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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8046

Ms HALL (8:10 PM) —I rise to support the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and related bill. I will go into some detail in a moment as to why I support it, highlighting some of the aspects of this legislation. But first I must say I listened with great interest to the previous speaker’s contribution to this debate. I was interested to hear her say that those on the other side of this House understand renewables and that they know what to do. For a party—or parties—that know and understand renewables, their record is pretty damn deplorable. Renewables went backwards—note that: they went backwards—when they were in government. If they were serious, they would have done something in government. But they are the ones that understand renewables. They understand them so well that they actually went backwards under them when they were in government. ABARE figures show that renewables contributed 10.5 per cent of our electricity supply in 1997 compared to 9.95 per cent in 2007. There are the figures that demonstrate just how committed the opposition are to renewable energy. They give lip service. They are the sceptics on that side of the House and they are actually working to see that we do not have a strong renewable energy industry. It is interesting to note that in 2003 the Howard government’s own review recommended an increase in mandatory renewable energy targets above five per cent to ensure investment was not stifled. This was rejected time and time again.

The interim arrangements will set aside the link between a RET and CPRS legislation. We have decided that we will agree with the decoupling, and this will sever the link between the two pieces of legislation. Now that this link has been severed, I would expect the opposition to wholeheartedly support this legislation. I pointed out some of the flaws in the opposition’s approach to renewable energy—how their so-called commitment and knowledge of the renewable industry had benefited Australia to the extent that there had been a decline in the renewable energy sector. If you compare that to the Rudd government’s record of support for renewable energy, you will find that in 18 months this government has done more to support renewable energy and associated jobs than those in opposition did in 12 years.

Mr Hunt —Provocation! Don’t provoke me. I’m a time bomb. I will go off.

Ms HALL —I know that the shadow minister for climate change, environment and water would be exceptionally disappointed by that because I think in his heart he is not one of the sceptics. He is one of the ones who would like to see his leader be a little bit stronger and support more of the legislation that we put through on this side of the parliament.

A 2009 Climate Institute study showed that $31 billion worth of clean energy projects are already underway or planned in response to the government’s climate change policies. One of those is in the region that I come from, the Hunter, and up there we know just how important that is. These projects will generate around 26,000 new jobs, mostly in regional areas like the area I represent in this parliament.

There are more solar panels going onto Australian roofs under the Rudd government than at any previous time. This government has funded more than 80,000 solar rebates since we came to government. How many do you think were funded during the coalition’s 12 years? They had around 10,500 installations of panels. That is 80,000 in 18 months versus 10,500 in 12 years. I think that demonstrates just how much those on the other side of this House understand renewables and just how committed they are to renewable energy and the renewable energy industry.

I also noticed that the previous speaker talked about the breadth and intellectual rigour that the opposition apply to looking at legislation. Well, I think that the Australian public and we in this parliament have seen how that intellectual rigour and that breadth operates, with slanging matches between members of the opposition—and it is not all in the party room; it takes to the airwaves and shows that there is much division. It also shows that the members of the opposition are more interested in arguing with each other about renewable energy and the CPRS than they are about formulating good, sound policy that is going to address the issue of climate change. And that is what this legislation does.

These bills will amend the legislation underpinning the current mandatory renewable energy target scheme to implement a design developed through the Council of Australian Governments for a national renewable energy target scheme that expands on the current scheme and includes a legislated target of 45,000 gigawatt hours in 2020. That is really significant. That is making a real impact. It is showing that the Rudd government is committed to renewable energy. It is showing that we take climate change seriously and we are about acting now. Since the Rudd government has come to power, our record in relation to climate change and renewable energy has been second to none.

The Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 includes in it the clarification of the objects of the scheme; increased annual targets for renewable energy generation from 2010, including a target, as I have already mentioned, of 45,000 gigawatt hours in 2020, to be maintained until 2030; the implementation of a solar credit mechanism based on a renewable energy certificate multiplier for small-scale renewable energy, including solar photovoltaic, wind and microhydro systems; and a mandated review of the operation of the legislation and regulation underpinning the RET scheme in 2014. So it is not only about implementing the scheme; it is about reviewing it and ensuring that the scheme is working. It will provide for a partial legislative exemption from liability under the scheme in respect of emissions-intensive trade-exposed activities, and for the transition of existing and proposed state renewable energy target schemes. This scheme has been designed in cooperation with the states and territories through COAG, and it brings the renewable energy targets, and existing and proposed state schemes, into a single national scheme.

Once again, I see this as a contrast between the Rudd government and the Howard government. I think it shows why this legislation has been able to be developed, because the Rudd government has worked with the states to develop legislation for the whole of Australia whereas the Howard government worked against the states. It did not consult with the states. It tried to bully them into submission and blamed them if anything was not working.

What both ministers and the parliamentary secretary—and the minister at the table, Minister Combet, when he was Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change had a very influential role in the development of it and has continued in that role now that he is Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change—have developed here is world-class legislation. It is legislation that can be a model for the rest of the world—legislation that we in Australia can be proud of.

I commend the legislation to the House, and encourage the opposition to move their mindset, not even into the future—into 2009. I encourage them to accept the fact that climate change exists and accept the fact that we need to act now. They should accept the facts that this legislation is outstanding legislation and that under their administration nothing was done—all they had to contribute was to have the renewable energy sector going backwards—and acknowledge that under the Rudd government the renewable energy sector has thrived and this legislation will place Australia well into this century.