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Christine Milne: Why did Abbott lie to Australians about the RET?

The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, uses question time in the Senate to ask the Abbott government why they lied to the Australian public last election about changes to the Renewable Energy Target (RET) and asks when the government will release the Warburton review.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:18): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. Minister, before the 2013 federal election Prime Minister Abbott said:

... we have no plans to change the renewable energy target.
Minister Hunt said:

We also agree on the renewable energy target and one of the things we do not want to do is to become a party where there's this wild sovereign risk ...
Senator Birmingham said he supported a 41,000 gigawatt-hour target. Now that the Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants to either abolish or massively reduce the renewable energy target, do you now admit that the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party lied to the Australian community at the 2013 election about the renewable energy target?

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania-Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:19): You have to admire the absolute front of the Labor-Greens alliance in this place. Talking about broken promises are the Labor Party, the architects of the carbon tax-and now we have the leader of the Australian Greens seeking to lecture us about sovereign risk. What audacity is coming out of the mouth of the leader of the Australian Greens.

Senator Milne: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. I asked a direct question about the renewable energy target and the lie that the Prime Minister told.

The PRESIDENT: The minister has only been answering the question for a quarter of his time. I did hear the minister address part of your question in that short time. The minister has the call.

Senator ABETZ: As I am sure all listeners to the program-this Senate broadcast-would understand, Senator Milne actually used the words 'sovereign risk'. In relation to the renewable energy target, I indicate-

Opposition senators interjecting-

The PRESIDENT: Pause the clock. Order on my left.

Senator ABETZ: In the legislation that established the renewable energy target there was the requirement for a review to be undertaken. That review is being undertaken as we speak. It will, in due course, report to government. We will ascertain what that report has to say and, like any good government, we will consider that report and determine what the appropriate approach is for the future of the Australian people.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:21): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The Prime Minister has given the Australian people one reason for destroying the renewable energy target, and that is to reduce electricity bills. I ask the minister: given that there are now half a dozen reports, including the ACIL Allen report, showing electricity prices will be lower if the RET is left unchanged, what is the Prime Minister's reason now for destroying the renewable energy target?

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania-Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:21): There is an assertion in the question that, of course, has absolutely no foundation. The government has made no decision in this area; it is awaiting a report. It will consider the report and then determine its approach.

It makes sense when you have a report of this nature that there will be a number of submissions to the committee or to the review panel. It stands to reason that there will be views expressed that differ. That is why you have a panel of this nature, to try to determine what the appropriate approach will be for the future benefit of our nation and for the future benefit of the Australian people. That is what motivates us and that is what will drive our approach to this issue.

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (14:22): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. With Suntech pulling out of research and development in Australia and Silex pulling out of the Mildura concentrated solar plant because of massive sovereign risk and uncertainty generated by the government, why is the government fuelling that uncertainty by refusing to release the Warburton review? When will it be released?

Senator ABETZ (Tasmania-Leader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:23): I cannot assist the honourable senator as to the date of the release, but as is the wont with these reports the government will consider the report when it is ready to respond to it. It will release the report and respond to it. Let us be very clear in relation to this and other matters. You can point to the odd situation here and there. We know what the carbon tax did to this nation and we finally got rid of it, thanks to Palmer United, the DLP, the Liberal Democrats, Senator Xenophon, Family First, the LNP, the National Party and the Liberals. There was a great meeting of the minds on that issue and that did a great service for the Australian people in reducing the cost of living and protecting jobs. That is what motivates us and that is what will keep motivating us in relation to our approach on this issue.

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