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Crossbench senators wasted $20 billion propping up renewables — Australia Institute, PR agency for renewables

Tony Abbott won a 90 seat landslide based on a blood oath to Axe The Carbon Tax. In 2014 he was thwarted in the Senate from instigating his plans to clean out the green-machine burden, largely by Clive Palmer and cohort, a coal explorer and senator who was a skeptic til Al Gore visited the week before key legislation was voted on. The people who voted for Clive sure didn’t vote to bankroll the Renewables Industry but that’s what they got, and thanks to the Australia Institute we can see just how much the turncoat cost — about $1,000 per person.

The Australia Institute is suddenly raving about the value of crossbench Senators — especially the ones who did the opposite of what their voters expected — “yay”, democracy. Then they’ve paired it with the release of a nothingburger survey that asked the wrong people no relevant or specific questions so the Institute could pretend Australians approved of the sell-out Senators who wasted $23 billion dollars on a pagan weather-changing plan. Do you like the Senate, then you love Renewables? Cheers Jiminy!

Is the Australia Institute a research group or a PR Agency for Renewables?

Saved By The Bench

How the Senate crossbench saved Australia’s renewable energy industry

The Abbott Government’s attempts to abolish key renewable energy policies were foiled by Labor and the Senate crossbench. These efforts have supported $23.4 billion worth of clean energy projects during a period that saw renewable investment fall by up to 48% in some years.

Bravo. Crossbenchers saved an industry which investors were running away from. Why? Because it was A/ an efficient provider of a valuable service and investors were stupid or B/ because no one wants overpriced, unreliable power?


Between 2013 and 2016, the Coalition Government attempted to abolish Australia’s three key renewable energy policies: the Renewable Energy Target (RET), the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).

These three policies were saved in the Senate….

As a result, the CEFC continued financing, ARENA continued providing grants and other assistance and the RET continued encouraging renewable energy generation. In total $7.8 billion in government support has been provided to projects worth $23.4 billion, as shown in Figure 1:

Figure 1: Total clean energy support saved by Labor and crossbench (2013–2018)
. Funding and investment ($m)  Total project value ($m)
CEFC investment    $6,652  $19,000
ARENA grants   $1,187   $4,371
Total   $7,839 $23,371

In addition, the RET has assisted the installation of 806,000 solar panel systems and 226,000 solar hot water systems between 2013–2018 and the generation of 85m MWh of electricity from large-scale generators. Saving the RET and CEFC has resulted in emissions reductions of at least 334m tonnes CO2-e. This is more emissions reduction than the government’s policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, is likely to deliver over its six years of operation (92m tonnes from its creation in 2014 to 2020)

By contrast, the Emissions Reduction Fund is estimated to abate 192m tonnes, of which about 92m tonnes will be abated between its creation in 2014 and 2020, and the remaining abatement happening after 2020.37

Renewable energy subsidies; Six times as useless

So the $23 billion dollars used by the crossbenchers saved 334m tonnes of CO2 (equivalent) at a cost of $70/ton.

The Emissions Reductions Fund cost $2.29 billion and will save nearly 200 million tons at a cost of $12 per ton which makes it six times as effective. And if you believe reducing CO2 is important, Tony Abbott’s plan could save six times as many environments.

The $23 billion dollar gift to the renewable industry thus wasted 83% of taxpayer funds — a cool $19.5 billion dollars that could have been used to help the poor or the spotted quoll, but was instead wasted propping up a freeloading industry that makes electricity more expensive, drives other industries away from Australia, and probably loses 3 jobs for every one it creates. On the upside, Australia saved 334m tons of CO2  — equivalent to five weeks of emissions from China.

The senate sell-out cost every man woman and child in Australia about $1,000. Babies too. That’s $4,000 per family of four. That’s a family holiday the kids will never forget, because it didn’t happen.

During Tony Abbott’s time as PM renewable energy investment returned to “a free market” and fell by half:

In 2014 and 2015, while worldwide investment in the sector grew, Australian renewable energy investment fell by half. If the Senate crossbench had failed to save the CEFC, ARENA and RET, the decline would have been much greater and the rebuilding of the industry much more difficult. The future of Australia’s renewable sector was saved by the (cross) bench.

The decline of renewables would have been greater, but so would Australian wallets and in so many ways.  The Australia Institute obviously approves of governments interfering in the market, and picking winners (or rather “picking losers, but calling them winners”.)

They even admit the Senators largely betrayed their voters:

Having been typecast as ‘conservative’ or ‘right-wing’, the new minor parties on the crossbench were widely expected to vote with the Abbott Government – and, indeed, Day and Leyonhjelm proved to be fairly reliable votes for the government. But Xenophon, Wang, Lambie, Lazarus, Muir and Madigan, along with the Greens, ensured that the Senate crossbench served as an important check on the government’s power.

Palmers team (bolded) didn’t so much serve as an “important check on the governments power”, but as an check on voters power. Not that The Australia Institute shows much concern. After the Palmer 2014 sell out, it appears half his voters voted for other people and the Palmer team (such as it wasn’t) won nothing ever again.

The Australia Institute didn’t ask Palmer’s voters what they thought, because they already knew the answer. Instead they asked other voters generic questions about the Senate and whether it was useful and what color their seats were. ( Seriously, 40% knew the Senate seats are red). Hence the Australia Institute got a headline that bore no resemblance to reality by asking no questions about the carbon tax or any issue relevant to their press release.

Spot the bait and switch with the word “which”:

Majority of Australians support Senate crossbench, which saved $23b of renewables from Coalition cuts

The ‘Saved by the bench’ report is being released in conjunction with Australia Institute polling* which shows that a majority of Australians believe the country is better off because of the Senate and that better laws are created when the government has to negotiate with other parties


It’s great PR for the renewables industry but not so great for Australians who had $1000 stolen.

The Australian Institute paper mentions no conflicts of interests nor donors. But with a $23 billion dollar carrot swinging through Australian Industry, there is potentially a nice river of tax-funded flowback that could have come their way. Who knows? That’s an awful lot of profits that are far more dependent on the mood of Parliamentarians than on providing something their customers need at a price they are willing to pay.

h/t Pat


Saved by the bench, The Australia Institute, Dec 2018

CER announces eighth Emissions Reduction Fund auction results, 18 December, 2018

 Global Carbon Project (2018) Carbon budget and trends 2018.

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