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Monday, 17 August 2009
Page: 8070


Mr HUNT (9:44 PM) —The opposition will not be opposing these amendments. We welcome the fact that there has been a backdown by the government and that they are indicating a willingness to decouple. We will accept them as I note they offer an imperfect safety net for emissions-intensive trade-exposed businesses, but they nevertheless offer a safety net.

We will seek in the Senate to ensure that there is a full decoupling. Those amendments were moved in the House this evening and we will move them again in the Senate unless the government takes steps to negotiate, which it is, and then to present amendments of its own. We believe those negotiations are proceeding in good faith, and I underline that fact, and I thank the government for that, but let it be absolutely clear that these amendments need to go further. Instead of having the existing test which is in place for trade exposed businesses, we have an intensity in terms of electricity use of 3,000 megawatt hours per $1 million of revenue or 9,000 megawatt hours per $1 million of value-add. That will cover a much smaller range of businesses than was contemplated previously by the government. We have offered in good faith to the minister this evening a revised proposal which would go further than the amendment contained here. This provides a beginning. It provides a safety net at the very least for the ceramics and newsprint industries, for the aluminium industry and for others that are still yet to be defined.

But we can make this very clear and very easy by replicating the trade exposed provisions, which are already being developed by the government, but by separating them so as the commencement of those trade exposed provisions is not dependent upon passage of the CPRS legislation. There is a very simple solution here which would be acceptable and sensible, and that is to simply ensure that the commencement of the full trade exposed provisions for the 90 per cent qualifying firms and the 60 per cent qualifying firms is untied from the emissions trading scheme, will begin on 1 January 2010 and will not be dependent upon any other legislation. That is simple, it is elegant, it ensures that we have a clear way forward and that we will not face any blockage in this bill this week.

Having said all of that, we appreciate the fact that the government has made a significant concession. It has moved away from its view—expressed by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation as late as Friday night—that there would be no decoupling. This is a decoupling. It is not the full decoupling which we would ideally want, but it is a decoupling. Our view in the Senate will, to a significant extent, depend upon the additional work, but we accept that there is negotiation in good faith. I thank the government for that and we will accept these amendments.