Monday, 16 November 2009
Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2]
Consideration in Detail
Bill—by leave—taken as a whole.
by leave—I move:
(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 2), omit “Australian”, substitute “Independent”.
(2) Clause 5, page 7, line 9, omit “Australian”, substitute “Independent”.
(3) Page 35 (before line 2), before subclause 14(5), insert:
(4A) In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister must first request draft regulations from the Authority.
(4B) The Minister must give the Authority reasonable time in which to prepare the draft regulations.
(4C) If the Minister receives draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, the Minister must recommend them to the Governor-General.
(4) Clause 14, page 35 (lines 2 to 4), omit “In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:”, substitute “If the Minister does not receive draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, then, in making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:”
(5) Page 37 (before line 2), before subclause 15(4), insert:
(3A) In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister must first request draft regulations from the Authority.
(3B) The Minister must give the Authority reasonable time in which to prepare the draft regulations.
(3C) If the Minister receives draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, the Minister must recommend them to the Governor-General.
(6) Clause 15, page 37 (lines 2 to 4), omit “In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:” and insert “If the Minister does not receive draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, then, in making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:”
(7) Clause 165, page 205 (line 1) to clause 173C, page 214 (line 4), omit Part 8.
(8) Clause 174, page 215 (line 1) to clause 189B, page 242 (line 32), omit Part 9.
(9) Clause 282, page 372 (lines 5 to 6), omit “the Minister must, by written notice given to the Authority, direct the Authority to” substitute “the Authority must”.
(10) Clause 282, page 372 (lines 10 to 11), delete paragraph 282(3)(d) .
(11) Clause 360, page 445 (after line 20), after subsection 360(5), insert:
(5A) A person is not eligible for appointment as an expert advisory committee member unless the Minister has obtained written approval for that person from all members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, or whichever House of Representatives Standing Committee most closely resembles this function.
These are the same amendments that I put up in round 1 of the CPRS, the same amendments that the member for Goldstein at the time said had merit and the same amendments that the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change, who is at the table, also acknowledged and then everyone voted against. I will try again to improve this legislation, which is important and is acknowledged by the minister as being somewhat historic. Certainly, as someone who wants to see the science flow, I also see opportunities for improvement in this legislation.
I think the political process to date has seen a significant dumbing down of the science and the legislation; therefore, I once again take the opportunity to try and improve it on the framework questions around the future CPRS scheme. There are long-term concerns about the amount of ministerial discretion written into the 440-odd pages of this legislation. Yes, the short term of this week will all be about whether CPRS flies or not, but I would hope everyone in this place stays vigilant on the question of the ministerial discretion written into this legislation. An example of the implications of that can be in an area such as fuel tax credits. What minister in their right mind is going to be the one in the chair and want to end fuel tax credits in the future? That is not in the government’s best interest, not in the executive’s best interest and, if this is a dose of tough medicine for the economy and the national interest, we do genuinely need it to be as objective and apolitical as possible and to be as independent of the political process as possible. These amendments serve the purpose of trying to remove the ministerial discretion that is currently written into the legislation and to give the regulatory authority the independence that it deserves.
This is a philosophical difference that we had in round 1 in relation to this legislation. The minister in the chair argued that this legislation is too important and deserves to have the parliamentary processes oversee it. I would take a different view that this legislation is too important to have it left to the parliamentary processes. We have examples of this in play in our Australian democracy; the Reserve Bank is the obvious one where monetary policy is independent of political processes so that good news and bad news can be delivered in the economic interest and the national interest without being caught up in political processes. There are several others including the National Competition Council for the delivery of reform and competition within the Australian institutions of government. It is independent from government so that good medicine and bad medicine can be delivered independent of the political processes of this place and the other.
