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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8060

Mr OAKESHOTT (9:15 PM) —by leave—I move amendments (1) to (4), as circulated in my name, together:

(1)    Schedule 1, item 9, page 6 (line 4), omit ‘The Minister must cause an’, substitute ‘An’.

(2)    Schedule 1, item 9, page 6 (lines 10 and 11), omit ‘the Minister’s opinion’, substitute ‘the opinion of the Independent Climate Change Authority’.

(3)    Schedule 1, item 9, page 6 (line 13), before ‘Minister’, insert ‘Independent Climate Change Authority and the’.

(4)    Schedule 3, item 3, page 15 (line 15), omit ‘Australian’, substitute ‘Independent’.

For the interest of all members in the chamber, I will not be moving for a division, so everyone can go about their business. It is because I think in the next 4½ minutes I will win this argument and convince the government of the merits of the amendments! But if I do not then it is to again make a point that I have made consistently through the suite of legislation under the general CPRS banner via amendments. That point is that our role in the delivery of a market based response to the natural resource management question of our time should be as framework makers, and then we should let it go and be at arm’s length from the process in the future to let it establish a sense of—dare I say it—independence in a lot of the delivery of the market indicators on many of the principles and concepts that are evolving from this suite of legislation.

The point is being made again, via this renewable energy amendment bill, that we are seeing once again the centralisation of power. In the future, in some of the key decision-making issues around some of these principles and concepts, power will sit fairly and squarely in the hands of the minister and the executive. If we are going to talk about building a good investment environment in the future, trying to get genuine engagement with the community and letting the market rip in what is a market based response to these natural resource questions, then I would once again urge the government to consider some time in the future, if not now, the establishment of that independent authority to oversee some of the issues, principles, concepts and finer details of the market framework.

The response that I have previously had from the minister on duty in the chair, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change, is that the government believe this issue is so important that it should have parliamentary scrutiny. I philosophically disagree. We could argue the same about interest rates. I would hope that we all believe interest rates and monetary policy in this country are incredibly important. However, we do not therefore give it parliamentary scrutiny. What we do is give it arm’s-length independence from the parliament so that we do have certainty and so that some of those hard decisions can be made in the greater public interest. This is no different. There will be tough medicine in some of this suite of legislation going through, and no-one who is involved in the political process—by our very nature we are populists—will want to deliver that tough medicine. So it is as much in the government’s interest as it is in the public interest that there be a sense of independence and a sense of being at arm’s length from the political processes so that we do let the science fly.

What we have seen over the last fortnight is a political mosh pit. We have seen and continue to see political rather than science reasons for decisions taken in what should be about the science of climate change and not the politics of climate change. If we do not see this establishment sometime in the near future, if not now, I am concerned that we will see the science of climate change by election cycle, by vested interests and by political donor. That is not a system of good government and it would not deliver on what is, as I say, the natural resource management question of our time.

If they are serious about this, I would ask the government, if they cannot consider it now through these amendments, to consider it at some point in the future. Governments will change; there will be different ministers in the chair. This is as much to protect the work that is being done now and delivering it for the future as it is about delivering good public policy for today. I would encourage the government to consider this amendment.

I might also make a point about the Greens amendment to this legislation, which will be discussed in the other place. It is exactly in line with the private member’s bill that we will see tomorrow. I will be interested in everyone’s response to that one as well. (Time expired)