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Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Page: 8666

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (12:35): Today we are speaking on the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Bill which establishes the entity that will administer the $3.2 billion in existing federal government support: ARENA. ARENA will be administering all renewable energy projects, and it still has $1.7 billion in funds out of the $3.2 billion. On top of this, the $10 billion clean energy fund will be there. The Greens demanded that from the government. Senator Milne, leading the government around by the nose again, got this. This is one of Senator Milne's great trophies. She wanted it; she got it. She told the government the Greens would not support the $23 entry price if she did not get the $10 billion, so this is her trophy. It is another trophy for Senator Bob Brown, when he goes over to visit Durban. He can swan around there and say he screwed $10 billion out of Australian taxpayers and got not only the world's biggest carbon tax to inflict on Australia but also the world's biggest renewable fund. It will have to be heavily subsidised to exist—up to, I would say, $70 or $80 on renewable energy certificates. The Labor Party are in fairyland about this. They have to understand that one person's green energy subsidy is another industry's penalty. That is what we have to face.

I am concerned that the superannuation funds run by the unions are going to invest heavily in this artificial, make-believe renewable energy Clean Energy Finance Corporation. They will be trying to get maximum leverage out of the $10 billion. Personally, I would not put Confederate money into a renewable energy bank that relies on an artificial price to supply industry and has to have huge subsidies to keep it going. Inevitably, there will be a day of reckoning when the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry or some other peak body says that the carbon tax and renewable energy are killing Australian industry by making it uncompetitive and costing jobs. We cannot keep increasing costs and expect to sustain a manufacturing industry in Australia. In the face of a collapsing manufacturing industry, governments will have to act. You cannot have a carbon tax and renewable energy. It is a double whammy. We cannot compete with our exports and compete against imports from other countries that do not have either.

Bindaree Beef runs an abattoir in Inverell, which is where Senator 'Wacka' Williams lives. Bindaree Beef is the iron lung of Inverell and employs 630 people. It is paying around $3,185,708 in renewables and electricity. That is their estimate. Next year the carbon tax will put up electricity prices by about 30 per cent and renewables by about seven or eight per cent, so their electricity bill—and these are my figures; I just put 30 per cent on top—will go from $3,185,000 to $4,364,000. That will be on top of the increased taxes on all beef that comes in and all meat that goes out by road. Bindaree Beef have said in their submission to the Senate that they cannot absorb the costs. They have worked out that they will have to pay the farmers $11.26 less. Farmers are not in those 500 dirty polluters who are going to be penalised; everyone will get penalised. That is a huge hit for Australian graziers. Those charges will be the same for all Australian abattoirs, give or take a few bob.

Rick Morgan owns one of Queensland's finest seafood restaurants at Redcliffe. Senator Brandis would know it. He has employed a consultant to assess his future electricity and renewables bills. The price is going to increase by 24 per cent. It is a relatively small restaurant and he has a few trawlers. He employs 140 people with the restaurant, the trawlers, the trucks and so forth. It is going up 24 per cent, up to $64,000. I am afraid to tell the Labor Party that Rick Morgan does not share the government's view that there is a bright, new renewable business that is going to take his 140 staff to a new fish restaurant paradise. In fact, he is distinctly pessimistic.

The Labor Party and the Greens can always see a bright future with increased jobs and a business utopia when it comes to renewable energy and the carbon tax. None of them have ever run a business. They are always looking towards the green emerald city that is going to produce jobs and all sorts of wonderful things in the future. I hope they are right, but I do not think they are. Senator Thistlethwaite today was talking about wave power. There are all these sorts of new things. You can produce wave power but no-one has ever been able to do it commercially. The only renewable at the moment that is in anyway feasible is wind, and even that is terribly expensive.

The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation legislation has not been introduced. When it is I will say a lot more about renewable energy. These ARENA bills now give me an opportunity to address the fiasco on rooftop photovoltaic cells. The government could not even administer that. Now it has introduced the most complicated and convoluted carbon tax. I confidently predict that this will end in the same way as roof insulation did. There is a very clear likelihood that the impact will be even worse and possibly much worse. There are a whole series of policy and administrative failures from this government that provide no confidence that it is capable of administering any policy of substance, let alone a policy on the scale of the carbon tax. We have seen that in virtually everything it does. We have had the pink batts fiasco, the school halls debacle, the asylum seekers disaster, the live cattle trade mess—and the impacts of that are still unfolding—and the biggest infrastructure project in the nation, the NBN, rolling out without a business case and with very few signatures to get on board.

We have had serial policy misjudgment associated with serial shocking maladmin­istration. This is the hallmark of this government. Most Australians think of this government as being chronically incom­petent. No example is more pertinent to consideration of just how bad the carbon tax might become through maladministration and incompetence than the disaster that Labor is making in renewables. The Renewable Energy Target is a subset of the carbon tax. It is an abatement measure. Seeing how it is being handled fills you with dread in the context of a carbon tax. The people who are chronically mismanaging it are the precise people who will be charged with the administration of the infinitely more complex carbon tax. I am obviously referring to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.

Let me give you the shorthand version because, if we were to go into it thoroughly and do a thorough clinical autopsy, we would be here all day. We need to go back a bit. In the last Howard government the government budgeted $150 million over five years for cash subsidies for rooftop solar. It blew out by over half a billion dollars in 18 months before Garrett finally pulled the pin.

Debate interrupted.