The Abbott government’s efforts to scrap the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation have been defeated, again, in the Senate, with the Greens and Labor voting down the legislation for a second time, by a margin of 35–28.
The CEFC repeal legislation, which was first brought before the Senate and voted down in December last year, was again called to vote on Wednesday by the Greens – forcing its second defeat and setting up a double dissolution trigger.
“The CEFC is creating jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, reducing Australia’s pollution and returning money to the budget,” said Greens leader Christine Milne in statement ahead of the vote on Wednesday.
“The Senate won’t stand for Tony Abbott’s head-in-the-sand approach on global warming, and we’re not afraid of a double dissolution election over renewable energy.”
The CEFC, long on the hit-list of the Coalition government, was set up by the Gillard government to finance clean energy projects – most recent examples of which include the Warrnambool LED street lighting project, and the development of two Australian designed waste-to-gas facilities in Western Australia.
Its abolition legislation was the first of 11 bills intended to dismantle the carbon tax, as promised by the Coalition at the federal election. But with the balance of power in its grasp for just two more weeks, the Greens moved to bring on, and vote down the CEFC Bill a second time – a plan flagged by Milne on the ABC’s Insiders program over the weekend, in an interview during which she described Abbott as a climate denying “last century man.”
“That will set up a double dissolution trigger and make it clear to Australia the Greens will stand firm for a clean energy future as opposed to the Prime Minister’s last century coal, global-warming, destroying future he wants,” she said in the interview.
“The Abbott government has admitted the CEFC is profitable, but they’re so driven by ideology that they want to wipe their hands of it and sell it off. It’s just further proof that there is no budget emergency,” Milne said on Wednesday.
But the Greens – and Labor, of course – aren’t the only members of the Upper House to have accused the Coalition’s motives for trashing the CEFC of being ideologically driven.
“It is not providing grants to fund projects,” said DLP Senator John Madigan in December last year, in a less predictable show of support for the CEFC. “It is not giving away taxpayers’ money. It is a pro-industry development bank that is helping drive private and public investment in lower emission and cleaner energy technologies.
“It is helping our farmers and our manufacturers to reduce their costs and to use energy-efficient equipment. It requires borrowers to be responsible, to deliver on their project commitments and to repay their borrowings. It leverages private capital to invest in areas they might otherwise ignore, like energy generation using methane emissions from farms and industrial processes.”
Milne says the results of this week’s second vote show more clearly than ever that Abbott lacks the skills to negotiate with the cross bench in the Senate – “so you can expect that huge parts of his agenda will be blocked,” she said.
“The Greens won’t entertain any compromise on our values, so we are ready for an early election, if Tony Abbott has the ticker for it.”