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Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Page: 8731

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (17:23): I am very pleased to participate in this debate on the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Bill 2011 and a related bill. It is indeed an honour to follow two of my distinguished colleagues—Senator Boyce and Senator Boswell—both Queenslanders and both of whom have a very good understanding not only of clean energy but of the impact that the Labor government's administration of any energy portfolio has on our home state of Queensland.

Senator Boyce mentioned ZeroGen as an example of how the Labor Party simply cannot manage anything at all. Whilst the examples of the inability of Labor to manage any program are fairly obvious, ZeroGen is a classic example. Over $100 million of taxpayers' money was put into this company, set up by the former Queensland Labor Premier, Mr Peter Beattie, and enthusiasti¬≠cally carried on by the current Queensland Labor Premier, Anna Bligh, with all sorts of promises. They even included as its chairman, as I understand it, a former Labor state government minister to be a chief of corporate Australia. Of course, we all know that it has gone into liquidation—another testament to Labor's inability to manage anything related to renewable energy.

The coalition are supporting these bills because we certainly hope that this agency may able to administer all commercial and other operations around renewable energy in a better way than we have seen Labor manage anything at all since the advent of the Rudd and Gillard governments. The agency, to be known as ARENA when this bill is passed, is designed to centralise the administration of $3.2 billion in existing federal government support to the renewable energy industry, currently managed by the Australian government and by Australian government funded bodies such as the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy and the Australian Solar Institute. ARENA will also assume the work of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy in establishing and maintaining links with state and territory governments in fostering and developing collaborative research partnerships, both domestically and internationally. As I said, if this were being done by the government, by the minister, by cabinet, I would be worried; but let us hope the agency, when it is set up, will have a much better record of administering millions and millions of dollars of taxpayers' money than the Gillard government has shown itself to be capable of.

I do hope, and I urge the minister to ensure, that the board members of ARENA are appropriate, that they have real commercial experience, not like the case with ZeroGen—you just put in a Labor hack, a former Labor minister who had lost his job—making it another avenue for jobs for the boys.

Senator Milne: You supported ZeroGen.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: And we support ARENA, Senator Milne, but I am saying let us hope that when it is set up the Labor government minister will appoint appropriate people, people with commercial experience and not just some Labor hacks or some former state or federal Labor ministers who need a job paying a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. Let us hope that when the board is appointed it will be an appropriate board with the required experience.

The coalition is a great supporter, as I think Senator Milne has just acknowledged, of renewable energies. I remind the Senate that the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target—the first such proposal, scheme, project anywhere in the world—was established by a Liberal and National Party federal government. It was also a federal coalition government that established photovoltaic industries in Australia. The first wind projects in Australia were established by a coalition government. It was also a coalition government that funded the first large-scale photovoltaic generation programs. Indeed, it was a coalition government that put money into the first solar thermal projects. It was a coalition government that continued to ensure that we had projects that actually worked, and I am proud of that.

I think we do have to move, hand in hand with the coal industry, into clean energy options. I do think that the time will come when Australia will be required to take the cheapest and the cleanest form of energy—that is, nuclear energy. If we are worried about carbon emissions, we know that you do not get any carbon emissions out of nuclear. Why the Greens continue to oppose it, I cannot— (Time expired)

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Stephens ): The time allotted for consideration of the remaining stages of these bills has expired.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.