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Question without notice: The Budget

Speeches in Parliament
Richard Di Natale 5 May 2016

Senator DI NATALE

My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Last night, the budget did not mention global warming once, not a peep. The Treasurer's speech completely ignored it. The budget papers ignored it. There was not a peep about the tens of thousands of jobs that come with the transition to a clean economy; not a peep about the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on a healthy Great Barrier Reef.

It is a simple question. Your government says that it has an economic plan that is good for jobs, good for growth. How can you be serious about having a plan for jobs and growth when you are not just silent but you are actively preventing the transition to a clean economy, which is the best prescription for jobs and growth?

Senator BRANDIS

Senator Di Natale, you are wrong. You are wrong when you say the budget did not mention climate change. You are quite wrong. It is true to say that the term was not used in the budget speech. The budget speech, Senator Di Natale, is not the budget. Your assertion that it is not mentioned in the budget papers, that large body of documentation that supports the budget, including the portfolio budget statements, Senator Di Natale, is wrong.

If I can direct you, Senator, to the portfolio budget statements for the Department of the Environment and the supporting documents in relation to the Department of the Environment, which is the lead department, as you know, in relation to this area of policy, you will see plenty of mention of the issue. Might I remind you, Senator Di Natale, since you assert in your question—again, wrongly—that the government has done nothing in relation to the matter that it is not the first time I have had to remind you, Senator Di Natale, that we took to the Paris climate change conference one of the most ambitious emissions reduction targets in the entire word—a reduction of 26 to 28 per cent of 2005 emissions by 2030 and, Senator Di Natale, as you are aware, as the regulator has reported, Australia is well in excess of its targets at the moment. That is a per capita reduction of emissions, Senator Di Natale, of 52 per cent. Perhaps, Senator Di Natale, you could equate the Senate with what other countries are proposing an emissions reductions target equivalent to a per capita reduction of 52 per cent in compliance with their Paris obligations.

Senator DI NATALE

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In last night's budget speech, the Treasurer said:

We will not be able to rely on our natural advantages in resources to secure the jobs of the future like we have in the past.

Yet, in the budget, the Treasurer announced that they are giving $110 million to survey the country to help mining companies develop greenfield sites, yet taking out $1.3 billion from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency—with the support of the Labor Party, it must be said. How does that square up?

Senator BRANDIS

Once again, you seem to dwell on this false antithesis between support for the Australian mining industry and support for the environment. It was the same error that was made by Senator Waters in a question she asked me earlier in the week.

We, on the government side, Senator Di Natale, believe that you can have a prosperous, thriving and environmentally responsible mining and coal industry, and a well-cared forenvironment at the same time. You in the Greens, Senator Di Natale, do not. Nowhere is the falsity of that antithesis more obvious than in my own state of Queensland where we have, with the Great Barrier Reef and the other great environmental sites, a well-cared for environment that is well regulated and, at the same time, we have a mining industry, which would be a more thriving industry, if people like you got out of the way and let it develop.

Senator DI NATALE

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I am looking forward to learning about what a false antithesis is, but anyway. The government talks a lot about innovation and incubating good ideas, but last night's budget was more like a microwave than an incubator, reheating a whole lot of old infrastructure commitments. Why won't the government commit to funding productive infrastructure like the clean energy technology we need to create jobs and investment rather than giving tax cuts to billionaires?

Senator BRANDIS

Well, Senator Di Natale, once again, this is the third time out of three questions you have based your question on a false premise, because that is the very thing the government does do. It does it, for example, through the renewable energy target that will lead to 23.5 per cent of Australian electricity being sourced from renewable energy by 2020.

The government, for example, in pursuit of the renewable energy target announced as recently as 8 April that we would be proceeding with the $400 million White Rock Wind Farm; on 10 February that the Powering Australian Renewables Fund would target 1,000 megawatts of renewables and attract up to $3 billion of investment; and on 18 February the announcement that our electricity companies would meet their renewable energy targets, because of the support, through public investment, provided to them by the Australian government.

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