Greg Hunt changes tune as policy extremists take control

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Greg Hunt has spent the last year saying the costs of the RET are modest. Now, he says, meeting the 41,000GWh target would entail “extraordinary” penalties.

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Environment Minister Greg Hunt has done a quick about-face on the potential costs of the renewable energy target, and hinted that it was never the Abbott government’s intention to protect the 41,000GWh target.

In an interview on Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News on Thursday, Hunt appeared to endorse the findings of the RET Review panel headed by climate skeptic Dick Warburton, which suggests that the RET be closed to new entrants or phased back dramatically.

greghuntHunt – in good guy mode – has previously insisted that the costs of the RET are very modest, costing households just 3-4 per cent of their electricity bills, even before including the benefits from lower wholesale electricity prices.

On Sky News on Thursday, however, Hunt said the 41,000GWh target – which hitherto had been a bipartisan target – could only be reached at the cost of some “extraordinary” penalties.

The Murdoch journalist did not have the presence of mind to ask what these could possibly be, although it seems clear that Hunt is referring to the fact that Australia’s big three retailers would prefer to pass on the $92/MWh penalty cost to consumers rather than meet their obligations to build wind and solar farms.

This assumes a couple of points – one that the target could not be met, an idea that is prosecuted by the fossil fuel industry but which was dismissed by the RET Review panel’s own modelling – although Hunt knows too well that any further policy uncertainty will cause it, ultimately, to hold true.

The other assumption is that the retailers would dare to try to con their consumers in such a way. Already, they lose one in four customers each year as people look for cheaper options. They are not popular. Imagine the stampede in 2020 if they tried that on.

But Hunt also hinted that it was never the serious intention of the Abbott government to protect the 41,000GWh target in any case. As he told the Sky interviewer, he has said on 20-30 times that the new government supported a “20 per cent” target. He has refused to be drawn on whether this meant endorsement of the bipartisan 41,000GWh target.

Asked again, if this was a breach of an election commitment, Hunt replied:

“Look, with respect, our promise – is that our policy was for a 20 per cent, for a 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target, but that there would be a review which had to come, by law, under the ALP’s own law, it was due to come this year.”

(Fact check: The “law” states quite clearly that it is the Climate Change Authority that must conduct the review, not a hand-picked panel of climate skeptics and fossil fuel lobbyists).

And later, in response to another question, Hunt said:

“Look, what we said at the election is that our policy was for a 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target. But that …. we would have a review to consider it. So I feel very comfortable with where we’re at, at the moment and that we are … very mindful of our – I am very mindful of our election commitments. Very, very mindful.”

And, hey presto, here is a RET Review panel that recommends the immediate closure of the scheme, or at best, a change to a “real” 20 per cent target – a result that would still deliver massive windfalls to coal generators and bring the renewable energy industry to a close in this country.

But, it seems, even a “real” 20 per cent target might be a step too far for this government. Industry minister Ian Macfarlane, who brought the Howard government scheme to a halt a decade ago in similar circumstances, is not convinced there is a need to keep the target open. Hence the need for Hunt to take the “extraordinary cost” line on meeting 41,000GWh.

 

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16 Comments
  1. Keith 5 years ago

    Lying seems to be the thing that this govt is good at. Do they think we are all stupid?

    • Pete 5 years ago

      They know we’re not all stupid but they realise there are enough stupid/ignorant people in the electorate to risk the lies. There are at least a dozen people in my circle of relatives/friends/acquaintances who accept everything they read in the Murdoch press as gospel. They don’t check anything to find out if it’s true or not.

  2. Mole 5 years ago

    Hunt is one of the most spineless, inept and insipid Philistines to ever tarnish politics. His children will hang their head in shame in years to come at the position and inaction of himself and his party.

    • Tommyk82 . 5 years ago

      I think of Hunt as the most likely suicide for when the world starts to more aggressively pass judgement. The other contender is Morrison.

  3. Peter Campbell 5 years ago

    Shameless. Hunt actually understands that ETS and RET are good policy but his ambition is more important to him.

    • Chris Fraser 5 years ago

      Ha ha. They may wriggle and they may squirm, but certainly they don’t think we know them at all …

  4. colin 5 years ago

    He probably asked Cabinet what his core belief should be

    • Miles Harding 5 years ago

      And he got the answer!

      Apparently he is ‘happy’ to support Abbott’s pernicious policies.

  5. adam 5 years ago

    What’s the status of the CCA review anyway? I thought they were going to do one as well.

    • Tommyk82 . 5 years ago

      They did one just before the election to render this one unnecessary. The recommendation was to keep or increase the target. We’ve effectively had other reviews done by Jacobs, Bloomberg and others which also suggest it’s of benefit to everyone to keep or increase. So far only fossil fuel lobbyists and right wing ideologues have managed to produce results suggesting otherwise and the assumptions used in the process have been laughable.

      • Paul 5 years ago

        CCA conducted their first RET review Dec 2012. If CCA are required by law to conduct the next review, then they should be conducting another review for 2014. Giles, Are you aware of the status of the CCA on writing this 2014 report? The CCA website doesn’t provide guidance on this.

  6. Rob G 5 years ago

    No surprises there! Puppets do as they are made to do. Actions like this have a habit of haunting one’s career. We going to here a lot more vocal support support ousted about from the COALition, making out the wonderful insights the report brought to light etc… I personally cannot wait to hear what Big Joe has to say. Who will he insult this time around? I just can’t wait! But speaking seriously now will any of this parading on dubious TV stations and in the Murdoch press make any difference to what the senate will do? I personally doubt it.

  7. Alan Baird 5 years ago

    After all this nonsense is finalised, I still wait to see the fantastic savings (from lower energy bills) that will land in the lap of the average Joe Punter as a result of this amazingly cheap ( and clean) coal energy. I can see the scenario now:
    Tony A: “Uh, I’m pleased to uh, announce that uh, due to the hard work my uh, government has done, the projected dreadful uh, price rises that uh, the Labor Party would have foisted on you will uh… not be as uh, dreadful! They uh, will still be uh, considerable but uh, just imagine how much uh, worse they would have been!”
    And the Murdoch commentariat will intone, “Yes, yes, how true Tony. We have all missed out on fiscal disaster by the skin of our collective teeth. Our grateful thanks to your brave government for giving it to these thoughtless aggressive lefties.”
    Here endeth the lesson. You have been told. And lo! It will come to pass!

  8. Rob Farago 5 years ago

    Any reduction to the RET is a broken promise. Last year Senator Simon Birmingham addressed the Clean Energy Week conference in Brisbane and said:

    “It has been interesting to note the claims being made about what the Coalition will or won’t do. All of it is simply conjecture. The Coalition supports the current system, including the 41,000 giga-watt hours target.”

    http://www.senatorbirmingham.com.au/Media-Centre/Speeches/ID/1736/CLEAN-ENERGY-WEEK-CONFERENCE–ADDRESS-24-JULY-2013

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