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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3377

Mr GILES (Scullin) (12:42): I rise in opposition to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No. 2], and I want to speak on some concerns of process as well as some matters of substance. On the process, it is extraordinary that, in a week when we have heard so much cant about freedom, again we see a major debate in this place gagged. Going to that point, I should congratulate the member for Swan, because he did in fact talk about the legislation that is before the parliament, unlike the member for Hughes. He talked about Labor rushing to get the chequebook. I think what we are doing here is rushing through this legislative process when there is some significant evidence we should be considering, not least the rationale adopted by the Senate in rejecting this legislation late last year and the important work done by the Senate committee, which I will turn to briefly.

It is telling that the broad attitude of the coalition can be summed up by two things here: (1) a failure to engage with the fundamental challenge that is combating climate change; and (2) utter lack of interest in the substance of the bill that is before us. It is quite extraordinary that the member for Hughes spent most of his time talking about the investment decisions the member for Rankin and I can make. He obviously has great confidence in our financial capacity to make these investments—misplaced confidence—but he has nothing to say about the legislation that is before us.

Mr Ciobo: Hear, hear! It is misplaced confidence. I've got no confidence, for what it's worth, especially in Rankin. You make a compelling point. You've almost got me convinced.

Mr GILES: Well, listen a bit longer. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation facilitates comprehensive commercial loans for both renewable energy and cleaner energy technology investments and is set to fund emissions reductions at a negative cost to government—to turn a profit. This government's alternative plan for an Emissions Reduction Fund—I do not think that was very well understood by the member for Hughes, but I am sure the parliamentary secretary can take him through it—will consume billions from consolidated revenue. It is simply bizarre that a government supposedly obsessed with reducing debt and deficit would oppose a market-orientated scheme that turns a profit. Clearly the motive here is purely ideological and not for financial, much less environmental, reasons.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been a success and will return real dividends. In its first months of operation it has been strikingly successful in providing loans to organisations. Over time we see the capacity to make investments that would account for 50 per cent of the five per cent emissions reduction target by 2020, at a profit to the taxpayer of $2.40 a tonne. In 12 months we have seen great success, but, despite these successful operations, through this bill the government is seeking to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. This government has been unable to see past its ideological blinkers and appreciate the role the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been playing in facilitating investment in renewable energy that would otherwise be missed by normal commercial banks.

I touched earlier on the Senate inquiry. Many stakeholders gave evidence to the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee regarding the work to date and argued strongly and persuasively that the CEFC should be retained. The CEO of the Investor Group on Climate Change, Mr Nathan Fabian, summarised the need for the CEFC in evidence to the committee:

The CEFC is one example of what are now 14—

I emphasise 14—

co-financing institutions around the world. These organisations are needed for five reasons. Firstly, governments cannot sufficiently finance low-carbon alternatives to meet a two-degree outcome and private capital is needed. Secondly, the low-carbon investment market is relatively young and so deal flow needs to be supported. Thirdly, capacity in the finance sector must be increased through the experience of financing investments. Fourthly, financial participants welcome investment opportunities presented in a new market by an objective third party, even more than by investment banks. Lastly, co-financing organisations can actually earn financial returns for governments, delivering abatement at negative costs—and we think this is appealing and makes sense to all parties. Given the government's infrastructure agenda, we think that dismissing co-financing as a useful policy instrument may be premature.

Those are five very strong arguments that should not fall on deaf ears but seemingly will.

In the northern suburbs of Melbourne, energy efficiency gains are already being realised at the Labelmakers printing services store. The CEFC has helped finance three new energy-efficient presses that operate at twice the speed, using half the energy, of the old presses, while allowing a broader range of higher quality printed materials to be manufactured. It has supported jobs in the communities I represent, as well as environmental outcomes. This is just one of many projects the CEFC has helped bring to fruition. It makes a mockery of the Treasurer's claim in his second reading speech that investments were made in high-risk ventures. The second reading speech, as ever, was strong on rhetoric, low on detail and utterly unpersuasive.