parliament needs to be considering the issue of the most efficient mechanism for reducing emissions over that period of time as 2020 is now only 10 years away. It is of course a widely held view—and it is the correct economic view—that the most efficient mechanism for reducing emissions is through an emissions trading arrangement. That is no longer the subject of bipartisan support. It is now opposed.

Mr Hunt —Yes, it is.

Mr COMBET —The member for Flinders indicates that it is. Will you support the CPRS? Is Tony Abbott going to support it? We continue to support emissions trading as the most efficient mechanism—

Opposition members interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms S Bird)—Members know there is a proper way to interject if they wish to. The minister has the call.

Mr COMBET —It is the most efficient mechanism to achieve reductions in carbon pollution; however, what we have seen of course from the opposition after the replacement of Mr Turnbull as the leader—who spoke publicly over the weekend about this issue once more and his support for emissions trading—is bipartisan support for a set of targets but on their part absolutely no mechanism to achieve those reductions in emissions. What we have seen is an opportunist policy position adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott—a proposition under the heading ‘direct action’, the description applied by Mr Abbott—that, on the analysis of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, would lead us to a 13 per cent increase in emissions by the year 2020. That is clearly not a feasible position. It is an economically inefficient proposition and it is why the government adheres to the necessity for a proper pricing of carbon in our economy as well as support in the manner that I have described for greater investment in renewable energy.