Attacks on Renewables - 17/06/2021

15 June 2021


I'm very proud to speak in support of this disallowance motion moved by the member for McMahon to stop government from destroying the important role of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, ARENA. The government are claiming that they are expanding the remit of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, but they're not expanding the funding and they're also trying to erode its independence by giving the minister these god powers that they so love to just decide what can be a low-emissions project. Well, I wouldn't trust the honourable member for Hume. I wouldn't trust any of those opposite. This is just another attack on ARENA, which was created by Labor in 2012. This government has tried to destroy it all along because they are ideologically opposed to renewable energy. It's just another one of their attacks.

Now, the purpose of ARENA is, in the act, 'to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and increase the supply of renewable energy' in Australia. This change that the government is making seeks to broaden the remit to things that are not renewable energy. While some of them may have some merit, they are not renewable energy and, by drawing them into the remit of ARENA, they are robbing renewable energy of that incredibly important source of funding. It is incredibly important that we should be investing in renewable energy at this time. The planet is warming. We know that. It's not up for discussion; we know it. But the people opposite in the government do not seem to know that. I find it extraordinary that the minister—a Rhodes scholar, an Oxford graduate—can ignore the science on climate change. It's because it's ideological.

In December 2015 the world joined together to adopt the Paris Agreement, which commits us to limiting global warming to between 1.5 and two degrees above pre-industrial levels. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human activities have already caused one degree of warming and we will reach 1.5 degrees between 2030 and 2052 if we don't do anything. If we get to two degrees, our Pacific island neighbours will no longer have homes; their lands will be underwater.

These are decisions that are being made by this government; they are happy to accept that. I have read these facts into the Hansard in this parliament, but you have to keep doing it because they are not listening, they are not taking this seriously. We are becoming an absolute embarrassment on the world stage, more and more so, including right now at the G7. The Prime Minister took to the G7 the slogan 'technology, not taxes' when everyone else was committing to net zero by 2050 at a bare minimum. Every G7 nation increased their 2030 goal. Japan has committed to overwhelmingly decarbonise their power system in the 2030s. What does this mean for Australia's gas and coal exports to Japan? It means demand will decrease. The G7 moved a resolution to introduce carbon border tariffs. This puts every export industry in Australia at risk as other countries move to put taxes on high carbon goods. How does this fit with the Prime Minister's mantra of 'technology, not taxes'?

And the G7 committed to cease government funding to coal plants except where they include carbon capture and storage—and I'll talk more about CCS shortly. Not a single coal-fired power plant currently successfully utilises CCS, something the government wanted to bring into the remit of ARENA. The next climate summit is in Glasgow in November. Will the Prime Minister embarrass us there again? Sadly, I expect that he probably will. This government has had 22 energy policies in eight years—eight years of inaction on climate change. This is incredibly frustrating for people who understand how critical this is. This is our world, this is the planet we live on. It is not some little game of debating; it's something that needs to happen. We are increasingly becoming an embarrassment internationally. The cost will come to those most vulnerable, including our Pacific neighbours, as I've mentioned.

Businesses want to invest in renewable energy, and don't have the certainty they need because this government is in chaos on this issue. We need an energy policy because we have a huge challenge ahead of us to get to net zero emissions by 2050, which this government is not even committed to. The language around it is very vague. They say they want to get there but they are not committed to it. Worse still, they have no plan to get there. Labor is doing the work. We are in opposition and we are doing the work to work out how we would get there. We have committed to net zero by 2050. We are the only party of government that has done that. Labor will have an excellent climate policy at the next election and we will have more to say on that. We have already made some incredibly important and impressive announcements, including $20 billion to rewire the nation so that renewable energy can feed into the grid. This is the kind of certainty business needs to invest in renewables. They need support from the government, not chaos.

Let's look at some of the things the government wanted to bring into ARENA's remit. Carbon capture and storage is the great hope of the Morrison government. They have been all over the place on that too. Initially, they scrapped the CCS Flagships program and cut half a billion dollars in funding for CCS. According to the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, carbon capture and storage is currently in operation at 26 locations around the world. But more than 2,000 facilities will be required by 2050, according to the global institute. So it's not really an effective thing.

We should actually be investing in things that work—things like the Australian Centre for Photovoltaics at UNSW in the electorate of the member for Kingsford Smith. This institute has been involved in every major advance in solar power, and it relies on ARENA for funding. This government wants to rob ARENA of its funding by spreading it around on things that have nothing to do with renewable energy. It's not good enough, and it's time to kick this mob out. We need people who believe science and who have a vision for the future that begins with a planet that is going to survive.