May 30, 2013

Question Without Notice – Clean Energy Finance Corporation

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (15:09):  My question is to the acting Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation. Why is it important that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation act responsibly and discharge its legal obligations to invest in clean energy? Is the minister aware of other approaches to this and what would be their impact?

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and Minister for Regional Development and Local Government) (15:09):  I thank the member for his question. Parliament established the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in renewable and clean energy. This is investment which will allow Australia to tackle climate change and improve our economic competitiveness. We know that there has been a 30 per cent increase in renewable energy usage since we had a price on carbon. Parliament established the CEFC as an independent statutory authority. We legislated for it to make investments from 1 July 2013. Parliament appropriated the funds and told the corporation to get on with the job. Yet now we have the opposition leader standing over the corporation, asking it to breach its statutory obligations. That is without precedent in our parliamentary democracy. They are trying to bully an independent statutory authority into ignoring the will of the parliament and the law, besmirching the reputation of some of the most significant business people in Australia.

This is what the CEO had to say today about some of the claims.

“There is no basis to claims that the CEFC is providing “low-cost high risk loans” that “no other financial institution would provide” or that we are a “lender of last resort.”

The CEO has been very clear about the position of this corporation. In saying that they will repudiate contracts they are going to the heart of sovereign risk. This is the epitome of sovereign risk: legal obligations entered into under legislation carried by this parliament and those opposite say that they should just ignore it. It is seriously undermining confidence in investment in this country. The Leader of the Opposition and those opposite are putting themselves above the law, above the parliament and above the voters. They want to slash investment in renewables and clean energy just like they are intending to thug the Premier of New South Wales and say they will withdraw the agreement between the New South Wales government and the Australian government to put more funding into schools.

Mr Pyne:  Madam Speaker, on a point of order: I ask the Leader of the House to withdraw the statement he made about the coalition in relation to the New South Wales Premier.

The SPEAKER:  Order! The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. I will ask the member to withdraw.

Mr ALBANESE:  I withdraw. The comments of the New South Wales Premier and education minister are all there on the record, putting the interests of schoolkids in New South Wales now and into the future above the partisan narrow political objectives of those opposite. The Leader of the Opposition wants to actually start cuts before the election, start future cuts, talking about repudiating agreements. He is not up to the job of leading this country.