The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has been told to stop investing in wind power projects in a move the Federal Opposition has described as a “dramatic escalation” in the Government’s war on wind farms.
Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann have written to the corporation directing it to change its investment mandate, banning new funding for wind projects.
The move sparked a furious response from Labor leader Bill Shorten, who said the nation’s clean energy bank would be left to fund “flying saucers” after being told by the government not to invest in wind energy projects.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has previously described wind turbines as “visually awful”, said the Government believed the CEFC should instead be investing in “new and emerging technologies”.
“It is our policy to abolish the CEFC, because we think that if the projects stack up economically, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be supported in the usual way,” he said.
“While the CEFC exists, what we believe it should be doing is investing in new and emerging technologies, certainly not existing wind farms.”
Trade Minister Andrew Robb said it was part of a deal done with the crossbenchers last month to get the Government’s revised renewable energy target (RET) through the Senate.
“It is nothing more than the previous arrangements settled with the crossbenchers in relation to the RET,” he told Sky News.
Mr Shorten accused the Government of being driven by extreme political ideology while his environment spokesman, Mark Butler, said the directive was a “dramatic escalation” in the Coalition’s war on Australia’s wind industry.
“How a Prime Minister and Treasurer can so blatantly undermine thousands of Australian jobs and billions of dollars in investment is beyond comprehension,” Mr Butler said in a statement.
“Tony Abbott is abusing his office and the Cabinet process by pursuing his own anti-wind ideology, enlisting fellow wind haters Joe Hockey to help bring down a whole industry.”
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam went further, describing the move as “an extremely vindictive form of industrial sabotage”.
“This is a Prime Minister who’s done everything possible to handcuff our country to the coal and gas industry, doing everything he can to wipe out a low-cost competitor,” he said.
Under the CEFC Act, the Government can give the corporation directions but those directions must be consistent with the corporation’s overall objective to “facilitate increased flows of finance into the clean energy sector”.
The CEFC was set up by the Gillard government in 2012, and made $900 million worth of contracted investments in its first year of operation.
According to a spokeswoman, its investment mix is 33 per cent solar, 30 per cent energy efficiency, 21 per cent wind and 16 per cent other technologies.