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Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Page: 9394

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (17:07): I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts on the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Bill 2012 and the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (Registration Fees) Bill 2012 in discharge of the committee's requirement to provide advisory reports on the bills, and to present a copy of my statement.

Leave granted.

Mr ZAPPIA: The committee has endorsed the content of this statement. I particularly thank the member for Moore and the member for Forrest, who joined me in a meeting of the committee only yesterday in preparation of the statement. Two bills, the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Bill 2012 and the Greenhouse and Energy Standards (Registration Fees) Bill 2012, were referred to the committee on 31 May this year. At the next meeting of the committee, on 21 June, it was noted that the provisions of the bill were to be referred to the Senate committee, also for inquiry and report. The House committee noted that the Senate committee planned to report by 15 August.

At the time, the committee unanimously decided to write to Senator Cameron, Chair of the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee. The letter, published on our committee's website, included three main points, the first being that at that stage about 150 bills in about 80 packages had been referred to House committees for review since the beginning of the 43rd Parliament. Second, while this is a welcome and valuable review mechanism, parliamentary inquiries should also seek to ensure that the resources of the parliament are appropriately used. When legislation is referred to similar committees in both houses, submissions and hearings can be unnecessarily duplicated for little additional benefit. Third, given the Senate committee has an inquiry process underway, the House committee would effectively wait to see what observations and conclusions were made about the bill at the conclusion of that inquiry and then, based on those outcomes, may seek to take further action. The letter to Senator Cameron also noted that the House Selection Committee had given reasons for the referral of the legislation. That is, 'that the scheme may increase costs and green tape for those involved'.

At its meeting on Thursday last week the House committee briefly considered the Senate committee's report, which had been presented in the Senate the previous evening and contained a majority and a dissenting report. The Senate inquiry received two submissions, from Lighting Council Australia and the Clean Energy Council, both of which were generally positive about the scheme and its principles.

Answers to questions on notice suggesting two concerns raised in the LCA submission were provided by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency on 10 August, and these answers were published on the Senate website. The dissenting report of the Senate committee claimed that those two concerns relating to the extent of criminal sanctions and the risk that commercially sensitive data may be inadvertently made public had not been satisfactorily addressed. The House climate change committee was of the view that its deliberations on the legislation would be assisted if a short public hearing were held to follow up on some of the issues raised. This hearing was held yesterday.

The reasons for referral given by the House Selection Committee, that the scheme may increase costs and green tape, were not examined explicitly by the Senate committee in the course of its inquiry and did not arise in submissions to the inquiry. This committee notes that, on the contrary, there appears to be strong agreement that the overall benefits from the scheme are that national standardisation and harmonisation will increase consistency and serve to lower costs and the regulatory burden on business.

In its submission to this inquiry the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has noted that the legislation introduces a national framework and is in response to a strong recommendation from industry stakeholders. According to the department, the legislation replaces seven state laws and four state regulators and removes 'inconsistencies from the state legislation, including harmonising costs and application processes, enabling a more consistent enforcement program and that will level the playing field in all jurisdictions'. Concerns about aspects of the scheme had been raised in the dissenting report of the Senate committee, which concluded that further consideration not occur until, 'the minister or government respond to concerns highlighted by the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee relating to the level criminal sanctions' and 'sections relating to the conferral of powers providing requiring the provision of sales data be opposed'.

The committee raised these concerns with representatives of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency at yesterday's public hearing and received advice that Mr Dreyfus, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, provided a response to the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee also on 10 August outlining changes now being made to the legislation and explanatory memorandum. This response has been incorporated into the eighth report of the Senate Scrutiny of Bills Committee, dated 15 August. The committee has determined that the views of parliamentarians would best be heard during the parliamentary debates on the legislation and accordingly recommends that the bills be further debated in the House.