Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4238

Ms MARINO (6:07 PM) —I rise to speak on the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2010, which administers Australia’s commitment for at least 20 per cent of electricity usage to come from renewable energy sources by 2020, which equates to a target of 45,000 gigawatt hours. The coalition will not oppose this legislation in the House this week, but we will reserve our final position subject to the completion of a Senate inquiry and the completion of negotiations between government and industry.

This legislation aims to amend the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 to separate the RET into two categories: the large-scale renewable energy target and the small-scale renewable energy scheme. If passed, the separation of the RET will become effective on 1 January 2011. The changes in this legislation intend to fix the problem identified by the coalition in August 2009 relating to the Labor government’s solar credit scheme, which would crowd out large-scale renewable energy projects in the renewable energy certificates market. The large-scale RET is capped at 41,000 gigawatt hours and will free up large-scale generation certificates, formerly known as RECs, for large-scale projects undertaken by accredited power stations, including wind, solar, biomass, hydro and geothermal energy. Liable entities would be allowed to use existing bank RECs to meet LRET obligations, but not small-scale renewable energy scheme obligations. The small-scale renewable energy scheme is uncapped and will create an unlimited market for the installation of solar panel systems, solar hot water systems and heaters, wind turbine systems and small hydro systems. The Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator will continue to administer the certificates and will receive an additional $6 million to administer changes and $4.5 million to establish an optional clearing house to manage creation, surrender and transfer of small-scale technology certificates.

The coalition has been strongly supportive of a renewable energy target, and certainly renewable energy in general, and believes that clean energy with green carbon is fundamental to significantly reduce Australia’s net emissions. It was the coalition that introduced Australia’s first mandatory renewable energy target, and we strongly support the principle of a 20 per cent RET. However, we seriously question how the Labor government has treated the renewable sector since coming into office. The coalition introduced the $8,000 solar rebate, which the government means-tested in a broken promise in 2008. The result of the means test took the price of solar panels out of the hands of many mums and dads who earned $50,000 each. Then the Labor government completely abolished the $8,000 solar rebate without notice on 9 June 2009—something we certainly heard about in our electoral offices.

We also introduced the Remote Renewable Power Generation Program, which Labor abolished, again without notice, on 22 June 2009. This put remote solar out of reach for many, many people in rural and regional Australia who were off-grid. To date the government has not replaced either of these programs and has failed to assist the industry in this area. The Labor government have failed with every policy they have touched, in particular the home insulation and green loans programs.

The Home Insulation Program has seen 144 house fires to date, 1,500 potentially deadly electrified roofs, 240,000 dangerous or dodgy roofs, four young lives tragically lost, and almost $1 billion in provisions within the budget to fix this major problem. In my electorate of Forrest, a number of local businesses were dramatically affected by the sudden suspension of the Home Insulation Program in February this year. Two companies I have met with had a combined total of $95,000 worth of stock and were owed around $77,000 in insulation payments, but they believed the Prime Minister’s promise that the program would be reinstated as of 1 June. They also believed him when he met the insulation companies in front of Parliament House with his notebook and told them that he got it and would fix it. However, this turned out to be another broken promise, leaving these businesses damaged. They have had to put off workers and their futures are uncertain. The lack of support for these small insulation businesses after the sudden cutting of this rorted and mismanaged program is disgraceful and has not assisted reputable businesses that are now in a serious commercial situation through no fault of their own. The Prime Minister is so embarrassed by the support package that the government is offering that he would not even face those same installers who rallied at Parliament House in disgust over what has happened and what was offered to them. The Labor government is responsible for the failure of this program, and must take full responsibility for the circumstances that reliable and legitimate insulation installers and small businesses are now facing.

Also of major concern with this legislation has been the government’s 1½-year delay in taking action on the renewable energy target. The coalition engaged in open and active dialogue in late 2009 to ensure that the RET legislation was amended in such a way that met industry requirements. Outcomes to the amendments sought to the legislation by us in 2009 included decoupling the legislation by establishing separate regulations and a start date based on royal assent. At the introduction of a CPRS, the coalition moved to ensure the inclusion of electricity generated from waste coalmine gas as a fully eligible zero energy source of renewable energy credits. We also moved to ensure that the aluminium sector received 90 per cent exemption for both existing and new RET obligations. We moved to have heat pumps for domestic installation continue to be included in the RET at current rates of allocation. And then there was the move to ensure that food processing was given 90 per cent coverage, that 8,875 gigawatt hours of the RET by 2020 be banded and reserved for emerging baseload renewable technologies via the schedule.

In my electorate of Forrest there has been a lot of interest in sources of renewable energy: wind power, particularly in the area of Scott River, and biomass. I look forward to the progress of these initiatives. Major gains can be achieved in Australia through energy efficiencies. We have heard consistently over a number of years from the member for O’Connor about HVDC transmission and its significant potential 20 per cent savings in power transmission. Late last year west Perth based Green Rock Energy announced that it had been granted three geothermal exploration permits within the town of Collie in my electorate where a substantial proportion of Perth’s electricity supply is generated from power stations.

