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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Page: 9215

Senator WONG (Minister for Climate Change and Water) (1:25 PM) —Senator Xenophon, you might have been absent from the chamber, because that is not what I said. In fact, the government is putting forward a proposition that would enable individual action to be counted. All we are arguing about here is the mechanism. We disagree with a proposition that says you have to include local government and state government policies as well as what the household does. We simply said that is impractical. If we look at, for example, how much more energy efficient Australians are willing to become, there is a great willingness amongst the Australian people to do their bit and we want to recognise that by going beyond our targets. That is the policy position the government has adopted, after the urgings of stakeholders. We will go beyond our targets if Australians are more energy efficient across their use of electricity and fuel than is anticipated, and we will consult on how that would be measured, but that is the policy commitment. That is a very significant shift.

The argument is actually about whether you could differentiate between what is the effect of a state government policy and what is the effect of someone’s choice to use more public transport. The example I used with Senator Milne was that if a state government spends more on public transport and therefore that community uses less fuel, less energy, how much would you attribute to the individual and how much would you attribute to the state government policy? A more sensible proposition is to say: we will look across the community, we will say how much energy we anticipate we will use and if we as a community do better than that, for whatever reason—because we walk more, because we have better public transport systems, because we choose to turn off our air conditioners—then that will reflect in a higher target for Australia. So the only thing we are arguing about is what is a practical mechanism to achieve that. For the reasons I outlined previously, we do not believe it is a sensible proposition to try to separately attribute local government or state government policy from an overall analysis of what Australian households are doing. It will effectively, in our view, be reflected.