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Christine Milne: Labor and Liberal parties must support the RET

Speeches in Parliament
Christine Milne 16 Mar 2015

The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, responds to the answer provided in Question Time by Senator Ronaldson. She calls on the Liberal and Labor parties to get behind renewable energy and to protect the RET.

Senator MILNE: I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Science (Senator Ronaldson) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to renewable energy.

We have a situation in Australia where the renewable energy target was driving investment and jobs-more than 20,000 jobs in the solar industry alone across the country, massive amounts of new jobs as solar expands beyond rooftop photovoltaics into medium-size, out to supermarkets, dairies and the like, plus a massive rollout of wind energy, wave energy and so on. But, of course, the Abbott government does not like it.

The renewable energy target is not broken. Contrary to what Minister Macfarlane has said, it is not broken. The people who are out to break it are the government, and they are out to break it because they want to prop up coal fired generators, the old economy. In the 12 months since the carbon price was abolished by the Abbott government, coal fired generators in the Latrobe Valley have increased their production by six per cent-that is, increased emissions massively-and there have been increased profits for coal fired generators. That is the only reason this is happening. So why would the Labor Party go into compromised negotiations with the Liberals to cut back on renewable energy? I have no idea. There is no need to do it, no need whatsoever, because the jobs that are going to go are in the renewable energy sector. You are destroying jobs that are already out there, and indeed investment. There is billions of dollars' worth of investment and jobs sitting on the sidelines that cannot be invested in at the moment because of the attack on the renewable energy target.

The International Energy Agency came out last week and said that, for the first time in 40 years since it has been measuring this, emissions from electricity generation globally have flatlined in a time when there has been economic growth. There was three per cent economic growth in 2014, but emissions from electricity generation have flatlined. That is fantastic news-decoupling economic growth from energy. What is Australia doing? It is going totally backwards. How has it happened? Because China and India are investing massively in renewable energy as opposed to sticking with fossil fuels. One dollar in every $3 invested last year globally in renewable energy was invested in China-$89 billion, with jobs and investment in China. We need to have that level of investment and jobs in Australia. It is sitting on the sidelines, not investing.

This shows how little Senator Ronaldson has taken note of the debate: there is 9,000 megawatts too much energy in the system, so the best way of dealing with it is to shut down some of the old coal fired power stations like Hazelwood, like Anglesea-get rid of them out of the system. You do not deal with this problem by propping up old coal fired generators, stopping the rollout of renewables and shutting down and undermining renewable energy businesses. That is why I asked this question of the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Science, because this is about Australian jobs and competitiveness.

Do you seriously think Australian products or manufacturers are going to be competitive in a global environment when every other country has switched to renewables, to a low-carbon economy, when we are trying to prop up old coal fired generators? You are putting people out of work now in the renewable energy sector and in the future in the old economy, because they will not compete as other countries move to more efficient systems, greater energy efficiency and more driving with renewable energy. It is bad for Australia. Everyone is now moving. If you want proof that the rest of the world is moving, just look at the International Energy Agency figures-a flatlining of emissions in a time of three per cent global growth. That tells you the rest of the world is moving.

The level of ignorance that we hear from the National Party in particular around this is such that all they want to do is destroy agricultural land with more coal seam gas, rip up more of Australia's farmland and water for coalmines and shut down renewable energy. Their future is about holes in the ground-dig it up, ship it away, lose jobs, be uncompetitive. That is not the way of the future. The way of the future is to invest in education, in research and development, in renewable energy and in a low-carbon economy. That is the future and that is why it is crazy to go around cutting the renewable energy target. I hope the Labor Party will not do that. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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