Monday, 22 August 2011
Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011, Carbon Credits (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011, Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011; In Committee
The Australian Greens will not be supporting the amendment proposed to require the CSIRO and the Productivity Commission to conduct a review of the carbon farming legislation. As has been devised in the whole clean energy package, the Climate Change Authority is to be appointed not only to set the targets, if you like—the budget of greenhouse gas emissions that need to be reduced each year through to an 80 per cent target at 2050—but also to conduct a review of these specific pieces of legislation that are part of the package. The Productivity Commission is already going to be significantly expanded and it will have a much larger workload put on it because its job will be specifically to review the level of compensation provisions that have been made to the emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries. It will have a major role in doing all that, and it will need expanded resources to do so. At the same time, the CSIRO is working with a number of farmers and farming organisations right now on soil carbon issues and is trying to work through the development of an appropriate methodology that may be applied in the future to enable the permits to be granted and so on. The CSIRO is very firmly engaged in this space at an operational level and at a consultative level with the farming community.
The Climate Change Authority will oversee all of these particular pieces of legislation in a big-picture way and will need to consult with, as the minister has just suggested, both the Productivity Commission and the CSIRO and no doubt a number of other institutions who are doing various aspects of work. In a structural way you have an oversight authority who will oversee all of it and then drill down how they actually conduct each of the assessments of those pieces of component legislation. This was thought through very carefully, because you cannot have an organisation which is part and parcel of working out the assessments and the methodologies reviewing itself in that context as to the effectiveness of the legislation. But certainly all the work that it has done will feed into that assessment that will be done by the Climate Change Authority.
The question becomes, do we think that the Climate Change Authority is going to have sufficient rigour to do this job? That is entirely dependent on, in the end, who is appointed to the Climate Change Authority and that is a matter that everybody with an interest in climate change in Australia will take a keen interest in as this develops over time. I appreciate the difficulty here because at the time these amendments were developed the whole clean energy package had not been announced, the whole procedure of how everything would fit together and who would oversee what and how they would be involved had not been announced, and so, in the absence of having any authority with the rigour to oversee this, I can understand why you would choose CSIRO and the Productivity Commission. But now the government has announced the clean energy package and there is a very clear role for the Climate Change Authority to look at all the legislation and make sure it is delivering on the objective of reducing emissions in the context of the emissions reduction target that will be based on the 80 per cent reduction by 2050. That is why the Greens are not supporting this amendment—there is a different structure in place now but it does not exclude either the Productivity Commission or the CSIRO, who will feed into that review process of the Carbon Farming Initiative.
There is a following amendment in relation to time frame for review, and Senator Xenophon has said within 12 months of legislation being passed or 2014. Within 12 months of the legislation being passed, assuming that it is going to be passed in the second half of this year, means that we would be doing the first review next year and that is just not feasible given that it will hardly have got started by that time. In the government's timetable, 2014 is the timeline proposed for the first review, by which time you would have some results on the ground to review. I want to foreshadow that the Greens will not be supporting the amendment on the timeframe for that reason. Again I say that at the time the amendments were developed the other package had not been announced and there was no way of knowing that. I make clear where the Greens will be standing on that and also indicate that the Greens will not be proceeding with the last amendment on the sheet as it currently stands.