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Thursday, 20 August 2009
Page: 8545

Ms NEAL (2:34 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change. How important is it for the renewable energy target legislation and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme to both pass the parliament, and is there a relationship between these two pieces of legislation?

Mr COMBET (Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science and Minister Assisting the Minister for Climate Change) —I thank the member for Robertson for her question. Just before question time the government secured passage of its expanded renewable energy target legislation through both the Senate and this House. That delivers on the commitment that the Australian Labor Party made to the Australian people to guarantee that 20 per cent of Australia’s electricity supply will be delivered by renewable sources by the year 2020. This is an extremely important achievement and it is one of the key institutional changes in the battle that the government is undertaking to deal with climate change. The passage of the legislation will help unlock investment in renewable energy generation and of course in jobs associated with those industries in areas like solar and wind power amongst others.

It is important for the House to understand that, even with the expanded renewable target renewable energy target in place, Australia’s emissions will continue to rise without the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Projections show that without the CPRS emissions will be 20 per cent higher in 2020 than they were in the year 2000. That is why we need the CPRS legislation to be carried by the Senate and by this place. It is the principal mechanism by which we will go ahead to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in this country and play a constructive role in international negotiations over climate change.

The opposition has attempted to present itself as ‘greening up’ this week by supporting the government’s renewable energy target legislation, which is important. But of course it retains a thoroughly incoherent position on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—and we know why they are so incoherent on this issue; there are still problems with climate change sceptics. They are hopelessly divided. The evidence that we saw yesterday in the House during question time was perfectly graphic on this issue. But the incoherence goes to the extent that, after spending all of last week and some time before arguing for the decoupling of the renewable energy legislation from the CPRS, the coalition has now agreed to amendments—which have enabled the passage of the renewable energy legislation—that provide a direct relationship between the renewable energy legislation and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

Let there be no mistake about it: after arguing for that decoupling, the renewable energy legislation provides for assistance or relief from the renewable energy target for industries in the emissions-intensive trade-exposed category on the same basis as the CPRS. That was the government’s position in the first place. It is an acceptance of reality by the coalition at last on that issue—but not only that. The coalition has also agreed in the amendments to look at industries potentially affected by the renewable energy legislation on the basis that it will open up assistance under the Climate Change Action Fund—a fund, of course, which we funded by the establishment of the emissions trading scheme. So, firstly having argued to decouple everything, this is a double recouple. There is a direct relationship between both pieces of legislation.

There appears to be some confusion on the other side about this issue, and I refer to some comments reported in the Australian yesterday from Senator Boswell, and this is in view of the fact that we need the CPRS to go through to address climate change. Senator Boswell said the following:

… our support for the renewable energy target in no way weakens our stand against the emissions trading scheme.

It remains very, very doubtful whether we could ever vote for an ETS.

The government has news for Senator Boswell, the National Party and the Western Australian Liberals. The agreement on the renewable energy legislation makes the case for the CPRS even more compelling—absolutely, fundamentally important. The time for vague principles, for reports from Frontier Economics and other consultants, for seeing the parade of sceptics on the other side of politics and for all of that is over. It is critical to have the CPRS legislation pass through this parliament and it is critical for the coalition to stand up in the national interest. They are behaving like a rabble on this issue. It is time to come forward with the specific amendments that the government can deal with to secure passage of the CPRS. Stand up for what is right.