Monday, 21 November 2011
My grievance relates to a fantastic report by Sunday Telegraph state political reporter Barclay Crawford on the weekend. He uncovered a scheme, similar to the pink batts scheme, engaged in by the New South Wales government. It involved the dodgy door-to-door sales of so-called energy efficient showerheads. It is yet another example of the failure of green programs. Without any prompting from me, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, today came out and said that wind farms are absolutely useless. But before he had done so, Barclay Crawford's great report gave me the opportunity to look into the great failures of so-called green programs by state and federal governments in Australia today, and it is quite a damning tale, affecting constituents in my electorate and people across the country.
We have heard a lot about what we have to do for the environment. Governments have become particularly interested in spending a lot of money to attempt to do things that have really been taken advantage of by many sectors and people who are not acting in the interests of the economy or of the environment. In New South Wales in particular, green schemes have been shown to be a complete and utter farce, where former, Labor state government schemes such as the solar feed-in tariff have cost the state billions and produced very little in the way of energy. They have allowed people to, in effect, fleece the government for money for their own purse.
We should not forget the state's impressively large white elephant: the $2 billion Kurnell desalination plant, which was touted as an insurance policy in a period of drought, when in fact, of course, years after the drought has broken we are still paying very high electricity costs for water which we do not need. It is powered by the Bungendore wind farm. The state government set up a regulation whereby, if Warragamba Dam levels went above 80 per cent, the desal plant, which would be switched off at such a point, would be compensated. Today dam levels sit at 78.7 per cent. It is estimated that the Warragamba Dam, which supplies all of Sydney's water, would have been well over 90 per cent full, but the previous, Labor state government turned off water transfers from a series of dams to keep it under 80 per cent, realising it would have to pay out billions of dollars to a desal plant which is now effectively mothballed.
Sydneysiders pay electricity prices, and every individual household and business bill has been climbing steadily. Indeed, in some cases there have been 60 per cent increases over the last four or five years to meet this insane green pursuit which is not benefiting the environment. Bob Carr, the former Premier, described desal water as 'bottled electricity'. He was proven to be right about that—prophetic. Sydney water recycling plants will not be completed until 2015 and while rainwater runs into the sea we pay 70c per cubic metre of desalinated water, completely ignoring the effects of the desal plant on the local environment.
The list of green initiatives gets worse and gets better. There are no fewer than 20 assorted grants and schemes which 'support householders, industry and the community to save energy and reduce emissions'. That is not to say that some of these schemes may not have some sort of place, but when you look into them—when you go to their websites and look at what they are doing—there is all this warm and fuzzy intention, but when you see what they actually accomplish versus how much they cost you end up with the idea that this is a form of complete and utter madness. The notable example is, of course, pink batts, which we should not forget was put together by this federal Labor government, primarily as an environmental program—$2.45 billion, none of it used efficiently; over 4,000 of the 10,000 installers found to be fraudulent; $124 million to fix faulty installation and conduct safety orders; and houses burnt down. How many tonnes of carbon were reduced by this program, which was touted in the name of the environment?
Now, in this report from Barclay Crawford, there is another rort: a $30 million scheme allowing door-to-door salesmen to sell so-called energy efficient showerheads to households in return for tradable permits. To no-one's surprise, it has resulted in shonky tradespeople going door-to-door selling shonky showerheads—getting rich off another government scheme with no environmental benefit.
There is the Energy Efficiency Information Grants Program, supposedly to help industry associations and non-profit organisations provide 'information from trusted sources' about the impact of a carbon price, worth $40 million over four years. The fact that the government's carbon tax is so complex that it needs to provide grants from $100,000 up to $1 million just to provide 'information from trusted sources' says it all.
Then we go to the Green Car Innovation Fund, part of the $6.2 billion A New Car Plan for a Greener Future, with hundreds of millions of dollars chucked at car manufacturers—Toyota, Ford and Holden—for green innovations, hybrid technologies, things they were already doing and producing and for which demand was already high in the economy. The government gave them money to continue to produce these cars. Let us talk about this for a moment. Toyota had already decided to make its Camry Hybrid in Australia before the government granted it $35 million in taxpayer funding under this scheme, matched by Victorian taxpayer funds for a total of $70 million. We are already subsidising an automotive giant in the form of subsidies from the government. We are giving them an environmental fund to lure them to Australia. Then, of course, the government committed to buying the cars. So the government subsidises the industry, gives them a green power grant when they are already producing green cars and then buys the cars from them. The taxpayer pays three times—a crazy outcome in anybody's language.
The $490-odd million cleaner car rebate, the cash-for-clunkers scheme—most people will know it by that name—provided a $2,000 rebate for householders that traded in a pre-1995 vehicle. Even the government realised the cash-for-clunkers scheme was a clunker, and it had to be scrapped in the wake of the Queensland floods. It was quietly put to bed in that crisis.
The Clean Energy and Other Skills Package was apparently to help educational institutions and industry develop the materials and expertise needed to promote clean energy skills. What are clean energy skills, Madam Deputy Speaker? Why do they need to be promoted; and why does it cost $32 million in government and taxpayer money? These answers are never to be found.
The $3 million Climate Change Grant Program is to 'help the Australian public understand the need to act on climate change' and the opportunities of a clean energy future. There is the $1.3 billion over six years for the improbably named Coal Sector Jobs Package, which provides assistance for a small number of emissions-intensive coalmines to investigate abatement opportunities.
It is easy, when you are spending other people's money, to load millions and millions of dollars into these schemes which are completely inefficient, achieve no environmental benefit and allow corruption on the scale highlighted by Barclay Crawford and others.
These examples of grant schemes, just what I have talked about tonight, come to a total in the order of $4.845 billion of government money—chasing what? Emissions reductions? I do not think we would have even 4.845 tonnes of emission reductions out of all that. That is $4.845 billion on just what I have mentioned tonight. That does not include the entirety of the new car plan, which is another $6 billion on top of that. That makes $10 billion.
Then we had the Green Loans scheme, which instinctively was a good idea, the idea being that the government would lend you the money to upgrade all of your power and efficiencies and you would pay it back interest-free. You take out a loan from the government and pay it back; it is a self-funding scheme. This government of course totally made a hash of that, affecting a lot of people in my electorate in particular who, in good faith, decided to go out there and say, 'I would like to do something to improve the environmental efficiency of my property and dwelling and take out that loan and pay it back over time'—the right kind of policy, the right kind of instinct. But the government could not manage a self-funding environmental scheme. It was a complete disaster. So again there was no environmental benefit but a lot of money expended.
These are only a few examples of what you can find out there today in terms of the suite of so-called environmental policies that are supposed to generate an environmental benefit. What the government are actually doing is distorting our marketplace in a way that is not producing the efficiencies we need for a better environment. They are actually making things a lot worse. Government inefficiency and waste in the environment sector, in all of these policies that I have mentioned today—up to some $10 billion there—are really producing very little environmental benefit. We are ignoring big opportunities for advancing both our power generation and other forms of technology which could of course make severe environmental differences. The government really needs to look very seriously at scrapping all of these so-called green schemes, which are prevalent in Australia today, and stop wasting Australian taxpayers' money at a state and federal level. There is very little environmental benefit, very little economic benefit and, when we look back over this era, I think people will be shocked at how much taxpayers' money is being thrown away in pursuit of very little gain.