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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2916

Budget


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:49): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training representing the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Minister, on budget day, the world hit the highest concentration of heat-trapping gases in 800,000 years. The science is abundantly clear—and we've said it many, many times: extreme weather's already getting more frequent and more violent. The risks of tipping over into runaway global warming are getting higher and higher, and yet the budget shows that climate funding has fallen off a cliff to a tiny 0.2 per cent of total government expenditure. Minister, how do you explain doing less and less as the climate crisis gets worse and worse?

Government senators interjecting


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:50): This is just another case of the Australian Greens preaching to their base, their voters, and making claims that are completely unfounded if you look at the facts. What this government has managed to do and achieve is to ensure that Australia will not only meet but also exceed 2020 emissions reduction targets. We will ensure that, as a country, we honour and deliver on our commitments. Every step we've taken to date as a government has actually met those commitments and exceeded them. Australia exceeded its initial commitments in relation to emissions targets. We will exceed our 2020 commitments, and we will do so without the need for additional taxes or costs on Australian businesses, households or families. We will do so by focusing on the most efficient ways to ensure we deliver energy security and energy affordability while also meeting those emissions reduction targets.

As is well known in the chamber now, we are working through the process in the energy sector, for example, of delivering our National Energy Guarantee, which will set in place a framework to not only meet those emissions reduction targets in that sector and guarantee reliability but also, importantly, help Australian households and families drive down the cost of their electricity and contribute to a reduction estimated in the order of around $400 for those Australian households in their future electricity costs. This is about focusing as a government not on the types of policies the Greens want—which pretend that Australia, in isolation, could somehow be the change-maker in relation to global emissions—but instead on Australia working to meet our targets. These targets are world leading on a per capita basis and are world leading on a GDP basis. They are significant targets, and they're targets we've proven time and time again we can and will meet. (Time expired)

Government senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: I'm going to ask senators to remain silent during questions so that I can hear them. There was a lot of noise during Senator Di Natale's first question. Senator Di Natale, a supplementary question.



Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:52): Two of the few remaining climate programs that are left under this government's stewardship are the Greens initiated Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Is this a speech or a question?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Macdonald!

Senator DI NATALE: I'm glad they're listening to your ruling, Mr President. The government has tried and failed to abolish them twice, and slashed half a billion dollars from their budgets—with Labor's help.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Di Natale. Senator Macdonald, senators get 30 seconds to ask a supplementary question. I specifically ask for silence so that I can rule on points of order when they tend to come up. I will ask senators to remain silent during the asking of questions.

Senator DI NATALE: Given that the government has tried and failed to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, are your plans to reduce climate change spending—

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Di Natale; the time for the question has expired.

Senator Di Natale interjecting

The PRESIDENT: You did get your full 30 seconds; the clock was stopped when I was making my ruling. There are 30 seconds to ask a question. I call the minister to answer what was asked or asserted in the question.









Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:53): This government is, of course, delivering through agencies like ARENA and the CEFC. We're doing so in a way that helps to make sure that we meet our emissions reduction targets, but we're also investing in the types of projects that can achieve more affordable, reliable electricity into the future. That's why we have a focus on investment in areas like the Snowy 2.0 scheme, and on investments in projects that can provide base-load power and dispatchable power and energy that are able to bring down prices across the market. Not only can we meet those emissions reduction targets; we can also ensure we do so in a way that doesn't add to the cost for Australian households or businesses and can instead actually bring it down and enable us to get that double benefit of lower emissions and lower prices. This will enable households and businesses to invest, which will create more jobs, and to enjoy the standard of living they absolutely expect.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, a final supplementary question.



Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:54): With climate funding at 0.2 per cent of total government expenditure, what's it going to take? Is it going to take more bushfires, more floods, more droughts? Is it going to take crops withering on the vine in some of your marginal seats for you to finally act and do something about the impending climate crisis? Or are those massive donations from the coal, oil and gas industry just too big? Are those donations just so big that you won't do what's needed and take the action to stop dangerous climate change?


Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training and Manager of Government Business in the Senate) (14:55): There we have it from the Australian Greens. It's either more spending or more taxes or, ideally for the Australian Greens, more spending and more taxes, because that is their answer to everything. In the coalition, we believe that good policy doesn't necessarily mean having to spend more. Good policy certainly shouldn't mean having to tax more. Good policy is about making sure that you get the types of outcomes you are looking for—in this case, meeting Australia's emissions reduction targets. As I said in relation to the previous two answers, we are on track to meet and exceed our 2020 targets. We will make sure the policies are there to meet our 2030 targets. But we won't be doing so with the Greens policies of higher taxes or ever-higher spending. The Greens come in here and complain about the amount that is spent. We would argue that it's far better to have an effective policy, as we have, that will deliver those targets but also keep electricity prices down for households and businesses and ensure that the lights go on when you flick a switch. (Time expired)