Renewables divide parliamentarians upon return to Canberra

Upon returning to Canberra, Federal MPs and senators are divided over cuts to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) as part of an omnibus bill, of $6.5 billion worth of savings.

If adopted, it would effectively mean the end of ARENA, with huge implications for clean energy research in Australia.

The cuts include a saving of $1.3 billion from abolishing ARENA, a grant funding body established by Labor when it was in government.

During the election campaign, Labor adopted the saving in its election costings, although it also pledged to spend $300 million on renewable energy to partly offset the cut.

An internal Labor lobby group, the Labor Environment Action Network, has written to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and copied the letter to all Labor MPs, arguing ARENA must be saved.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said Labor would have its discussions on the issue internally, and would also wait to see the detail of the Government’s proposal before stating a position.

But Mr Albanese pointed out when Labor adopted the saving from abolishing ARENA, it did so in the context of its broader climate change and renewable energy policy.

“Labor had a plan for renewable energy that was beyond just the operation of ARENA,” he said.

“We’ll have our discussions internally, and we’ll do it on the basis of Labor values, and an examination of the details of their legislation.”

Mr Albanese also said Labor would discuss whether to support the cuts to the clean energy supplement in accordance with “Labor values”.