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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6249

Mr DREYFUS (IsaacsCabinet Secretary, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and Parliamentary Secretary for Industry and Innovation) (12:07): I rise to speak on the group of clean energy bills that are before the House. The bills include the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Bill 2012, which will establish the long-awaited Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and a number of clean energy bills which make improvements to the Clean Energy Act 2011, the Fuel Tax Act 2006, the Excise Act 1901, the Excise Tariff Act 1921 and the Customs Tariff Act 1995.

These amendments will improve the working of the Carbon Farming Initiative, enhance the powers of the Clean Energy Regulator, improve working relations with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and amend the coverage of gaseous fuels under the carbon-pricing legislation. These are important bills because they take Australia closer to a low-carbon future. They are important bills because by establishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation they will help us unlock our national potential by securing a strong and sustainable renewable energy industry.

The establishment of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will act to overcome market failures by providing financing for Australian based renewable energy technologies, low-emissions technologies and energy efficiency projects. This is nation building; this means jobs for Australians. These bills are an example of the best aspects of the Australian Labor Party being forward thinking and being unashamedly determined in our desire to reshape our nation for the better. It is a great honour to be part of a government that is putting in place such a substantial change that will create jobs and reduce pollution.

I know that there have been a great many speakers on this bill and I know that there will be more. But I would like to take the time to outline in a little more detail the shape of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation because it is such an important initiative. I think this is important because, as usual, we will see the same grab bag of untruths, misrepresentations and outright lies from the opposition. The speeches we had yesterday and today and the hysteria that we continue to see from the opposition simply underscore the vast gulf between the two main political parties. We are a party with an optimistic vision for the future. We are acting to put in place far-reaching legislation that will reshape this nation for the better. The coalition is a party with no vision and whose only reason for being is to oppose. They will say and do anything at all, no matter what the cost to the nation as a whole and no matter what the cost to the lives of all Australians, if the Leader of the Opposition believes it might take him closer to the Lodge. The latest example of this insistence on acting as wrecker, as opposer-in-chief no matter what the cost, is their opposition to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Let us go through the facts. It is clear that while the carbon price will provide a massive incentive to invest in clean energy, new technologies do face a range of obstacles in attracting financing. Because of this, the government is creating the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which will invest in renewable energy technologies, low-emissions technologies and energy-efficiency projects. The government will provide $2 billion in funding per annum for five years, and any interest earned will be available for reinvestment. This bill requires that the corporation have at least half of its investments in renewable energy technologies by 30 June 2018. The corporation will apply a commercial filter when making its investment decisions and will focus on projects and technologies at the later stages of development. This is to ensure that the corporation will invest responsibly and manage risk while also making sure the corporation values any positive externalities which are generated by financing.

Establishing the corporation will mean that we have taken a very large step towards reducing our carbon emissions. We must act now or be left behind. The need to establish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is a pressing one. I am prompted by another ridiculous speech, the one that we heard just now from the member for Hughes, one of the climate change deniers of those opposite—and there are quite a number of them. We need to face this. There is a clear consensus among climate scientists that climate change is real and we will have significant future impacts if no action is taken to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The world is acting to reduce carbon emissions and to create a global low-carbon economy. That is what the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is for. That is why the 195 nations of the world that are participating in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meet every year in one very large formal meeting and at a range of smaller meetings during the year. There is agreement on the end objective, which is to reduce the world's carbon emissions. Of course, as is always the case in large multilateral negotiations, there is not yet agreement on how the world is to go about reducing carbon emissions, but many nations are already acting to reduce national emissions. Australia, in the Clean Energy Future package and in this part of the Clean Energy Future package setting up the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, is joining that global effort. If we do not act now, we will be left behind and we will miss out on the global jobs that will come from investing in clean energy and investing in renewable technologies.

A low-carbon global economy is coming and it is up to us to decide whether we help Australian business to take advantage of this or simply bury our heads in the sand. There are many countries around the world that are assisting their businesses to move on low-carbon technologies and to invest in low-carbon businesses. We should be doing the same. Many other countries have acted to put in place similar financing arrangements to this Clean Energy Finance Corporation to kick-start the clean economy. I can give some examples. These are some of the larger finance corporations, which countries around the world have, that invest in new technologies, that invest in sustainable technologies and that invest in low-carbon technologies. I would start with the example of the United States Department of Energy, which has issued loans and guaranteed loans to encourage early-stage commercial use of new or significantly improved technology and energy projects. The United States Department of Energy has given to around 35 projects, between September 2009 and September 2011, loans and guarantees worth around $35 billion, dwarfing the size of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation that this legislation proposes.

