Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 July 2011


Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011, Carbon Credits (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011; Second Reading

12:33 pm

Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr President. I start by taking this first opportunity that I have had to congratulate you on your re-election to office. Fort­uitously now, Mr Deputy President, I congratulate you on your election to this office which, as a new holder of this office, is indeed a most worthy and appropriate appointment. I know that all in the chamber welcome your ascension and know you will do a fantastic job.

I rise to speak on the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011, Carbon Credits (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011 and the Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011. These bills, as the explanatory memorandum states, seek to implement the Carbon Farming Initiative, which is described as being:

… a stand-alone scheme but would be complementary to a carbon pricing mechanism, which the Government has announced would exempt agricultural emissions.

Clearly we do not yet know what the Carbon Farming Initiative would be complementing, given the details of the government's carbon tax—or their carbon pricing mechanism, as they like to say—are possibly yet to be decided but are certainly yet to be released, and we wait until Sunday for their release.

Indeed, even within the Carbon Farming Initiative legislation we do not yet know much of the detail because, so far as legislation goes, this is one upon which much hangs on the regulations. The regulations are utterly critical to this bill, so I foreshadow that at the conclusion of my remarks I shall move a second reading amendment, and that second reading amend­ment shall be that further consideration of these bills be an order of the day for three sitting days after a draft of the final regulations relating to the bill are laid on the table. That, of course, would mean not only that we would have the opportunity to see the full details of these bills and the commensurate regulations that go with them but equally that we would have the opportunity to consider how this bill interacts with the government's carbon tax, so we would be able to have a full and complete understanding of the picture of this—something, sadly, that is so lacking at present.

I move such a second reading amendment not because the opposition has problems with the overall direction of this legislation. It is, of course, key legislation. It is very important and it complements—or could complement, if drafted correctly—the oppo­sition's own policy when it comes to climate change: our direct action policy on climate change, which does place particular store on opportunities to abate carbon through better land management practices and the like. This legislation could achieve that.

The bill has three stated objectives. They are: firstly, to help Australia meet its international obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto protocol to that framework convention; secondly, to create incentives for people to carry on certain offset projects, being land sector abatement projects, which could be any land manage­ment practices or activities that enhance biosequestration or reduce agricultural emissions; and, thirdly, to increase carbon abatement in a manner that is consistent with the protection of Austra­lia's natural environment and improved resilience to the effects of climate change. These are, we believe, all worthwhile object­ives. That is why our concerns about this legislation do not lie at the heart of its being, are not about the goals which it seeks to achieve or implement, but are about the detail of the legislation and how it will actually be implemented through the regulations and through its interaction with the carbon tax.

We do welcome the fact that the govern­ment through this measure are pursuing a form of direct action, are pursuing an activity that is not unlike the policy of the coalition. I note that, so far as we can pick up any details of what the government are proposing for their carbon tax regime, we see that more and more parts of it start to resemble the direct action policy. I read in today's Age newspaper that in fact there will be a separate clean energy finance corporation established as part of the govern­ment's carbon tax regime. It would be nice if we knew all the details of this and if we did not have to pick titbits out of newspapers and actually could question the government on it, using the full parliamentary procedures of this place to have a real debate about the carbon tax today, tomorrow and Thursday while parliament is still sitting. The government obviously know the details and they are just choosing to hide them from the Australian people and, of course, from scrutiny in this place by this parliament. Only the government know why they are afraid to front up to question time today, question time tomorrow and question time on Thursday and actually answer questions about their carbon tax. Instead, they are waiting until Sunday to release it when they know the parliament will not be sitting for many weeks. They hope, of course, to avoid as much scrutiny of this proposal as they possibly can.

But we learn from these titbits that are dripped out through coordinated leaks to try to make the government look a little bit better—a strategy that I would suggest is not working terribly well at present—that apparently a new clean energy finance corporation will be created to oversee up to $2 billion a year in seed funding loans for projects trialling large-scale renewable energy technology. It is further understood, according to these leaks, that it will include a multimillion dollar tender round to buy out and shut down about 2,000 megawatts in brown coal power generation, an offer that is expected to interest the owners of Hazel­wood and Yallourn plants in the Latrobe Valley.

There we have it; it is going to include a tender round to provide funding to achieve emissions abatement or reduction. What does that sound awfully like? It sounds awfully like the coalition's emissions reduction fund, a tender driven process through the market to find the most efficient means of actually delivering emissions reductions.


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