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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11701


Mr OAKESHOTT (4:43 PM) —by leave—I move:

(1)    Clause 2, page 2 (table item 2), omit “Australian”, substitute “Independent”.

(2)    Clause 5, page 7, line 9, omit “Australian”, substitute “Independent”.

(3)    Page 35 (before line 2), before subclause 14(5), insert:

      (4A)    In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister must first request draft regulations from the Authority.

       (4B)    The Minister must give the Authority reasonable time in which to prepare the draft regulations.

       (4C)    If the Minister receives draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, the Minister must recommend them to the Governor-General.

(4)    Clause 14, page 35 (lines 2 to 4), omit “In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:”, substitute “If the Minister does not receive draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, then, in making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:”

(5)    Page 37 (before line 2), before subclause 15(4), insert:

      (3A)    In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister must first request draft regulations from the Authority.

       (3B)    The Minister must give the Authority reasonable time in which to prepare the draft regulations.

       (3C)    If the Minister receives draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, the Minister must recommend them to the Governor-General.

(6)    Clause 15, page 37 (lines 2 to 4), omit “In making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:” and insert “If the Minister does not receive draft regulations from the Authority within reasonable time, then, in making a recommendation to the Governor-General about regulations to be made for the purposes of this section, the Minister:”

(7)    Clause 165, page 205 (line 1) to clause 173C, page 214 (line 4), omit Part 8.

(8)    Clause 174, page 215 (line 1) to clause 189B, page 242 (line 32), omit Part 9.

(9)    Clause 282, page 372 (lines 5 to 6), omit “the Minister must, by written notice given to the Authority, direct the Authority to” substitute “the Authority must”.

(10)  Clause 282, page 372 (lines 10 to 11), delete paragraph 282(3)(d) .

(11)  Clause 360, page 445 (after line 20), after subsection 360(5), insert:

      (5A)    A person is not eligible for appointment as an expert advisory committee member unless the Minister has obtained written approval for that person from all members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts, or whichever House of Representatives Standing Committee most closely resembles this function.

These are the same amendments that I put up in round 1 of the CPRS, the same amendments that the member for Goldstein at the time said had merit and the same amendments that the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change, who is at the table, also acknowledged and then everyone voted against. I will try again to improve this legislation, which is important and is acknowledged by the minister as being somewhat historic. Certainly, as someone who wants to see the science flow, I also see opportunities for improvement in this legislation.

I think the political process to date has seen a significant dumbing down of the science and the legislation; therefore, I once again take the opportunity to try and improve it on the framework questions around the future CPRS scheme. There are long-term concerns about the amount of ministerial discretion written into the 440-odd pages of this legislation. Yes, the short term of this week will all be about whether CPRS flies or not, but I would hope everyone in this place stays vigilant on the question of the ministerial discretion written into this legislation. An example of the implications of that can be in an area such as fuel tax credits. What minister in their right mind is going to be the one in the chair and want to end fuel tax credits in the future? That is not in the government’s best interest, not in the executive’s best interest and, if this is a dose of tough medicine for the economy and the national interest, we do genuinely need it to be as objective and apolitical as possible and to be as independent of the political process as possible. These amendments serve the purpose of trying to remove the ministerial discretion that is currently written into the legislation and to give the regulatory authority the independence that it deserves.

This is a philosophical difference that we had in round 1 in relation to this legislation. The minister in the chair argued that this legislation is too important and deserves to have the parliamentary processes oversee it. I would take a different view that this legislation is too important to have it left to the parliamentary processes. We have examples of this in play in our Australian democracy; the Reserve Bank is the obvious one where monetary policy is independent of political processes so that good news and bad news can be delivered in the economic interest and the national interest without being caught up in political processes. There are several others including the National Competition Council for the delivery of reform and competition within the Australian institutions of government. It is independent from government so that good medicine and bad medicine can be delivered independent of the political processes of this place and the other.

That is largely the point of these amendments. If we are serious about the science, if we are serious about the IPCC, Shergold and Garnaut, if we believe there is a human influence on climate and if we are serious about a response, we want to be as objective as possible about the science to allow the national interest, the environment and the economy to have the best chance possible into the future. I think we have seen the problems of the political process to date. This legislation has been dumbed down. If you are true to the science and if you are true to the Garnaut white paper, you would be disappointed that we have dumbed down legislation before this House today. Even though I hope it gets through, I do think we can do better in achieving better security of the economy and better environmental outcomes by referring back to documents like the Garnaut white paper and also delivering greater independence into the system. (Time expired)