I have hosted two energy diversity forums in my electorate over the last year, which have provided an interactive environment for people to learn more about a range of energy diversity options. Those in attendance not only heard how they can be more energy aware and efficient in their own homes and business premises but also received information on environmental programs and proposed outcomes at local, state and national levels. The forums covered topics including geothermal energy; solar, tidal and wind power; converting CO2 to energy using algae; waste water recycling; and stormwater filtration.

The Prime Minister has stated that climate change is the greatest moral and economic challenge we will face in the 21st century and yet we have not seen the Labor government do anything much more than propose its great big new tax, the ETS—a new tax that would impose massive costs on Australian families and small businesses. The government’s seriously flawed CPRS legislation would add costs to Australia in households and businesses without achieving a genuine reduction in carbon emissions.

The Prime Minister himself has admitted that electricity prices would increase by 19 per cent in the first two years of Labor’s ETS. There was no mention of compensation, only extra costs for the 750,000 small businesses in Australia. There was certainly no mention of compensation for the increased taxes for the 14,000 small businesses in my electorate such as drycleaners, retailers, hairdressers, those in the service sector and particularly those who are in no position to pass on any additional costs like farmers and horticulturalists, who would see additional costs on their inputs. But it is not just small businesses who would be hit hard by price increases. Many individuals and households would also be affected.

Another issue ignored by the government with the flawed ETS legislation is that its cost across the board for families and businesses is compounded over and over again in rural and regional areas. Electricity, food, groceries, fuel and other essentials like heating and cooling are often a real necessity, particularly for pensioners and those with health issues.

The Prime Minister assembled a major contingent of 114 people to take to Copenhagen only to find that what was very clear to the coalition prior to Copenhagen and which became crystal clear to every Australian and, finally, the current Prime Minister was the fact that, in spite of Australia’s contribution of 1.5 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, the world’s biggest emitters—China contributing 21.5 per cent, the US contributing 22.2 per cent and India contributing 5.3 per cent to the world’s emissions—had no intention of agreeing to binding emissions reduction targets and placed no priority on an ETS. If the Prime Minister had rammed his CPRS through the parliament prior to the major emitters in the world agreeing to a similar tax, Australia would be uncompetitive in domestic and overseas markets and would potentially export jobs, investment and the carbon itself. I also note that the Prime Minister has been AWOL on climate change, the environment and the CPRS since the failure at Copenhagen—shelving the CPRS until after the election. Under the government’s flawed legislation the CPRS will place a further tax on the mining and resource sector in addition to the Resource Super Profits Tax.

Unlike Labor, the coalition is serious about taking environmental action and believes an incentive based approach will reduce emissions as well as address some of Australia’s serious environmental problems. I note that Labor’s big new tax would have cost $120 billion compared to $17 billion for the coalition’s direct action plan. It would cost far less, achieve the agreed target, provide real environmental benefits, would not cost jobs and would not increase electricity and grocery bills. The Prime Minister has certainly lacked courage and conviction when it comes to making environmental policy and commitments, highlighted by his move to shelve the ETS in spite of describing climate change as the greatest moral and economic challenge of our time and that delay was denial. The Prime Minister also said the third group of climate deniers are those who pretend to accept the science but then urge delay because they do not want their country to be the first to act. He also said in a speech to the Lowy Institute: ‘there are two stark choices: action or inaction. The resolve of the Australian government is clear: we choose action.’ The action taken by the Prime Minister was to shelve the ETS until after to 2013. The sidelined ETS has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars without any measurable reductions of global emissions.

The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and its 494 staff will have cost taxpayers $215 million by July this year and the government has allocated a further $30 million to spend on a climate change advertising campaign. The whole extended protest cost the business sector millions and millions of dollars in assessing and analysing the implications of the green paper, the white paper and then the very seriously flawed legislation itself. Many industries, groups and businesses from my electorate flew backwards and forwards to Canberra consistently throughout this process. What a massive additional cost to their bottom line. And what for? For the Prime Minister to shelve the CPRS until 2013. If the Labor government is re-elected, the seriously flawed ETS legislation and tax will be added to the other Labor governments—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr KJ Thomson)—Order! I have given the member for Forrest a great deal of latitude in debating legislation that is not before the House. I ask her to return to the legislation which is before the House.

Ms MARINO —Certainly, Mr Deputy Speaker. In conclusion, the coalition is highly focused on renewable energy and strongly supports the concept of a 20 per cent renewable energy target.

We will consider the following issues in the Senate inquiry: any attack on the waste coalmine gas sector; and increasing to 300 megawatts by 2030 waste coalmine gas generation capacities in the absence of access to GGAS, subject to support from high electricity users and the provision of full costings to industry. Further, we will consider the issue of limiting the exposure of high electricity users to the currently uncapped SRET by implementing one or more of the following options: removing the eligibility of heat pumps to earn RECs where installed in reticulated gas areas; capping the SRET at 4,000 gigawatt hours; removing unlimited liability for large energy users in the case of an expansion in the solar homes programs—or if there is a feed-in-tariff then solar panels may not generate a small-scale technology certificate.

In the House of Representatives, the coalition’s position is to reserve our final position until the report of the Senate inquiry and the completion of negotiations with government and industry.