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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8066

Mr HUNT (9:28 PM) —The opposition will be accepting these amendments. We appreciate the fact that the government has listened to the quite extensive representations which we have made over the previous months. We have in fact asked questions about this issue. Australian companies Envirogen and Energy Developments did have their future at risk. Today’s decision is not perfect, but what it does is this: it includes waste coalmine gas under the renewable energy legislation, it guarantees that existing operations and existing jobs in the hundreds will be saved and it makes a significant step towards achieving the 90 million tonnes of savings which can be made from waste coalmine gas if it is captured, flared and used to generate electricity, so as to offset the need for the fossil fuel production of energy.

Therefore, I make these comments in relation to these amendments. First, we believe that the principle of including waste coalmine gas under the renewable energy legislation is sound. Second, we accept the decision of the government to increase the total target so as to accommodate the waste coalmine gas sector. We think that that was a sensible and prudent action. I understand it may have been necessary to meet some of their political requirements, but we have no opposition to it.

Third, we will not oppose this, but we do have some concerns and we implore the government to have these discussions with the companies involved. We think that the year 2030 would be a better year than 2020. Some of the renewables investment made by the relevant waste coalmine gas companies, Envirogen and Energy Developments, is predicated on a 2030 date. It will cost the government no more. It will make no difference in terms of dollars and it will make no difference to the cap. I would simply extend those figures until 2030 and I would ask that the government enter into negotiation with the companies. Our job was to secure the future for those companies to make sure that existing renewable energy jobs were not lost, and we have done that. It has been a difficult fight. We are happy. We have more to do on other issues but we are happy that waste coalmine gas is in the system in the way it is in New South Wales, as it is in Germany, as it is in the United States. So the principle has been established.

In government, we would move to make sure that additional space was made and that the period for these investments was extended until 2030. However, the government of this day have not done that. We urge them therefore to, firstly, consider extending the period in which existing waste coalmine gas projects are eligible from 2020 until 2030. Secondly, we urge them to enter into discussions with the waste coalmine gas energy providers about extending the range of activities beyond those which are currently in existence to those which may be in existence. There may need to be a separate mechanism. There may need to be an additional component, but we believe that that should happen. On this day, however, there has been a significant victory for the waste coalmine gas sector.

I acknowledge the work of the two companies involved. They were concerned about rural jobs; they were concerned about 90 million tonnes of emissions. Now we need to broaden what they want on two fronts, but that is a debate for another day and for the government to deal with the companies directly. But, as I say, we would urge the government, firstly, to extend the date for inclusion from 2020 to 2030 and, secondly, to seek a mechanism which would allow for new developments and new investment. Nevertheless, we regard this as a victory for common sense. I thank the minister for his work and I thank Senator Wong for her work. We will be supporting these amendments.