Senate debates

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Regulations and Determinations

Clean Energy Auction Revocation Determination 2014; Disallowance

6:42 pm

Photo of Christine MilneChristine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Clean Energy Auction Revocation Determination 2014 made under section 113(1) of the Clean Energy Act 2011 be disallowed.

This is an incredibly important debate. We have in Australia an emissions trading scheme. It will be of interest to the community that we actually have a legislated emissions trading scheme in this country, which is currently operating under a fixed price period, and there is a determination that it will go to a flexible price in 2015. That was exactly as we determined it when it was legislated.

It has been the grossest lie of these last several years that what we have in Australia is a carbon tax. We do not have a carbon tax; we never have had a carbon tax. We have had an emissions trading scheme with a fixed price period going to flexible pricing. That is why it is disgraceful to see those people out there suggesting that, if we suddenly get rid of what we have, we will move to an emissions trading scheme—when we already have one. It is legislated; it is the law in this country. I noticed today the disgraceful behaviour of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Industry Group, the Business Council of Australia and the Minerals Council of Australia, all calling on the Senate to swiftly repeal the carbon tax. They know as well as I know that there is no carbon tax in this country; it is an emissions trading scheme.

Under the emissions trading scheme, in order to prepare to go to flexible pricing, we set up a climate change authority which would recommend the target that be put in the legislation to form the cap when we went to flexible pricing. Under the scheme, auctions for the floating price period beginning on 1 July 2015 were required by law. The law established the schedule for the first set of auctions required. The first set of auctions was to be in the coming months. That is the point here. This was a regulation that gave effect to the law under our emissions trading scheme to allow for auctions. You would agree to this regulation being overturned and disappearing only if you did not think the emissions trading scheme would stay in place after 1 July this year. If you believed that it would stay in place, there is no way that you would abandon the auction schedule, because you would understand that polluters are required to buy permits and that they can buy them ahead by a couple of financial years before the floating price. That is why they were allowed to go into the auction this year, to buy ahead of the flexible price period in 2015. You would go along with a disallowance only if you thought the emissions trading scheme was going, and therefore that holding the auctions would not be necessary in the longer term.

It is completely ridiculous and dishonest for the former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to stand up and say that he was going to get rid of the carbon tax and move to an emissions trading scheme. It had nothing to do with a tax. All he was doing was attempting to bring forward by one year the flexible pricing period, the trade. He could not do that under existing legislation because we do not have an agreed target. The whole point was to get the Climate Change Authority to recommend the target to the parliament, and the target would then be determined and put in the legislation. If he was going to go to the flexible pricing period one year early, he got away with not telling the Australian people in the election campaign what the target was going to be. Why didn't he come out and say that he was going to have his five per cent target? If that is what he intended to do, why didn't he tell people? The only reason there was no pressure on him at the time was that they had sold the lie that we had a carbon tax, so people did not understand what was being proposed in trying to bring the flexible pricing period forward by one year.

Now we do have a recommendation from the Climate Change Authority of 15 plus 4—19 per cent—by 2020, with a 40 to 60 per cent trajectory by 2030. In my view it is not enough; it should be higher than that. The reality is that we should have had a 25 to 40 per cent target back in 2007. We are now in 2014, with only six years to go until 2020. The 2030 target is the one that is really critical. If you are serious about wanting to go to flexible pricing, you should be putting that 40 to 60 per cent target in the legislation. But I have not heard a peep out of the Labor Party. When they go to flexible pricing, as they want to do, on 1 July 2014, what is the target that they are going to internalise in that price? When they do not have the numbers in the House of Representatives, how are they going to get from where we are now, in March, to flexible pricing by 1 July this year? Everyone knows that the whole business of the ALP bringing forward this motion to implement flexible pricing by 1 July 2014 is doomed to failure.

Their excuse for now not disallowing this regulation is: 'It doesn't matter, because when we bring on our flexible pricing scheme on 1 July 2014 we will bring in the regulation that supports it.' Well, how will they? They are not the government; they do not have the numbers. What we have now is the law. We have the law on our side. It is the law that we have an emissions trading scheme. We have a regulation that says the auctions will proceed. Unlike other people in this parliament, I do not believe that we are going to lose the clean energy future package after 1 July. That is why the Western Australian election is so important, because if we win back one seat from the conservatives we save the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, we save the Climate Change Authority and we hold up a mirror to this sham review of the RET that the government has busily brought in. If we win one seat, we will run a very strong argument on retaining the emissions trading scheme.

Let us not have any more nonsense in this debate. What we have here is the government trying to get rid of an emissions trading scheme that is the law, and they are trying to dismantle the auction process because they have already prejudged that they are going to get rid of this legislation post July.

Debate interrupted.