How The Crossbench Saved Renewable Energy In Australia

Senate crossbench role in Australia's renewable energy industry

Image: seagul

A new report from The Australia Institute (TAI) reveals the crucial role the Senate crossbench has played in securing billions of dollars of investment in Australia’s renewable energy industry.

“When they came to power, the Coalition tried to take an axe to renewable energy investment in Australia,” said Ben Oquist, TAI’s Executive Director. “Thankfully, by working with Labor and The Greens, the crossbench stopped that from happening and saved more than $23 billion of future investment in the renewables sector.”


The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) was established on 1 July 2012 by The Australian Renewable Energy Agency Act 2011. Its mission is to boost renewables and reduce emissions by driving innovation and commercialisation.

In June 2014, a bill to abolish ARENA was introduced, but was thwarted when it became clear that it had the support from various corners, including Palmer United Party1, Ricky Muir and Nick Xenophon. It has gone on to issue grants worth $864 million. In total, ARENA has provided grants of $1.2 billion to projects with a total value of nearly $4.4 billion


The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) was established under the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012 and began making investments in 2013. An important distinction between it and ARENA is that it doesn’t issue grants – the CEFC expects a return on its investments.

In 2013, the Abbott Government attempted to abolish the CEFC, twice. Both attempts were blocked by Labor , Senator John Madigan (abstaining), Nick Xenophon and the Greens in the Senate. A subsequent attempt was made in 2014 but was not brought to a vote as the Palmer Unity Party supported the Corporation and Ricky Muir could not be tempted to join the dark side Coalition.

The CEFC has gone on to commit $6.65 billion to projects with a total value of $19 billion.

Renewable Energy Target

It’s often forgotten that Prime Minister John Howard was responsible for sowing the seeds of Australia’s solar boom. The Renewable Energy Target (RET) was introduced in 2000. It’s under the RET that Australia’s major solar subsidy is provided.

Tony Abbott became hell-bent on scrapping the Renewable Energy Target after becoming Prime Minister in 2013.

“Without the crossbench, the RET would have likely been abolished and the assistance it provides to households and large scale renewable energy generators lost entirely,” states the TAI report.

Since 2013/14, more than 800,000 small-scale solar power systems have been installed across Australia and the large-scale section has flourished.

Of course, the actions of the crossbench relating to all of the above were helped along by the millions of Australians who support a clean and renewable energy future for this country.

The Australia Institute’s “Saved By The Bench” report (PDF) was released  in conjunction with TAI polling indicating a majority of Australians believe the nation is better off due to the Senate and that better laws are created when the government has to negotiate with other parties.


  1. Yes, Palmer United Party – Clive has changed his tune on renewables since.
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. It is unfortunate that the feral constitution prevents the senate from being democratically elected.

    • bruce mcloughlin says

      It can be argued that the senate is more democratic than the house of reps
      (simplified version) If one party in the senate area (state) gets 60% they get 6 seats and the others get 40% the 40% still get represented

      In the house of reps (Local area) if one part gets 51% then the other voters 49% get zero representation

  2. And the senators who have not even stood as election candidates?

    The method of filling “casual” vacancies in the senate, avoids any form of election.

    And, people get into the senate, with less than 1% of the vote, while others, who have more than ten times as many votes, do not get declared :”elected”.

    The senate is, as it is designed to be, a corrupt chamber of the parliament, with its members being corruoptly selected.

    Oh, and, in case you are not aware, the feral constitution, which is responsible for the corruption that is the senate, was never approved by the Australian people.

    Amnd, in case you are not aware, the former chief judge of the high court of australia – the constitutional court of australia; Michael Gleeson, declared that the australian constitution does not gibve the people the right to choose who sits as members of the feral parliament. From his words, we do not have the right to choose for whom we vote.

    And, that is apart from the members who are, and, have been, members of the senate (and the other chamber), by fraud, knowing that they were not eligible to me members.

    And, they get away with their massive frauds (unlike social security recipients), because, being members of the most powerful house of ill repute in Australia, they can do whatever they want, and, get away with it.

  3. Polite Nudge says

    I rather think that this blog is intended for the discussion of solar energy, and associated items like energy storage, energy policy and the broader spectrum of renewable energy.

    Airing of political grievances is, at the very best, tangential to these discussions. At best.

  4. “Polite Nudge” – but, if the members of the legislature, would be, instead, each democratically elected by their constituents, by first past the post voting, instead of crooked selections of members of the legislature, and, would be able to be sacked by their constituents, by recall elections, then, they might actually start to represent the constituents, instead of representing the companies and organisations, that buy their votes through “political donations”, and, then, if the people of Australia, started being represented in the legislature, clean energy could start to take precedence over deliberately harming the environment, and, deliberately harming the public, which is done in return for the “political donations” paid to the people in power.

    And, when members of the parliament, as now, can become members, without ever having stood as candidates, or, otherwise, with less than 1% of the vote, and, in the case of the Queenslander who appears to be the leader of the Australian Nazi Party, less than 100 votes, we can not be said to have any form of democratic government, when the selection of members of the legislature, is so corrupt, and, designed to harm the interests of the people.

    So, if Australia would have democratic government, which would also be accountable to the people, then, our prospects of replacing dirty energy with clean energy, and, protecting the environment, and, the future, would be significantly enhanced.

    It is interesting to note that, apart from the comstitution of australia, never having been put to the people of australia, for approval, also, the method of selcting the members of the federal parliament, has never been put to the people of australia, for approval.

    So, with australia being sheep country, the people of australia are expected to be good little sheep, and, do as we are told, by the people in power, without being allowed to decide who are the people in power.

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