Senate debates

Monday, 30 November 2009

Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Australian Climate Change Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Customs) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — Excise) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (Charges — General) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS Fuel Credits) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) Bill 2009 [No. 2]; Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Amendment (Household Assistance) Bill 2009 [No. 2]

In Committee

9:00 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Climate Change and Water) Share this | Hansard source

I do have some response, Senator. The answer to your question about why we are doing this is very simple—this is about the security of Australia’s electricity supply. That is the public policy question to which we addressed our minds. It is not about giving people a windfall gain. It is not about being craven. It is not about being corrupted. It is about this government responsibly working with the opposition to deliver a package which, we believe, secures Australia’s electricity supply through this transition.

I have to say, Senator, that I find two things about your contribution difficult. You are entitled to your view, but I find it difficult to be lectured about transformation by somebody who is voting for Senator Fielding to stop this bill and I find it difficult to be lectured by somebody about being corrupted. I again put on record what I put on record last week—it seems to escape the Greens’ focus that sometimes people of goodwill can approach a public policy question and come to a different answer. It is not because we have been got to. It is not because we are craven. It is not because somehow we have been corrupted. We simply come to a different view. We disagree with your policy proposition. This is one of those occasions.

Some of the factual circumstances you outline are, in fact, incorrect. I want to try—briefly, if I can, because I know Senator Abetz was jumping to his feet—to deal with them. I will try to deal with them as best I can. One issue was that you asserted that people have to keep polluting to get this assistance. It seems to me, respectfully, that you have misread the power system reliability test that the government has included in the original bill—I will come to the amendments we are moving shortly—which is a requirement for receiving assistance under this scheme. What we have said to the recipients of this scheme is, ‘You cannot exit unless the market operator says you can.’ That is about ensuring that we can continue to supply. It is not saying ‘You have to stay.’ It is saying, ‘If you want to exit, you have to exit with the consent’—with a certificate, I think, is the way we have regulated it—‘of the market operator.’

The second point I would make is that one of the changes that will be moved by the government at some point—I suspect now that it will be sometime on Wednesday or Thursday at the rate we are going—is for the inclusion of a low-emissions transition incentive which enables recipients of this assistance to retain their allocation if they invest in new generation capacity progressively to replace their existing high-polluting capacity. That new investment must have an emissions intensity of less than current best practice coal-fired power generation capacity in Australia.

So your assessment of the eligibility requirements, with respect, is not correct. In addition, one of the amendments we are moving is saying, ‘Let’s amend that so as to ensure that, if people want to invest in lower emissions generating capacity, they can do that and still receive their assistance.’ That is an incentive for the transformation to which you refer. I apologise, Senator. I do not believe that amendment is yet before the chamber. I understand we have foreshadowed it. I recall why—it is because we need some consultation with the stakeholders and I am advised that it is quite difficult technically to ensure that it is properly drafted, so we want to make sure that that occurs.

The point is that part of what we have agreed is, yes, additional assistance, but it is also assistance that is very focused on security of supply. I have said publicly—including in the face of various companies asserting that they should have significantly more than is on the table—that we do not believe the public policy proposition that we need to consider is full compensation for all loss of asset value. The public policy proposition is what we need to do to ensure we have a package which ensures confidence in the sector and which delivers the continued security of Australia’s electricity supply through this, as you quite rightly described it, transformation.


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