The Abbott government is preparing for a climate change contest in yet another arena.
That’s the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – or ARENA as it’s known.
Legislation abolishing the agency is being sent to the Senate where a showdown between the government and Palmer United Party senators is expected.
The coalition, which cleared the bill’s passage through the lower house on Monday, is shutting ARENA down because it says it will prevent wasteful spending of taxpayer money to the tune of $1.3 billion.
But it’s promised to retain 200 solar, marine and biofuel technology projects the agency has funded as its responsibilities are shifted to the Industry Department.
The agency was merely set up by the previous Labor government to satisfy the political whims of the Australian Greens, parliamentary Secretary Michael McCormack told parliament on Monday.
Ticking off a series of ARENA-funded “flops”, Mr McCormack said the agency had its shortcomings like several other Labor-Greens ideas.
Labor used protracted debate to protest the abolition by accusing the coalition of fostering climate change denial.
Victorian Labor MP Andrew Giles said it was the latest attempt by the government to dismantle the renewable energy industry, following the release of the Warburton review which proposed the renewable energy target be closed to new entrants in wind or solar farms.
Labor frontbencher Mark Dreyfus said axing ARENA jeopardised 191 renewable energy projects now being supported and a further 190 projects in the pipeline.
It was unclear why a set of renewable energy policies that have been “resoundingly” successful should now be the target of such “destructive activity” by the Abbott government, he said.
Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer said after discussions with former US vice-president Al Gore, his senators would oppose the repeal of ARENA.
Mr Palmer said the coalition made clear before the election there would be no changes to the renewable energy target.
His party stood ready to hold the government to account and will vote down any changes along the lines recommended by the Warburton review, he said.
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Repeal) Bill 2014 now goes to the Senate.