Bill Shorten

RET talks: Negotiations break down between government and Labor

Negotiations between the Abbott government and Labor over the future of Australia's Renewable Energy Target (RET) have broken down, with the Opposition accusing the government of trying to destroy the renewable energy industry.

Labor says there is no point in continuing discussions with the government over the target which aims to ensure 20 per cent of electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020.

The government wants to reduce the target to what the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says is an effective 40 per cent cut to the RET.

"It's become clear to my skilled negotiators that the Abbott government is not interested, just not interested, in the renewable energy industry," Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.

"Even though we have tried our best to be bipartisan, we will not sacrifice the Renewable Energy Target and industry just because Tony Abbott is a climate change sceptic and election promise breaker."

"We formed the view that the government only had one plan for renewable energy, that is to destroy the industry."

Abbott government stabbing 'industry in the back'

The Abbott government went to the 2013 election promising to keep the RET, but is now trying to redefine what a 20 per cent target means, arguing overall household energy consumption has fallen.

In 2008, Labor and Coalition agreed to set the 20 per cent renewable energy target at 41,000 gigawatt hours, or 20 per cent of demand in 2020.

The government wants to revise that 2020 target to what it calls a "real 20 per cent" target of 27,000 gigawatt hours.

"(In February) Abbott Government stabbed the renewable energy industry in the back with a broken election promise," said Mr Shorten.

Coalition keen to resume talks

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane wants Labor to return to the negotiating table.

"I can only assume that the Labor Party is putting politics ahead of policy," Mr Macfarlane told ABC Radio.

“I won't go into the content of the negotiations but the Coalition was prepared to compromise. We are very disappointed that the Labor Party has walked away from these negotiations and we are keen to resume them if they reconsider their position.”

The CEO of the Solar Council, John Grimes has attacked the Prime Minister, accusing him of being on an "anti-renewables crusade."
"Tony Abbott hates solar. He hates wind. We have a government talking down renewable energy at every opportunity," Mr Grimes told reporters in Canberra.

"So any suggestion that the end of talks is Labor's fault is just outrageous. Labor entered into a discussion with the Government in good faith to see if they could extract a fair deal from the Government."

RET confusion risking thousands of jobs

The renewable energy industry's peak body, the Clean Energy Council, said confusion over the RET is putting 21,000 Australian jobs at risk.

Clean Energy Council Chief Executive Kane Thornton said $10 billion worth of investment in renewable energy has already made in good faith under the Government's existing policy.

"The renewable energy sector is completely frozen until this can be resolved," Mr Thornton said.

The Solar Council's John Grimes said the uncertainty is devastating for the industry.

"There are 21,000 solar workers around the country today who don't know if they have a job at Christmas time."

Greens Leader Christine Milne says any move to lower the RET should be abandoned.

“We want more of it, not less.” Senator Milne told reporters in Sydney.

“It is time for the Australian community to stand up against our PM. He is an embarrassment to us as the rest of the world focuses on moving to a low carbon economy.”

The focus of the RET negotiations now moves to the Palmer United Party, but the PUP leader Clive Palmer has stated that he stands by the current at 41,000 gigawatt hour target.

“I am pleased to call Clive Palmer a solar hero. He is holding the line for our industry,” said Mr Grimes.

A spokesman for Mr Palmer said "Clive hasn’t changed his position" on the Renewable Energy Target (RET).

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