Martin Ferguson was always a fish out of water in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. He had a genuine appreciation for business and risk-taking and he had a firm grip on policy issues, in many cases very complex one.
Here is more sense from the man, as he spoke at a conference this week:
Former energy minister Martin Ferguson has backed an industry campaign to reduce the renewable energy target, an intervention which will strengthen the hand of critics of the scheme within the Coalition.
Mr Ferguson has also urged state governments to take advantage of a forecast plateau in electricity prices to deregulate household tariffs.
The Coalition has pledged to review the renewable energy target (RET) next year. Investment in the sector has ground to a halt pending the outcome of that review.
There are conflicting positions within the new government on the issue. Environment Minister Greg Hunt has backed the current target and Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has indicated it might be wound back.
In an address to the Energy Retailers Association of Australia in Sydney on Wednesday, Mr Ferguson, the former Labor minister for resources and energy, was set to say the current RET policy – to reach 41,000 gigawatt hours by 2020 – “is pretty much heading towards 30 per cent [of total power supply] by 2020, something that none of us signed up to back in 2009”.
“In my view there is an excellent opportunity with the change of government to scale back the RET to its original target of 20 per cent,” he will say.
The new government needs to get a wriggle on dealing with this matter. Short of ditching the RET, there is a real need to reinstitute the 20 per cent rather than absolute gigawatt hours target.
And I don’t know how quickly the Coalition government will dismantle all the climate change bureaucracy. Chaired by Bernie Fraser, the Climate Change Authority is surely one that needs to be ditched very early on.
This authority has been toying with the idea that the emissions target should be revised from 5 per cent to 20 per cent in view of the ETS being introduced early – oops, spoke too soon – and the fact that price of carbon has fallen so much relative to Treasury expectations. The argument being pushed was that it would now be much cheaper to achieve 5 per cent, so why not go for 20 per cent.
And while we are matters climate change, I think it would be useful for an independent public audit be conducted of the Treasury modelling on climate change and carbon pricing. I think we would learn a lot.