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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8286


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (11:50): The government has designed its energy security fund to reduce energy security risks. We are providing assistance to the most emissions intensive generators in the country wherever they may be. Assistance is targeted in this way because the modelling and expert advice indicate that this is the best way to reducing risk to energy security. I have outlined the nature of the energy security fund and I am again saying to the senator that I do not think other ministers, including from your side of government, would have gone through, in the context of a whole-of-economy-and-sector reform, what a particular company would get in relation to a program that had yet not passed the parliament. I do not think that is appropriate. I think what is sensible is to go through the policy rationale for why assistance has been structured in the way it has. I have done that, but we can do this a fair bit all day. You can move from one company to another and another. What I would say is that they would get no assistance under your package.

Senator Cormann: They won't have to pay a carbon tax either. They won't have to pay $540 million.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN ( Senator Pratt ): The minister has the call.

Senator WONG: It is interesting, isn't it? I do feel sorry for Senator Cormann, because he is trying to be the fiscally sensible one and he got rolled this week because he very sensibly said, 'If we oppose the MRRT, we should oppose the spending measures, because we haven't funded it.' But then he got rolled—Mr Robb did not even get invited to the meeting—and they are now, again, engaging in more unfunded expenditure. This is pretty embarrassing for the senior economics spokespeople of the opposition, who have yet to come up with a policy that is properly costed.

Senator Birmingham was goading me before, and I was responding to him, but the harsh truth is that, since Mr Abbott became the opposition leader, the opposition—including for the election campaign—have yet to come up with a properly costed policy—

Senator Birmingham: You're yet to come up with a properly costed policy!

Senator WONG: They have yet to come up with a properly costed policy. So they can lecture us all they like about fiscal responsibility. We know those over there are no Peter Costello.

So I again say there is $5½ billion worth of assistance under the Energy Security Fund, designed to reduce energy security risks. We are, clearly, providing assistance to the most emissions intensive generators in the country. I accept there are some generators who do not agree with that decision. The reason the government have taken that policy decision is that the advice to us from modelling and from experts is that this is the best way of reducing risks to energy security. That is why we are structuring the package in the way that we have.