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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 6574


Mr HUNT (1:50 PM) —From the outset let me make it clear that the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010 and this set of amendments should not have been necessary. We warned about the problem created by phantom renewable energy credits back in August. We provided amendments to ensure that the crowding out of large-scale renewable energy generation would not occur. We had an alternative. That alternative was dismissed by the government. That alternative was ignored. We again provided in our direct action policy in February a solution to this problem, which was ignored. Now we have found that the government has recognised that it was a problem and that we had the solution, and they have adopted a variation on that. We are pleased that they have accepted the problem and accepted our basic solution. We are somewhat dismayed that the cause of renewable energy has been set back by almost a year through the government’s failure to consult properly, the government’s failure to manage its business properly and the government’s failure to recognise the consequences of its action. It is part of a pattern of consistent underperformance and consistent chaos in the implementation of basic policies.

Having said that, we are believers in renewable energy. We are proponents of renewable energy. We are advocates of renewable energy. Last year we led the case in the cause to ensure that renewable energy—solar, geothermal, tidal and wave, being the great new energy sources of the future—would not be delayed by having it tacked onto and tied and held hostage to the emissions trading scheme. We won that battle. We brought renewable energy forward. We offered to bring these amendments forward to 1 July of this year but, because of a sad intransigence on behalf of the government, what has occurred is very simple: they have now put back the effective date of implementation until 2011. So it was an unnecessary problem on the first occasion, it was an unnecessary delay, and the effect was that wind, solar, geothermal and tidal—the great new energy sources of the future—were delayed and put at risk and investment was slowed on the path of Australia to being an increasingly clean-energy economy.

I now turn to the amendments. I pay great respect to my colleague Ian Macfarlane, the member for Groom, and Senator Simon Birmingham as they have done a tremendous job in securing most of the coalition’s amendments, particularly Mr Macfarlane in negotiating with the government—and we accept their amendments and we appreciate the fact that they have accepted our amendments. I do note, however, that this bill in its current form represents a death knell for many in the waste coalmine gas sector. I do not believe that is this minister’s fault. I do believe that this government has turned its back on rural jobs in areas such as the electorates of Flynn, Shortland and Newcastle and on regional jobs in the electorate of Macarthur. Many areas of Australia will see the loss of potential jobs in the waste coalmine gas sector—and that is a shame. That was avoidable, that should not have occurred and that is a breach of faith—but we ran that, we lost that and unfortunately there is no prospect in these amendments of pushing it further forward.

I say to the minister that this could all have been avoided. Renewable energy in Australia should have been settled in August last year. The nature, the scope and the problems were all identified. At the very heart of this Labor government is policy chaos. The chaos continues and what we see now is that we have to fix it all up. We saw the problem and we identified the solution. Both the problem and the solution were denied. Now they have been recognised and addressed, so we accept these amendments. We will not oppose these amendments as these are what were negotiated. But I note that the waste coalmine gas sector will be the poorer as a result of the breach of faith by the government. Working people right throughout regional Australia and, sadly, their job prospects will be diminished as a result of the government’s failure to adhere to its previous commitment.

Question agreed to.