Tuesday, 22 June 2021
Fuel Security Bill 2021; Reference to Committee
Pursuant to standing order 115(2)(a), I move:
That the Fuel Security Bill 2021 be referred to the Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 2 August 2021.
Last week, in the selection of bills committee, we sought to refer this bill to inquiry, and the Liberal Party opposed that. In fact, they specifically introduced an amendment to the selection of bills report to ensure that the Fuel Security Bill not be sent to a committee. We did not have the opportunity to debate that when we were considering the selection of bills report last week, so I want to take the opportunity now to give the chamber the opportunity to reconsider—to think about what's at stake here and to consider the strong, solid logic as to why this bill should at the very least be sent to committee.
We have $2 billion of taxpayers' money that's going to be sent off to prop up ageing oil refineries and we are not even being given the opportunity to send the bill off to committee to do the basics of what the Senate ought to be doing. All we are asking for in this step is for some basic transparency, for some basic democratic processes to do what the Senate is set up to do. The former Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Cormann, said, 'It's the Senate that has the tradition and the expertise in scrutinising the activities of government.' But here the major parties are refusing to participate in that basic process of a transparent examination of these bills, where we have such a lot at stake.
What is happening here is that this bill in fact is not about fuel security. On the basis of what we know, it is about handing over $2 billion to oil refineries. A Senate inquiry would enable a few things. It would give the public time to read these bills, which run to over 70 pages. They've been through the House and considered by the Senate for only a matter of weeks. An inquiry would allow time for the public and stakeholders to make submissions on these bills, to get some wisdom from the wide range of stakeholders in the community who have a lot to say on fuel security, who know that there are a whole range of different ways to be approaching the issue of fuel security, rather than just promising $2 billion in fossil fuel subsidies to be propping up ageing oil refineries. We would have time for a public hearing or hearings, where senators could ask questions and get some basic answers from departmental officials and other witnesses. We would also have time for the non-government parties to consider that information and to allow it to inform their position.
As I said, fuel security is a serious issue. We have been considering it in a range of ways for a number of years. But the way that's being proposed to address this issue of fuel security is just one very narrow way that happens to meet the vested interests of the government, without considering the broader context and without considering, in particular, that we are in a climate crisis and without considering that the G7 two weeks ago specifically said that we need to stop subsidising fossil fuel industries. Yet that is exactly what this bill does—once again, hands over money to the fossil fuel industries without even a Senate inquiry to consider it. This goes completely against what every other responsible government in the world is doing at the moment; it goes completely against what the G7 said we should be doing when they met two weeks ago. We had our Prime Minister there, sitting at the table, when they came to that decision, yet here we are about to hand over $2 billion to oil refineries with no guarantee of jobs, with no guarantee that these oil refineries are going to stay open beyond six years, with very limited information of exactly how this is going to address the issue of fuel security—in fact, a lot of the information is not going to do that—and without looking at the opportunities for other ways to be addressing it, in particular, looking to how to reduce our reliance on oil, petrol and diesel. What if we did some other things, like investing in electric vehicles and investing in other renewable technologies? There are so many other ways we could be going about this issue of fuel security that would be able to be unpacked in the inquiry that we are not actually having.
These are basic, simple steps. Extra time would allow the Parliamentary Library to prepare a bills digest on this package of legislation. It's a real indictment in the Liberal Party's rush to get this legislation through that we don't even have a bill's digest. We call upon the major parties to support a referral to committee so we can have a proper, basic process looking at this issue of giving $2 billion to the oil refineries. (Time expired)
I rise to place on record Labor's position on the referral of the Fuel Security Bill to a committee. We will not be supporting this referral, which has been moved without notice, not unlike the second reading amendment, which was also moved without the normal courtesies afforded to other participants in the debate in this chamber. This is a bill that, if it is not passed this week, will not come into effect in the way that it's intended. Our priority, in working through this legislation, is to ensure that the support that is required for fuel refineries is available from 1 July. We're disappointed that the government has placed the chamber in this position. The government has placed the chamber in this position where things have to be rushed. I was on the PJCIS when we reported on this back in 2018, making recommendations that the government actually do some work around fuel security, asking the Department of Home Affairs and the department of energy to do this work and come back to the parliament with a plan. It is incredible that we're dealing with it now, but here we are. We don't intend to hold up the bill's passage by further referral.