The Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne, uses Question Time in the senate to call on the government to admit that their attack on the Renewable Energy Target is designed to prop up the coal industry.
Senator MILNE: My question is to Senator Ronaldson, the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Science. Is the government aware of the evidence in all the reviews, including its own review, that reducing the renewable energy target will slash jobs and industry investment while pushing up electricity bills and pollution. If so, will the government now admit that its attack on the renewable energy target is designed for one thing and one thing only: to prop up the diminishing value and profits of coal fired generators by several billion dollars?
Senator RONALDSON: Thank you. What an extraordinary question, Senator Milne. It beggars belief-through you, Mr President-that you can actually stretch a bit of string as long as that. What I will say-
Senator Milne interjecting-
Senator RONALDSON: Do you want an answer to the question or not? Mr President, what we have made quite clear is that this government supports renewable energy. We are committed to a RET that allows sustainable growth in both the small- and large-scale renewable energy sectors. As you are acutely aware, we have made it quite clear that we will not change the level of support provided to household solar. In fact, I think even those opposite acknowledge that the RET is broken, and if they came to the table we could probably get this resolved a bit quicker. Those opposite-not you, of course, Senator Milne-know that the RET is broken. That is why we said to the Australian Labor Party: 'Come and join us. Come and talk about it. Start getting a long-term vision for where we need to be.' You, Senator Milne, of course, are completely out of this debate. You are irrelevant to this debate. But I do say to those opposite: 'Come and talk to us and see if we can resolve this issue'.
What is also quite clear is we want to fix the RET. We have said that. And we have put forward a clear proposal that would provide certainty for the sector and see the amount of renewable energy produced under the scheme double between now and 2020. We have said we will not change anything in relation to household solar. We have also said we are going to exempt emissions- (Time expired)
Senator MILNE: I think the appropriate words were 'out of this debate'-but, anyway. Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The International Energy Agency report released last week documented that, for the first time in history, worldwide emissions did not grow, in a global economy that grew three per cent in 2014. Does the government now accept that its attack on the renewable energy industry is undermining the global competitiveness of Australian industry into the future?
Senator RONALDSON (Victoria-Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC and Special Minister of State) (14:27): I thank the honourable senator again for her question. New large-scale renewable energy projects are not being built, because the electricity market is oversupplied. I know that you cannot understand nor will you acknowledge the situation, but I am afraid it is indeed a fact. Anyone who wants to have a sensible debate and engage in this needs to understand that as the starting premise. The fact that you do not again indicates that you are incapable of being part of a long-term discussion.
We want to provide certainty. The renewable energy sector wants certainty. I note that in 2001 when RET was introduced by the Howard government-and this is a fascinating figure-hydro made up almost eight per cent of Australia's total electricity supply- (Time expired)
Senator MILNE : Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given that there are 9,000 megawatts too many in the system, why wouldn't you close down coal fired generation and bring down emissions rather than prop-up coal and cut down on renewables-if you are interested in competitiveness?
Senator RONALDSON: I suspect there are a number of workers in the Australian coal industry who again want to hear the Australian Greens talk about taking their jobs away from them, about taking their future away from them and from their children. But you go and argue the case out there.
As I said to you before about what the RET figures were in 2001, after 14 years of this scheme and $9.4 billion worth of support from electricity customers, renewable energy now provides around 14 per cent of Australia's electricity.
We believe renewable energy is an important part of Australia's energy mix. We want to see the amount of renewable energy grow in the next five years. We remain open to those who want to engage in sensible debate. We are open to those who want to talk about the future of the renewable industry. You have cut yourselves out of this debate, Senator Milne. I say to the Australian Labor Party: sit down and get this resolved. (Time expired)