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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 4342


Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:10): My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Four times in question time this week the Prime Minister has described his government's energy policy as 'technology agnostic'. Yesterday, former Prime Minister Abbott said:

… when he says that the government is technology neutral, he's wrong.

Does the minister agree with former Prime Minister Abbott that Prime Minister Turnbull is wrong?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:10): No.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Marshall, a supplementary question.

Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:11): Can the minister confirm that Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, took a two-page list of energy demands to the Prime Minister, including a $5 billion fund to help fund new coal-fired power?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:11): What I would say to my good friend and valued colleague the senator from the great state of Victoria is: don't believe everything you read in the newspaper. The other thing I would say is that, unlike the Labor Party, the coalition is a vibrant party where we're having policy debate about how we can best ensure that we continue to bring down electricity prices and that we continue to improve energy reliability across Australia, because that is important for families and it is important for business. It's important for our competitiveness as an economy moving forward.

That is in sharp contrast with the way the Labor leader, Mr Shorten, approaches these things. He's so scared of his own caucus, he's not even prepared to take a plan for higher taxes on business to his caucus. In the last few days we've found out why, because one Labor member and senator after the other is popping out and speaking out against him. We've got the member for Bass—

The PRESIDENT: Order. Senator Wong on a point of order.

Senator Abetz interjecting

Senator Wong: I'm rarely cheered by Senator Abetz, so I'll take the cheering! My point of order is on direct relevance. It's all very interesting, but the minister was actually asked to confirm whether or not—

A government senator interjecting

Senator Wong: I'm happy to take the interjection. You simply talked about newspapers; we just asked you to confirm or otherwise. That was the only question.

The PRESIDENT: The minister has two seconds left on the clock, if he'd like to continue his answer.

Senator CORMANN: Bill Shorten is a socialist who stands for higher taxes.

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Cormann. I'm taking a point of order from Senator Wong.

Senator Wong: That really was a deliberate flouting of the standing orders. I'd ask you to—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, the minister did not complete his sentence before I called him to order. I called him to order instantly. I call Senator Marshall for his final supplementary question.

Senator MARSHALL (Victoria) (14:13): I thank minister for his advice about the media and his acknowledgement that Victoria is indeed a great state. Will the minister rule out providing a loan facility or any other taxpayer funded support to build a new coal-fired power station or to extend the life of an existing coal-fired power station?

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Vice-President of the Executive Council) (14:13): There was a great motion in the Senate yesterday that I think the Senate voted on. What the government made very clear yesterday is that our National Energy Guarantee, which is our policy, will actually facilitate, in a completely technology-neutral way, the necessary energy generation, including coal-fired power generation, into the future. It is expected that, by 2030, 60 per cent of our energy generation will still come from coal under our National Energy Guarantee. We want to get the best deal for Australian families—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong on a point of order?

Senator Wong: The point of order is on direct relevance. There was only one question: would the minister rule out the provision of a loan facility or other taxpayer support for new coal-fired power?

The PRESIDENT: You've reminded the minister of the question, Senator Wong. He has 21 seconds remaining to answer.

Senator CORMANN: The thing that Senator Wong finds difficult is that Labor gets to ask the questions and I get to answer the questions.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Collins.

Senator Jacinta Collins: He's again flouting standing orders.

The PRESIDENT: I actually didn't hear the first phrase. I was taking note of your point of order. I'll ask Senator Cormann to return to the question asked in his remaining—

Senator Jacinta Collins interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Collins! I'm ruling on your point of order, if you could remain silent while I do so. I ask you to return to the question, Senator Cormann.

Senator CORMANN: As I've already indicated, the government's policy is the National Energy Guarantee. That will be able to facilitate any electricity generation necessary in our national interest.