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Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Page: 9868


Mr COMBET (CharltonMinister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency) (13:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill will establish the Climate Change Authority—a new statutory authority that will provide independent advice to the government on pollution caps, carbon budgets, the credibility of international units, the performance of the carbon pricing mechanism and review other climate change mitigation initiatives.

With many similarities to the United Kingdom’s Climate Change Committee, the authority will provide the highest quality advice on our climate policy, taking into account expert scientific and economic advice and developments in the international arena.

This means that climate change policy will be directed by evidence and facts, rather than fear and political opportunism. It will take the politics out of the debate. Successive governments in the United Kingdom have already benefited from such advice.

Australians also deserve an approach to tackling climate change that respects the scientific and economic consensus, where facts and not fear set public policy.

The Climate Change Authority will provide this advice, on the basis of the available scientific and economic evidence. It will then be for the government and the parliament to decide how to respond to this advice in determining the best course of action.

The authority will undertake regular reviews of the carbon pricing mechanism and will make recommendations to the government on future pollution caps. The authority will also be responsible for periodic reviews of the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting System, the renewable energy target and the Carbon Farming Initiative. The authority will also undertake special reviews as requested by the Minister for Climate Change or the parliament.

The authority will be a body corporate headed by a chair and eight other members. One of these members will be the Chief Scientist in an ex officio capacity. It is expected that the membership of the authority will comprise individuals of the highest calibre and expertise. The day-to-day operations of the authority will be managed by a chief executive officer and the authority will be staffed by Australian Public Service employees.

The authority will be independent from government. The minister will be able to provide direction on general matters only and there are limited grounds on which a member of the authority will be able to be removed from office. The minister will not be able to direct the authority in relation to the conduct of a particular review or the content of a report of a particular review.

To ensure openness and accountability, the authority will be required to hold public consultations as part of its reviews. This may include public hearings and a process of public submissions.

It would be expected that the authority will enter into formal arrangements with other parts of government on information and research sharing, particularly with regard to access to modelling by the Treasury, the Productivity Commission and other research conducted by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. These arrangements will preserve the independence of the authority in terms of its findings while avoiding unnecessary duplication of data collection and analysis.

The government expects the advice of the authority will be informed by the facts, be balanced, and be communicated to the wider community. The evidence base on which it relies should be made as explicit as possible. In conducting research, it will be expected to examine multiple options and to advise on which of these would be most suited to Australia’s national circumstances.

Its corporate plan will form the basis of its business planning activities and encompass the responsibilities under the legislation, together with any other priorities requested of it by the government.

The authority will have the opportunity to examine best practice models for its own corporate governance, risk management, and for ways of conducting its operations as efficiently as possible.

At least in the early years of its operation, it would be expected to avail itself of shared corporate services, recognising that, as a relatively small agency, it should aim to keep overheads to a minimum.

The bill also delivers on the government’s commitment to establish by legislation the Land Sector Carbon and Biodiversity Board, an advisory body which is to provide high-level advice to the government on the implementation of land sector measures contained in the Clean Energy Future plan. The Land Sector and Carbon Biodiversity Board will report annually on the progress of implementing the land sector and biodiversity measures, in particular the proposed Biodiversity Fund, which will provide almost $1 billion support for the restoration and protection of biodiverse carbon stores over its first six years. It will also advise on the coordination of research to reduce duplication across the research community, target gaps and enhance the independence of research advice to government.

The board will play a key oversight and review role to ensure, in particular, that the Biodiversity Fund is well targeted and ensure the $1.7 billion land sector package unlocks the vast opportunities in our landscape and effectively complements the Carbon Farming Initiative. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.