Senate debates

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Bills

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

1:21 pm

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

I move opposition amendment (2) on sheet 7117:

(2)   Clause 122, page 154 (after line 30), after subclause (3), insert:(3A)   In the case of a project which was accredited under the Greenhouse Friendly program at the time that program was terminated—if a methodology determination is made on or before 30 June 2012, the determination may be expressed to have come into force at the start of 1 January 2008.

This is an example of how the clerks always do such a good job in presenting an order for these amendments. It will probably have been useful to have examined some of the other amendments that are proposed by Senator Xenophon and the opposition as we work through some of the factors as to how this scheme interacts with previous schemes in existence, either the Commonwealth's Greenhouse Friendly scheme and the way that it operated or the New South Wales government's GGAS. There have been a number of concerns about the interaction between those programs and ensuring that we have a smooth transition that avoids, as the committee report highlighted, any per­verse outcomes or consequences, especially perverse outcomes or consequences where we may see a pre-existing program that operated as a carbon abatement measure come to an end because it will not be covered or adequately captured by this new Carbon Farming Initiative.

Certainly some of the issues which we will explore in amendments that we will be moving with Senator Xenophon pertain to issues of, in particular, landfill gas. Those issues will look very closely at how we preserve in place such schemes that were developed under Greenhouse Friendly or under the GGAS in New South Wales that capture the off-put from landfill gas and in capturing that off-put—methane, in particu­lar—burn it, generate their own electricity and stop emissions escaping from those landfill sites. There are concerns that, due to the way that this has been structured as legislation, some of those projects will not be able to proceed. They are certainly some of the issues that we plan to address in the joint amendments that have been developed with Senator Xenophon.

This amendment to clause 122 seeks to insert a new clause 3(A) that:

In the case of a project which was accredited under the Greenhouse Friendly program at the time that program was terminated—if a methodology determination is made on or before 30 June 2012, the determination may be expressed to have come into force at the start of 1 January 2008.

My understanding is that this seeks to provide a more certain period of continuity for those Greenhouse Friendly programs or activities. Greenhouse Friendly was a program initiated by the Howard govern­ment. It was one of many different programs in the climate change space initiated by the Howard government that we are proud to have started, that we are proud to have seen commence and that provide a very sound footing for Australia in meeting our inter­national obligations when it comes to dealing with matters of climate change.

The Howard government set up the first infrastructure in the government to deal with climate change matters, to deal with reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to set Australia on a trajectory where we will proudly be one of the few countries in the world to meet the obligations we agreed to under the Kyoto framework. Greenhouse Friendly has played and will play a key part in making sure that Australia meets those Kyoto framework obligations.

It is worth noting that Australia will be one of the few countries to do that and has done so without the imposition of a carbon tax. Whilst that debate is one that I know Minister Ludwig does not wish to have at length here, I think it is important when we are highlighting some of these previous programs to note that we have achieved or are well on track to achieving the 2012 commitments set down under that Kyoto framework without such an imposition but through other clever policy measures, including Greenhouse Friendly, which sparked a lot of voluntary action by many parts of the Australian industry who wanted to do their bit, who saw a good opportunity available and who have made great contri­butions towards that target.

Instead, we are now going to enter an era where the government proposes to penalise everybody to try to achieve a target without any international agreement in place beyond 2012. There is a strange contrast between the styles of the two governments. Under the Howard government, we incentivised volun­tary action to meet an agreed global target. Under the Labor government, through penal­ties, they are going to force action to meet a global target that does not exist. That is a very interesting and stark contrast between the approaches of the two governments.

However, to return to this amendment, we think that in providing continuity, certainty and hopefully making sure that projects that operate under Greenhouse Friendly can continue to operate under this new scheme it is appropriate to give consideration to the amendment that is before the chair.

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