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
I will briefly refer to the contribution that Senator Milne made a few moments ago. I listened to her arguments in relation to my subsequent amendment—I note that we are not dealing with it now—and see that her argument has some considerable merit, so I will not be proceeding with amendment (13) on sheet 7118. I foreshadow that in relation to the first review, as I think there is a legitimate point there. I take that on board and I accept it. Therefore, I will not be proceeding with that amendment.
On this particular amendment, though, it is critical that it is supported for a number of reasons. If you look at the bill at page 303—the very final page of this bill—and at clause 306, 'Reviews of operation of this Act etc', you see it states:
(1) The Minister must cause to be conducted reviews of the operation of:
(a) this Act; and
(b) the regulations; and
(c) other instruments under this Act.
He must make provision for public consultation. He must cause a report to be prepared of a review under subsection (1). A report of the review must be tabled in parliament. It needs to be tabled before the end of 31 December 2014. But it does not say who will do that review. As I understand it, the government is foreshadowing that it will be the Climate Change Authority. That authority has not been established. It does not provide for terms of reference of that review, not even broad parameters for that. That concerns me. The Productivity Commission has already done tremendous work looking at the whole issue of appropriate mechanisms for the pricing of carbon. I would have thought that this would segue, if you like, into the work they have already done. They clearly have the capacity to do so.
In relation to Senator Milne's point about the CSIRO—that it has already provided advice and it may not be appropriate for it to look at this—I think it is valuable that Senator Milne raised that point. But the CSIRO has looked at this issue. I think it is in a perfect position to be part of the review. You could have perhaps a Chinese walls mechanism so that there isn't any potential conflict, but clearly the expertise of the CSIRO would be valuable.
The very thrust of this amendment is that there ought to be an independent process to review the operations of this act. The Climate Change Authority is part of the executive arm of government. You do not have independence. I believe you will not have the robustness of purpose to the review process that is required. Therefore I think it is important that you have an independent body to do this. This mechanism is the best way forward. The current legislation is deficient in that it provides a mechanism for a review but it does not provide the basis for such a review, the broad terms of reference or the independence of such a review. That is why I am very grateful to the coalition for its support for this.
The carbon farming initiative is a huge change that has been proposed. I want it to work effectively and to work well. But I think we ought to seek independent advice when reviewing this legislation. The Climate Change Authority is not the appropriate body. What has been proposed in this amendment is far superior for dealing with the very important issue of a review.