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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8016

Ms MARINO (5:59 PM) —I rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009. As we know, the coalition is committed to clean, renewable energies and strongly supports a 20 per cent renewable energy target. There is a raft of clean energy options, from the commercial-ready algal proposal through to emerging energy concepts and industry growth options in tidal, wave, solar, geothermal resources, bioenergy and others.

The coalition offers provisional support for the legislation, subject to key amendments. The coalition will seek four key amendments in the Senate. The first is the decoupling of the RET from the flawed CPRS, and I know the shadow minister has already been in discussion with the government today on this issue. Renewables and clean energy options are widely acknowledged as current and future commercial and employment opportunities.

My electorate of Forrest encompasses a number of dairy farms. The chairman of the Australian Dairy Industry Council, Allan Burgess, said as part of his inquiry submission:

The industry understands the need for increased development of renewable energy sources. However we have significant concerns that the double burden of both the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) and the Renewal Energy Target (RET) will place significant further cost increases on the dairy farming families with little environmental benefit.

…            …            …

The cumulative increase has the potential to seriously impact the industry.

The coalition’s second amendment is the inclusion of renewable gas, or waste coalmine gas, as a recognised zero-emissions source of energy as in New South Wales, the US and Germany. This amendment is vital for sustaining hundreds of rural and regional jobs, such as those in my electorate of Forrest. These jobs potentially face the axe, and this is fundamental not only for rural economies but also because the process itself will save 90 million tonnes of CO2 between now and 2020. I note that the World Wildlife Fund anticipates that, if unamended, the loss of rural and regional jobs will b greater under the government’s CPRS than under the Frontier Energy proposal. The expanded RET requires approximately 10,000 megawatt hours of new power generation to fully satisfy the 20 per cent target by 2020. The coalition believes that this target will be very difficult to achieve without the inclusion of waste coalmine gases.

The third amendment is the 90 per cent coverage of the aluminium sector for both its existing mandatory RET and expanded RET liabilities. The Australian Aluminium Council has said:

If unamended, this Bill will have significant economic consequences for the aluminium industry, its employees and the communities in which they live—

such as in my electorate. The Australian Aluminium Council estimates that the bill in its current form will cost the industry an additional $700 million over the first decade of this scheme and will force most smelters to reduce their workforces and to wind back capital expenditure. The council has called for a true 90 per cent exemption from the RET for industries that are both electricity intensive and emissions intensive, not the current exemption figure for aluminium smelting, which is estimated to actually be 55 per cent.

The coalition’s fourth amendment is to ensure that food processing is categorised for assistance under the RET. Rural communities are seeking a 90 per cent coverage of the food-processing sector, particularly the dairy industry. On that note, an article in the Australian on 17 August stated:

It’s going to be a high cost to the consumer—the food manufacturer gets an ETS charge, then there’s delivery, and the retailers use refrigeration and lighting and the cost of that is all going to be handed on.

The article, like this government, actually made no mention of the increased cost to farmers and growers, who will bear this additional cost to produce Australia’s food from day 1. How will Australian farmers recover these additional costs when they are often absolute price takers? And how will they compete with imported products that do not have the additional costs of a CPRS?

I note the Australian Financial Review highlighted food processors’ issues on 17 August, saying:

Australia exports 65 per cent of farm produce. Our food producers are exposed to global competition, which has critical implications for jobs, export markets, food supplies and net global emissions.

The food processing sector, like the growers, will be forced to compete against cheaper imported food because agriculture is excluded from emission trading schemes around the world. David Crombie from the National Farmers Federation recently reinforced the fact that Australian farmers already contribute to reducing greenhouse emissions and that primary industries have slashed emissions by 40 per cent since 1990.

The final amendment the coalition is proposing is to help build the clean and renewable energy sector in Australia. In my electorate there is the Pinetec facility, situated next to the Muja power station in Collie, where sawmilling residue is converted to electricity. In the process, this displaces some 45,000 tonnes of coal each year, saving approximately 90,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Perdaman Industries is another company investing in innovative and clean coal gasification technology in my electorate. They are implementing a US$2.5 billion plant that will transform sub-bituminous coal via gasification into urea. The coal to urea plant will produce lower emissions than an equivalently sized coal-fired power plant. A further example is the Shire of Nannup and Verve Energy, who are currently investigating the potential for building a wind farm in the south-west of WA. The planned farm will entail 30 wind turbines, with a combined capacity of up to 55 megawatts. It is anticipated that the output of the wind farm would be enough to supply about 26,000 households and will reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by about 160,000 tonnes per year.

The south-west of WA is considered a reasonable wind resource, meaning there is huge potential for further wind plants to be located in the Forrest electorate. A recent article in the Australian Financial Review summed up the common-sense approach that there should be public support for research and development of all promising technologies, and ultimately the renewable energy technologies will have to compete on their own merits.

The coalition strongly supports clean and renewable energies and the concept of a 20 per cent RET and wants this legislation to pass subject to the coalition amendments.