That is largely the point of these amendments. If we are serious about the science, if we are serious about the IPCC, Shergold and Garnaut, if we believe there is a human influence on climate and if we are serious about a response, we want to be as objective as possible about the science to allow the national interest, the environment and the economy to have the best chance possible into the future. I think we have seen the problems of the political process to date. This legislation has been dumbed down. If you are true to the science and if you are true to the Garnaut white paper, you would be disappointed that we have dumbed down legislation before this House today. Even though I hope it gets through, I do think we can do better in achieving better security of the economy and better environmental outcomes by referring back to documents like the Garnaut white paper and also delivering greater independence into the system. (Time expired)
I thank the member for Lyne for his efforts at providing constructive amendments. He has remained very actively and positively engaged in this debate all the way and supports, I know, immediate action on climate change. Whilst the government does not support the member for Lyne’s amendments, they have been well considered and comprehensive, and they deserve being addressed in some detail and I will endeavour to do so in the time available.
I will address the member’s proposed amendments to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2] firstly in relation to advice on scheme caps, which are amendments Nos (3) to (6). These amendments would give the Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority the role of developing draft regulations which prescribe national caps and gateways. The government appreciates that the intent of the amendments is to have independent expert input into the cap-setting process but the government does not support the amendments.
In the government’s view an independent expert advisory committee appointed under part 25 of the bill, we believe, would be much better equipped and qualified to provide advice on scheme caps and gateways than the authority. Unlike the authority, which has a regulatory and administrative focus, an independent and expert advisory committee will have to have a broader outlook and include expertise in climate science which will be important in consideration of scheme caps and gateways.
As to the removal of emissions-intensive trade-exposed assistance touched upon, I think, in amendment No. 7, this amendment would remove part 8 of the bill which provides for assistance to the so-called EITE activities. In the view of the government there is a genuine need for assistance to industry for emissions-intensive trade-exposed activities in the period before effective international action on climate change and in order to minimise the risk of carbon leakage. The provision of assistance for these activities is fundamental in the government’s view to the design of the CPRS and we certainly do not support this amendment. I spoke on that issue at some length in the second reading debate.
Amendment (8) moved by the member for Lyne is in relation to the removal of coal-fired electricity generation assistance. The government does not support this amendment which would remove part 9 of the bill relating to the assistance for coal-fired electricity generators. The government considers it appropriate to partially recognise significant losses of asset value experienced by investors in coal-fired generators where that investment was committed prior to the emergence of bipartisan support for emissions trading when the then government announced on 3 June 2007 that it would support an emissions trading scheme, and so we do not support that amendment either.
Amendments (9) and (10) from the member for Lyne are in relation to the voluntary cancellation of Australian emissions units. These amendments relate to clause 282 of the bill, which addresses voluntary cancellation of units. These amendments, in the government’s view, are unnecessary as the legislation already imposes a binding obligation on the minister to cancel a Kyoto unit for every Australian emissions unit that a person voluntarily cancels. This allows individuals and organisations to contribute to stronger climate change mitigation by reducing the supply of eligible emissions units. There are of course mechanisms provided for that to occur. The government is accountable for the Kyoto units allocated to this country, and it is only appropriate that the government is not hampered in its ability to manage these units.
Amendment (11) is in relation to the appointment of an expert advisory committee member. This amendment would make a person ineligible for appointment to an expert advisory committee which undertakes five-yearly reviews of the CPRS unless approved by all members of the relevant committee of the House of Representatives. The government does not support this amendment, which would give an effective veto on appointments to every member of a parliamentary committee. That would impose needless delays and obstacles on the establishment of the committee and the conduct of reviews and could result in the lowest common denominator being adopted. For example, there is a risk that just one climate change sceptic in the parliamentary committee could prevent the appointment of an eminent climate change scientist to the independent advisory committee. For all of those reasons, the government opposes the amendments put forward by the member for Lyne.
As there are fewer than five members on the side for the ayes, I declare the question resolved in the negative in accordance with standing order 127. The names of those members who are in the minority will be recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.
Question negatived, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor voting aye.
Original question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.