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Thursday, 26 June 2008
Page: 3547

Senator MILNE (4:06 PM) —I have to say that I am pretty appalled. To say it is a tax bill and therefore it is not reasonable to expect the climate minister or whomever to be here is a nonsense. The fact that this whole tax measure is dependent upon the climate minister’s guidelines for a carbon sink forest means we ought to have had the guidelines before we actually debated the tax bill so we knew what a carbon sink forest was designed to do. We needed to know that before we could make a judgement as to whether it was worthy of a tax deduction. I do not think there will be any basis on which I would consider it would be worthy of one; nevertheless we should have seen those guidelines.

Minister, it is not really good enough to say, ‘You’ll get to see them at a later time,’ because they are in direct relationship to this bill, and since it was the government who switched this schedule around into other bills you knew this was coming. You knew the guidelines were dependent on this bill taking effect. At the very least the climate minister should have known this. To me this is further evidence that the government are in chaos on climate policy. They do not have a consistent climate policy across all departments; otherwise they would have a very clear idea. The whole review that is going on at the moment into taxation is to look at consistency across government—and we do not have any consistency across government. To say now that ‘we projected the figures based on the current voluntary carbon market’ is just a joke. It is really a joke that you have come in here and said that, because the circumstances have changed. We are going into an emissions trading scheme. We do not know at this point whether Professor Garnaut is going to recommend agriculture and forestry going into the emissions trading scheme—and if they are not going in we want to know when they will go in. So with the whole market framework in terms of carbon, we have gone from a voluntary carbon market to something much more substantial. In my view, we are going to have the classic case of your allocating the money for 80,500 hectares when, in fact, you are going to end up with millions of hectares.

Senator Boswell —A huge amount.

Senator MILNE —Yes, but they are going to end up with millions. This is not even a fraction of what is likely to occur once the instruments change under emissions trading or under a more robust carbon market. So the voluntary market to date is no indication of what the market is going to be in the future. Also I would like to know where these 80,500 hectares of land that you expect these trees to go on is, because, as I have said, it is likely to be prime land. There are no specifications as to where or when and, as you say, Minister, we will have to wait for the environmental guidelines.

I really want to say to the government that this is really ill considered. It was the former government’s legislation. The former government had no climate credentials and no decent climate policy. Why would you think that they would come up with anything half-decent? Why on earth didn’t you look at their legislation before you adopted it and brought it in here when it is so ill considered? As I have said so many times, you would have been far better off—and you would have got the full support of the chamber for this—if you had come in here and repealed the managed investment schemes, instead of leaving the MIS for forestry and adding another one with this carbon sink legislation—because that is what it is. But my amendment stands. I believe it is a sound amendment. It specifies what a carbon sink is and then I will give the chamber the opportunity to knock out this schedule from this bill. That is what my amendment seeks to do. Everyone has the opportunity to do that. My amendment is in the Notice Paper and has been moved.