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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12592

Mr LYONS (Bass) (10:26): I rise on this occasion to add my comments to the debate on the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Bill 2011 and cognate bill. The Australian government has developed a comprehensive plan to move to a clean energy future. This plan includes introducing a carbon price, promoting innovation and investment in renewable and low-emissions energy, encouraging energy efficiency and creating opportunities in the land sector. As a hot and dry continent, Australia has more to lose from climate change than most other developed countries. There are significant risks to our environment and our economy.

We are taking decisive action on climate change and this legislation is an important part of the package. It covers the establishment of ARENA, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. The government will establish ARENA as a new agency in the Resources and Energy portfolio that will incorporate initiatives previously administered separately through a range of bodies, including the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy, ACRE; the Australian Solar Institute, ASI; and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism. ARENA will have an independent, decision-making board appointed by the Minister for Resources and Energy, and will also have a CEO appointed by the Minister for Resources and Energy on the recommendation of the ARENA board.

ARENA's role will be to allocate funding to renewable energy and enabling technology projects. The Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism will provide administrative support to ARENA. The government will make final decisions on the details of ARENA'S governance before the end of 2011. This is an important step in our clean energy future. I wish to note that the establishment of ARENA will not delay the delivery of existing initiatives and the Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund application process will continue, as will the rollout of the Emerging Renewables Program, while the ASI will continue to deliver its existing programs. Upon its establishment, ARENA will then take over responsibility for these initiatives.

ARENA will fund projects that will help increase the deployment of renewable energy and drive down its costs in an Australian context. It will complement the new Clean Energy Finance Corporation. ARENA will oversee existing government support from the following initiatives and will have responsibility for managing the unallocated funds from these initiatives: Solar Flagships Program, Australian Solar Institute, Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (Solar), Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, ACRE solar projects, Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund, Australian Biofuels Research Institute, Emerging Renewables Program, Geothermal Drilling Program, Second Generation Biofuels Research and Development Program, and Connecting Renewables Initiative. With the introduction of a carbon price in Australia the government is focused on ensuring that Australia's emission reductions will be achieved at the least economic cost while maintaining adequate reliable and affordable energy supplies and the international competitiveness of Australia's industries. There is a strong case for the Australian government to help drive down the cost of renewable energy and reduce the carbon intensity of the energy sector by encouraging innovation in clean energy. The government is substantially boosting its support for innovation in clean energy as a central element of its clean energy future. Globally, more money is now being invested in renewable power than in conventional high-pollution energy generation. China is now the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels and wind turbines—the world is shifting and accepting the science. I ask those opposite to stop their scare campaign and to embrace the science.

The Australian Labor government is committed to action that will safeguard our environment, sustain our society and support our economy. The plan will cut pollution and drive investment, helping to ensure that Australia can compete and remain prosperous in the future. Individual businesses, industry and governments around the world are already taking action to reduce carbon pollution. By acting now, Australia can look forward to long-term prosperity for ourselves and future generations. Treasury modelling shows the economy will continue to grow strongly with a carbon price. Extensive analysis by economists and independent institutions such as the Productivity Commission has demonstrated that market mechanisms like a carbon price or an emissions trading scheme are the cheapest way of reducing pollution.

The Australian Labor government is committed to supporting jobs as the economy is transformed. That is why we will be supporting jobs through manufacturing, including in the steel and food-processing industries and in coal mining. Telling the truth is an important part of the job description for political leaders. Unfortunately the opposition leader has sacrificed this requirement in order to pursue a scare campaign on the carbon price. On 20 October at a doorstop at Laverton Mr Abbott said:

Our carbon tax will be the heaviest carbon tax in the world.

The fact of the matter is that many countries have carbon prices. Details vary making comparisons complex, but it is clear that Australia's carbon price, starting at $23 a tonne, will not be the world's heaviest compared on the basis of cash receipts not including free permits. The European Union's emissions trading scheme will raise $72 billion over the first three years of its next phase while Australia's carbon price will raise $17 billion in cash receipts over this time frame. He also stated in a speech at the Australian Industry Group on 19 September this year:

There is no way that America is going to put a price on carbon anytime soon. There is no way that the Chinese and the Indians are going to put a price on carbon until their peoples have a comparable standard of living to those of the advanced Western world.