Germany's main development financing agency, KfW, is also a significant financier of clean energy by providing commercial banks with liquidity at low rates. This same German agency has provided funding to 80 per cent of Germany's newly installed wind energy and 40 per cent of the solar panels installed in 2010. It is estimated that this agency will commit over €100 billion in the energy sector over the next five years. Another example of international action is Brazil. The Brazilian economic and social development bank, BNDES, provides long-term finance with a very strong clean energy focus. In 2011 this bank approved financing of approximately US$1.8 billion for the construction of wind farms, and there are a range of other projects. I have had a presentation from that Brazilian development bank and I know the range of clean technology projects that the Brazilian development bank is investing in.

The world is acting and many countries are putting in similar financing arrangements to those that we are proposing with this legislation for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It is time for Australia to play its part. As part of the clean energy future package we must look after people. I think it is worth talking briefly about the impact of the carbon price more generally and what we are doing to ensure that we are helping working Australians, mainly because it is an issue that the other side of this House raises again and again. They consistently and deliberately get it so wrong. Our whole reason for being in politics is to provide support to working families, to improve services and to make this country fairer. Apparently the reason the Leader of the Opposition is in politics is to help Clive Palmer.

Our budget—and our clean energy future package—contains important measures to help households make ends meet. More than 1.5 million families will benefit from increases to family tax benefit part A from 1 July next year, with nearly half of those taking home an extra $600 a year. A new supplementary payment will help the unemployed, students and parents on income support meet the cost of essential bills, worth $210 a year for singles and $350 a year for couples. Earlier this week pensioners started to receive upfront household assistance payments of $250 for singles and $380 for couples combined. These payments will be paid straight into pensioners' bank accounts over the coming few weeks. About 2.1 million pensioners who are on the maximum rate of the pension will be better off by $134 a year for singles and $201 a year for couples, on average—a buffer of more than 65 per cent against the expected modest impact of the carbon price. And 93 per cent of pensioner households will be at least 20 per cent better off, thanks to these new payments. Of course, we are putting in place tax cuts for all taxpayers earning up to $80,000 a year from 1 July through a tripling of the tax-free threshold.

By advocating to abolish the carbon price and scrap this assistance, the Leader of the Opposition wants to make millions of pensioners worse off and millions of benefit-recipients worse off. I think that when such an opposition engages in such negative scare campaigns—an opposition that opposes sensible measures like the bills that are before the House today—we should also look at the alternative that is being presented by that opposition. We should look at the opposition's so-called plan—a cobbled together policy that they have no intention of pursuing if they ever do hold office—its direct action policy. Do not be fooled. This is a plan which is not designed to reduce emissions. All the policy is designed to do is give an appearance of action, give some kind of appearance that the opposition care about this policy area. The member for Hughes, who spoke before me, needs clearly to take up with the leadership of his party this direct action policy, because it appears that he thinks that we should not be seeking to reduce Australia's national carbon emissions and, indeed, that the whole world should not be seeking to reduce carbon emissions. If that is so, he needs to take up with the leadership of his party the Direct Action Plan, the purpose of which is said to be to reduce Australia's national emissions.

Their direct action plan—if you can call it that—is even worse than this. It involves the purchase of abatement of emissions at taxpayers' expense. That method of attempting to reduce emissions has been tried before and has proved to be entirely ineffective and very expensive. Everyone looking at the alternative plan to reduce Australia's emissions, from those who like to badge themselves as the alternative government, needs to bear in mind that families will be worse off under the plan put forward by the Liberal Party. Families will have to pay $1,300 more in taxes and that money will be given straight to the big polluters. It is mystifying to think what the coalition's policy is in this area when one listens to speeches like that delivered by the member for Hughes or those regularly delivered by the member for Dawson or the member for Tangney. These are self-expressed climate change deniers who would assert that there is no purpose in seeking to reduce Australia's carbon emissions.

Mr Morrison: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker Murphy, I would ask the member to withdraw the slur on those members. He knows full well the use of the term 'denier' has a connotation that he would be particularly familiar with and I would ask him to withdraw that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): There is no point of order. The member for Cook will resume his seat.

Mr DREYFUS: He is wasting the House's time with his nonsensical objection. I absolutely reject the suggestion put forward by the member for Cook.

Mr Morrison interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Cook will desist from interrupting.

Mr DREYFUS: It is ridiculous and I will repeat: these are climate change deniers on the other side of this House. It is an entirely legitimate phrase. It is an appropriate phrase to use about those on the other side of the House who do not accept the science of climate change, and they need to start accepting the science of climate change. The member for Cook is lending his assistance to the ridiculous suggestions put forward on the other side of this House. We are acting on climate change and will continue to do so. (Time expired)