Despite cutting emissions while turning a profit, and attracting billions in private sector investment, a Senate Estimates Committee hearing has confirmed it is still government policy to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The news came as the CEFC announced a landmark $250 million program to boost the energy efficiency of Australia’s community housing stock.
In Tuesday afternoon’s Senate Estimates Committee, Greens Senator Scott Ludlam asked Liberal Senator Anne Ruston whether, given the government’s new focus on cities, it was still government policy to abolish the CEFC.
“It is,” Ms Ruston replied. “The government made it pretty clear when we were elected that we didn’t believe that we should be in the job of being a bank.”
This is despite the corporation’s profit of $74 million to December 2015.
On Wednesday morning, the Environment Minister Greg Hunt proudly announced a $250 million CEFC program designed to create energy efficient community housing stock, and upgrade existing housing stock, in order to improve comfort and save on energy bills.
“The Australian Government’s better cities commitment is being given a boost with a new $250 million program which will help provide affordable energy efficient housing to low income earners,” the release stated.
“The new program will help drive the construction of market-leading energy efficient community housing in 2016, contributing to the greening of Australia’s cities and built environment.”
Quizzed on ABC radio whether this meant the CEFC was not being axed Mr Hunt said: “Our formal policy hasn’t changed, but equally we’re realistic that the Senate is also unlikely to change.”
He then said the program was “a perfect fit” for the government.
“It’s exactly what as a government we’re trying to do – better cities, lower energy, greener outcomes, and supporting those most in need.”
The government’s intention to cut the CEFC on one hand and laud its achievements on the other was seized upon by the opposition, with shadow environment minister Mark Butler labelling the government “disingenuous”.
“It is disingenuous to the extreme to promise some of our most vulnerable communities improved energy efficiency through the CEFC when they intend to abolish it at the first opportunity,” Mr Butler said.
“Australians deserve better than Malcolm Turnbull saying one thing on climate change and doing the opposite.”