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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8002

Mr NEUMANN (4:59 PM) —I rise to speak in support of the two pieces of legislation before the House, the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009, which are important pieces of legislation and are integral to our election commitments. It is quite sad that we are having to debate this legislation today and that it is having to be decoupled from the CPRS, because that was a strong election commitment and a mandate given to us by the Australian public in November 2007. We made a commitment and when we on this side of the House make commitments we believe they are serious, that they are matters of trust with the Australian public, and our intention is be stubborn in carrying out our commitments to the Australian public.

It is important that this legislation be passed today. It is important that there be certainty for business—for those in the solar sector, those in the mining sector and those involved in electricity generation across the country. So I am pleased that the coalition want to be part of the game. All last week we saw them take off their jerseys and step off the field. They did not want to play football with us. They did not want to talk to us. They wanted to look at a study when it came to the CPRS. They could not devise a policy. At least today we are having some discussions with them about the renewable energy targets and the modifications and changes that could get this legislation through the House and into the Senate.

This is important legislation. It is important because it underpins a transformation of our economy to a low-pollution economy. It is important because of what it says to the Australian public and what it says to Australian business and Australian industry. The expanded scheme will deliver upon our commitment that the equivalent of at least 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity will come from renewable sources by 2020. The bills before this House clarify the objects of the RET scheme. They increase targets, they implement a solar credits mechanism based on a renewable energy certificate multiplier, they mandate a review of operation of legislation and regulations underpinning the RET scheme in 2014, and there are other transitional changes as well which came about through the COAG process.

It is important that we look at the previous government’s long record of idleness and ignorance on this topic. There was much rhetoric that we heard from the member for Herbert—who I often take notice of when he talks on defence issues. On this particular issue, though, the coalition certainly has form or a lack of practice in the area of CPRS and the RET. The truth is that the coalition has been quite ignorant of climate change issues. We have a division opposite, which creates frustration for those of us on this side of the House who want to get on with giving certainty to business and making sure that we transition our economy to a low-carbon economy.

The Rudd government is doing much in the area of providing assistance to transition our society and our economy. As part of our budget, we committed $15 billion in climate change related initiatives—$4.5 billion for the Clean Energy Initiative; $1.5 billion for the Solar Flagships program, which is aimed at creating an additional 1,000 megawatts of solar generation capacity; $100 million for the Australian Solar Institute, which supports research into solar-thermal and other technologies; and $465 million to establish Renewables Australia to support technology research and to bring it to market.

The legislation before the House is very important. The renewable energy target is important for those companies in Queensland and New South Wales that are involved with waste coalmine gas. Good companies like Envirogen Pty Ltd and Energy Developments Limited have invested millions of dollars and have been advocating for a long time that we have a look at an expanded renewable energy target to ensure that their operations continue to prosper and so they can make an unparalleled contribution to fugitive emissions abatement of waste coalmine methane in Australia. There are hundreds of jobs at stake. There is also much to be gained in ensuring that we adopt similar schemes, similar projects and similar attitudes to other countries that have similar economies to ours—namely, those competitors in the OECD, like Germany and the United States, who also take into consideration the treatment of coalmine methane in relation to RET and other forms of emission abatement.

So I would like to see the government have a look at that particular aspect. There are many jobs in New South Wales and Queensland to be gained and there is much to be expanded in terms of construction and development. Queensland and New South Wales are leading players when it comes to these areas. I am pleased that the government is talking to the industries accordingly. I call upon the government to have a really close look at this aspect because this is important for the states of New South Wales and Queensland.

This legislation is innovative, creative and 21st century. It will go a long way to making sure that our economy and our society look to the future, not to the past, when it comes to renewable energy. The targets in this legislation are terrific in terms of saying where we want to go as a country. This legislation is educative and international, and I ask that the coalition support the bills before the House.