Wednesday, 15 August 2018
Regulations and Determinations
Product Emissions Standards (Excise) Charges Regulations 2018, Product Emissions Standards (Customs) Charges Regulations 2018; Disallowance
Senator Bernardi will be unsurprised to know that we are not supporting this disallowance. I know in his contribution he thought he had us. I think it was just after, 'We reject the Paris agreement,' that perhaps we slipped away from you, Senator Bernardi!
In terms of the process, the Labor Party actually supported the primary legislation which led to these regulations. There were three bills in the package that came through that led to the regulations we have: the Product Emissions Standards Bill 2017, the Product Emissions Standards (Excise) Charges Bill 2017 and the Product Emissions Standards (Customs) Charges Bill 2017. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't again say that I continue to be concerned that we're required to pass primary legislation and then, several months later, we actually have the regulations which bring in the detail of the primary legislation. So there were those bills, and there was one other that went with it, which was the Product Emissions Standards (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2017. We had the debate in this place and I think very similar arguments were raised in that debate, Senator Bernardi, as those that you've raised on the regulations. I think I remember some of those clauses—particularly the ones about the health issues.
The bills were directed to allow:
… the Minister to prescribe products as emissions-controlled products and make rules relating to those products …
and set emissions standards, as the regulations have detailed. Products include, and I won't run through the list that Senator Bernardi has—he has a particular love for the weed blower—non-road petrol engines, lawnmowers, leaf blowers and outboard motors. Those particular products were itemised. The bills also enabled exemptions, penalties, certification, and trigger compliance and enforcement.
So these were brought through to a number of areas where there was going to be some regulation—and there is. There is a regulation process in the development of what came after months of consultation with industry, with health. Certainly, we know the health impacts of these particular products were studied. There was a great deal of evidence provided that there could well be health impacts with the use of non-road petrol engines and the other products, with people breathing in the fumes. There was concern about the emissions, but they came forward and said that the bills would come through, that the excise and charges bills will also allow charges to be imposed on imports or, if applicable, domestic manufacture of emissions control products. Any pre-existing products that people had were exempt from the process, and we talked about that when we had the primary legislation debate. Labor supported the legislation. We said it was a step forward. We hoped that there would be movement towards creating greater awareness in our community about the needs, towards educating people so that they would understand how this would actually work, and towards gradually building up more knowledge and awareness of how all of these products could have an impact on our environment and on people's health.
We have got to the stage where we have regulations to spell it out. Again, this is based on making sure that there is awareness and there is education and discussion with people who both produce and use these products. It's a wide market; it touches people across our community. The regulations will have to be made public. We'll get discussions going around them. But we, as a party, are standing by the fact that in this case—and, sadly, only in this case—the government is moving to bring in some regulation and ensure that there are processes where there is an indication that we will move forward with emission reduction targets that will make a genuine difference.
Senator Bernardi, in his arguments—these are the same arguments that we have heard in debates in this place for a decade. As he said, there are people who feel that it's perfectly appropriate to take no action, to do nothing here in Australia, to ensure that we have no commitment to be part of the global response to the issues around climate change. It's very clear that Senator Bernardi and his party fit into that area. I know I'm not verballing him; I think my point is a fair one. The Labor Party have been arguing, both in government and in opposition, that it is an absolutely essential element that people in Australia are part of a global response. The Paris accord? Absolutely that was one which we signed up to as a nation. We regret the fact that there has not been more action taken by the government. We have consistently argued that there needs to be more action taken. That is a diametrically opposite position to that supported by Senator Bernardi. This debate this afternoon is on one small element of that process, but it actually reflects the core of the whole debate.
We believe that actions must be taken to be part of our response to global warming, to climate change; other people believe we don't have that role. We think these regulations that are coming through now will take a small step, sadly only a small step—actually, in some ways it's good that a small step has been taken. That's why Labor will be opposing this disallowance. We believe we've had the debate around the primary legislation, which actually has no implementation value if it doesn't have the regulations attached to it. It would be passing strange if we came into this place and supported the legislation and then supported this motion. Maybe Senator Bernardi was waiting for some Damascus-like conversion on this side, where we would suddenly 'understand' and that our longstanding public commitment to having an effective response and having an emissions trading process would somehow disappear during that period.
For us, sadly, that didn't occur, Senator Bernardi. We will be maintaining our support for this legislation and the supporting regulation. We will continue to argue that we have to do more. We have said, and our shadow minister, Mr Butler, has said consistently in the other place, that there needs to be more ambition around this process. We need to have more action, more engagement with the community and more engagement with people who are working so hard in industries across our country and internationally to come up with better ways to see where we can have a stronger response and stronger action. Given that, my job this afternoon is to reinforce the position we took when the legislation came through, to support the action that the government has made and to hope for more into the future. But we will absolutely be rejecting this disallowance motion and calling for more action into the future.