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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3370


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (12:11): This Clean Energy Finance Corporation (Abolition) Bill 2013 [No. 2] abolishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation is bad public policy at its best. This is public policy well and truly stuck in the 1970s and, after the announcement of the return of dames and knights, it is evident that this is a government that is well and truly stuck in the 1970s.

The abolition of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will stifle research and development into clean energy in our country. It will put a hold on commercial investment in clean energy projects in Australia. Most importantly, it will guarantee that we leave our kids an economy and an environment that is worse off because of the decision that the parliament will make if we abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The CEFC was established to provide sustainable clean energy finance into the future, investment in clean energy in Australia on a commercial basis. The process of the CEFC was to also leverage private sector investment to overcome barriers to investment in renewable energy in our economy and it was to do that on a commercial basis. The research and the evidence from the CEFC's activities so far demonstrate that that is exactly what is occurring. It is leveraging finance on a commercial basis and returning, and will return, dividends to Australians in the short term.

So far the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has been able to catalyse over $1.55 billion in non-CEFC private capital investment in projects and programs while it has only committed $536 million. These projects that the CEFC has commercialised will account for a reduction of 3.9 million tonnes of carbon in Australia. So a very small investment by the CEFC is leveraging a greater commercial investment from the private sector in clean energy and will return a dividend to the Australian people, in particular the next generation of Australians. And yet it is a project that the government is comfortable knocking off today. It is knocking over a vehicle for investment in clean energy throughout Australia. If this goes through, that is something our nation will pay for for many, many years.

And what are they going to replace it with? They intend to replace it with a scheme of government grants—government handouts—to all and sundry on a whim and with the hope that they will invest in projects that are commercially viable and will result in carbon reductions in our economy. One would think that we are living in a parallel universe. I was always under the impression that the Liberal Party of Australia were all about the market and market-based mechanisms providing the best outcomes in our country. And here we have the Liberal Party knocking off a market-based mechanism for investment in clean energy in Australia and replacing it with what? A scheme of government grants—going completely against their own ideology and philosophy, simply because they are opposed to a Labor initiative that is good public policy.

What are some of the projects that a program like the CEFC will commercialise? I am fortunate that in my community we have the University of New South Wales, which has done outstanding work in research and development of photovoltaic cells. Just two months ago the university's ARC Photovoltaic Centre of Excellence took out the AF Harvey engineering research prize for the Institution of Engineering and Technology for the team's discovery of a mechanism to control the charged state of hydrogen atoms to correct the deficiencies in silicon—the most costly part of solar cell technology. That will revolutionise photovoltaic solar cell development, and that is the sort of project that will get commercial backing under the CEFC. But it is being knocked off by those opposite for short-term political gain, and our kids will pay.