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Monday, 19 October 2009
Page: 10182

Mr DREYFUS (8:48 PM) —We oppose the Geothermal and other Renewable Energy (Emerging Technologies) Amendment Bill 2009. This bill is a pretence by the opposition that it is in any way genuinely concerned about either renewable energy targets or renewable energy sources or indeed tackling climate change at all. The opposition’s real level of concern about renewable energy was shown by its attitude to climate change and its attitude to renewable energy while in government. That attitude was to do next to nothing about it, to refuse to ratify the Kyoto protocol and to refuse to engage with dangerous climate change in any real way.

I want to give some context to this particular private member’s bill. The government’s package of legislation, the renewable energy target legislation package—which consisted of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009 and the Renewable Energy (Electricity) (Charge) Amendment Bill 2009—passed through the parliament in August and became law in September. Both these pieces of legislation are amendments to the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000. It is important to note that context, because what the piece of year 2000 legislation did was to establish the present mandatory renewable energy target scheme at 9,500 gigawatt hours.

The context for this private member’s bill and the failed amendments that were put forward by the opposition when the government’s legislation was being debated is that the government has massively expanded the renewable energy target by four times the figure established by the former government—from 9,500 gigawatt hours to 45,000 gigawatt hours by 2020. That vastly expanded renewable energy target will encourage the deployment of renewable energy without picking winners within the target, which is the intent of the private member’s bill that has been forward by the member for Mackellar.

The other point to note—and this is what the opposition and the member for Mackellar are refusing to engage with—is that it is not merely the size of renewable energy target that will encourage a whole range of technologies, including wind, biomass, solar and geothermal energy. The other part of the scheme—and these measures fit together—is the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. That scheme, when it is passed by this parliament, will be the primary driver of renewable energy and will work with the renewable energy target to provide significant support and encouragement for the development of new technologies.

The renewable energy target, which this private members bill—if not rejected—would tinker with, is complemented by a whole range of government programs that are providing direct support for the development, commercialisation and deployment of emerging renewable technologies. I will mention just a few of them, because this is the context in which the opposition are putting forward these tinkerings with the renewable energy target and its program. In the 2009-10 budget it is worth noting that the government committed some $15 billion to climate change related initiatives. One of the most significant of those is the $4.5 billion clean energy initiative, which was announced in the budget. That includes $1.6 billion to support research and development of solar technologies as well as $465 million to establish the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy. I could mention also the $100 million for the Australian Solar Institute or the $480 million for the National Solar Schools Program.

All of these measures show that this government—unlike the former government, which in its 11½ years was unable to come to grips with the need for firm government action in respect of climate change—is committed to reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and to engaging with dangerous climate change. The renewable energy target that has been set represents a massive increase on the one that the former government was content to leave in place for the whole of its term in government after bringing it in in 2000. The massive increase will, in itself, encourage the development of new technologies, as will the complementary effect of the carbon pollution reduction scheme, as I have already indicated.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.