The fact is that 10 American states, including New York, have already put a price on carbon pollution from their electricity generators. California, the world's eighth largest economy, will start a carbon trading scheme in 2012. China has announced it will introduce emissions trading commencing in key cities and provinces including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong. India has introduced a clean energy tax on coal. The Gillard government is working hard building a strong economy, a sustainable environment and a fair society that provides every Australian with the opportunity to prosper and succeed in life. Our first priority is keeping the economy strong—protecting jobs, driving new growth and creating opportunity for all so that no person and no place is left behind. We are providing assistance for households to deal with the increases in prices due to the carbon price. The Labor government is on the side of working people. It always has been and always will be. That is why we are doing everything we can to look after families, especially at the times in life when families need help.

Labor has: introduced Australia's first Paid Parental Leave scheme, including two weeks paid leave for dads and partners from 2013 ; increased the childcare rebate to 50 per cent; delivered the education tax refund to help pay for school costs; raised superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent—and this legislation was in the parliament this morning—for a dignified retirement for working people; targeted tax cuts at middle- and low-income workers; given age pensioners the biggest pension increase ever; and worked on a National Disability Insurance Scheme which will transform the disability sector.

The member for Warringah, the Leader of the Opposition, is not interested in policies; he just wants to say no and play politics. The Liberals: oppose the mining tax; oppose 12 per cent superannuation for workers; oppose tackling global warming by pricing carbon; oppose investment in the NBN; oppose health reform; oppose a fair industrial relations system that has basic protections for workers; oppose the GFC stimulus that saved 200,000 jobs; oppose the banning of exit fees on home mortgages by banks; and oppose the flood recovery package for Queensland and Victoria. It is my hope that they support, not oppose, this bill.

Labor's Clean Energy Plan cuts pollution and drives investment in clean energy, makes big polluters pay, delivers tax cuts and pension and payment rises, and protects Australian jobs. Australians want climate change action. Only Labor's plan will reduce carbon emissions, preserve our environment, assist families and households, and protect Australian jobs. NASA, the CSIRO and the world's top 1,000 scientists agree that human induced climate change is real. The rest of the world is acting. The UK, Germany, India, China and New Zealand are among those with local carbon prices or emissions trading schemes. The time for Australia to act is now to reduce pollution and protect the environment and jobs.

Labor has a good record on climate change action. One of Labor's first acts in 2007 was to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Labor has expanded renewable energy targets, which ensure 20 per cent of Australia's electricity will come from renewable energy sources by 2020. We have supported clean energy through initiatives like: Solar Dawn at Chinchilla, a solar thermal project boosted by natural gas—it will have a capacity of 250 megawatts—and the Moree Solar Farm consortium, led by BP Solar, which is building a 150-megawatt photovoltaic power plant. Together these projects are expected to generate enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 115,000 Australian homes per year. Our action in schools includes the National Solar Schools Program, which has helped over 2,500 schools take action on climate change by installing solar panels on roofs and water tanks. The member for Warringah has said climate change is 'absolute crap'. His sham climate policy would cost Australian households an extra $1,300 a year and give that money directly to big polluters; does not compensate families—Labor's tax cuts, pension rises and increased family payments would be repealed; does not support steel, mining or manufacturing jobs; and does not work—no reputable economist or climate scientist endorsed Tony Abbott's plan. It is time for Mr Abbott to admit what everybody knows: the Liberals will not roll back the carbon price.

Continued strong investment in renewable energy technology research and development is fundamental for Australia's transition to cleaner base load energy sources. Government support to fill market gaps and drive down costs will help us to achieve this transition. Like the wind generation in the north-east of Tasmania, the government legislation will support a clean energy future and jobs. I urge those opposite to support this bill.