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Monday, 1 September 2014
Page: 9202

Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (17:39): The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Repeal) Bill 2014 being debated is yet another example of the regressive, backward-looking approach of the Abbott government to renewable energy. Whilst Australians are calling out for more renewable energy, this government is doing everything it possibly can to ensure that our energy supply remains dependent on old technologies while discouraging research and technological development of renewable energy.

The Australian Renewable Agency or ARENA, as it is widely known, has the slogan of building tomorrow's energy infrastructure and its goal is to do this by lowering costs and increasing the use of renewable energy. I think that is something that all Australians support.

Over the last week or so I have been receiving numerous emails from my constituents encouraging me to support ARENA and vote against any moves by this regressive Abbott government that says one thing before and another thing after an election. They have encouraged me to oppose the abolition of ARENA and vote against any changes to the renewable energy targets—targets when, coupled with ARENA, will deliver better and more dependable energy long term and give us a longer life span. ARENA also looks at new technologies which are the gateway to the future.

ARENA has a proud record. It has invested $1 billion and another $1.8 billion has been leveraged from industry and others. That is a significant contribution to renewables and renewable research. ARENA is managing more than 180 projects—that is including fellowships and scholarships—worth $2.8 billion. Of these, 15 projects have been completed and there have been more than 40 variations to maximise results. An additional 37 projects are in contract negotiations.

ARENA supports and recognises new and immature technology solutions that are high risk. They are the innovators. They encourage innovation as opposed to those on the opposite side of this House who have a very narrow, short-sighted vision for the future that is rooted in the past rather than looking towards new technologies and research. ARENA also shares information that supports industry rollout as well as to the wider community.

This government stands condemned for its action in this area. ARENA has over 190 projects worth $2.5 billion, of which 15 are completed, and there is ongoing investment and research in so many other areas. There is another $7.7 billion worth of projects under construction, and these projects are innovations, technologies, that would not have come to fruition without the work of ARENA and where it is at at the moment.

Shortland is an electorate where solar energy has been embraced. People in Shortland have converted to solar panels, solar homes. There are 4,885 solar homes in Shortland and it is generating 12.2 megawatts of clean energy. Around 18,500 jobs nationwide have been created by clean energy, renewable energy and solar energy in particular. There has been a $36.6-million investment in solar power saving 15,266 tonnes of CO2 and $2.7 million on power bills. Since November last year, an additional 19 families in Shortland electorate have moved to powering their homes by renewable energy.

As well as bringing investment and benefits to the whole community, renewable energy is a growth area for jobs in new technologies and new industries and it looks to the future. Now, unfortunately for us in Australia, the government are a government of climate change deniers. They give lip service to the fact that climate change is actually an issue. They pretend that they are concerned about CO2 emissions. But every single action that they take in this parliament says they do not believe in climate change, they do not care about climate change and they are going to do nothing to bring about changes, to develop renewable energy or to invest in the technologies and sciences of the future. They only give lip service. They only pretend to be interested in climate change. Otherwise, why would they be abandoning ARENA? Otherwise, why would they be actively considering getting rid of the renewable energy targets that are so important to the future of the renewable sector and so important to the environment we live in, the ecology and the future of this nation?

I really believe that those on the other side of the House need to go back to the drawing board. They need to determine what they really believe in. I know there are members on the other side of this House that actually accept the fact that climate change is a reality, that we need to take action for the future, that we need to invest in these new technologies and that ARENA actually plays an extraordinary role in our society and in our country. Any organisation that for $1 billion of investment can gain $1.8 billion is certainly doing what it was set up to do.

I think no issue is a more defining issue between us and those on the other side of the House than climate change. As I said that, I thought, 'Actually, practically every issue we debate in this House is a defining issue.' Those on the other side of the House were prepared to bring down a cruel budget that really hurts those people who can least afford it. On this side of the House we support people that look to government for support. I think about our approach to health care and the approach of those on the other side of this House to health care. I think of our approach to the environment across a wide variety of areas and then I think about how those on the other side of this House approach it. I think about fairness, I think about equity and I think about discrimination. And then I look at the way those on the other side of the House approach those issues and I hesitate to say that climate change and our approach to it is the real defining issue.

Practically everything we debate in this House, how we debate it and even ensuring that the democratic process is in place defines us. We saw this morning a piece of legislation rammed through this House. It was introduced with the parliamentary secretary standing up and giving a second reading speech saying that he moved that the bill be read a second time. That was the extent of his speech. There was no legislation in the House for us to look at. This is the quality of the Abbott government. It is a government that looks back to the past and does not embrace new technologies. It does not look to promoting industries such as solar, bio-energy, hybrid enabling, ocean, wave, wind or geothermal energies. This is a government that is prepared to sit on its hands and rely on the technologies of the past.

ARENA has overseen a lot of innovations and a lot of programs. There was the Emerging Renewables Program, which supported the development and early-stage deployment of renewable energy technologies. The Southern Cross Renewable Energy Fund was funded under the Renewable Energy Venture Capital Fund. The venture capital fund is a very important aspect of ARENA that supports those emerging projects and industries. ARENA supported high-value Australian renewable energy knowledge by increasing awareness of renewable energy solutions and by sharing research knowledge. That is very important because the sharing of knowledge is how industries develop and build upon the findings and research of other industries. This decision to abolish ARENA is a really backward step when it comes to that area.

ARENA also provided funding for the Accelerated Step Change Initiative for exceptional and commercialised projects not captured under other renewable ARENA programs. ARENA has announced many initiatives. There has been funding announced by the parliamentary secretary. ARENA is providing $2.5 million for 12 cutting edge solar research and development projects. Once again, all these projects are under threat simply because we have a government that has no vision, has no initiative and has no commitment to see that we have a viable renewable industry going into the future. Some of those projects are enhancing existing technologies to advance emerging technologies in photovoltaics, solar and solar storage—all really important areas that we need to come to terms with within the solar industry and for progressing the solar industry into the future.

ARENA going will cost thousands of jobs across rural Australia. The agency is responsible for researching and supporting renewable projects and emerging technologies, such as concentrated solar energy. Many of these projects are carried out in rural Australia. That being the case, I am sure that we can look to National Party members standing up in this House and speaking out and opposing the abolition of ARENA! Wind and solar are examples of industries that are vitally important in the country—and for local earthmovers and the people who build the roads. People who maintain them are looking at moving to a more renewable approach to energy.

With the abolition of ARENA Australia will be taking a backward step. This is a government that does not value ideas. This is a government that does not value new technologies. This is a government that looks to the past. This is a government that stands condemned for its attempt to abolish ARENA.