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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6718

Senator ALLISON (2:25 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. The Parer energy report last week pointed out that, far from achieving a 14 megatonne reduction in greenhouse emissions, energy market reform will in fact increase emissions by 2010. Given the Parer analysis, will the minister now admit that energy market reforms have not made our industry energy efficient? Why did the Third national communication on climate change earlier this year fail to mention the 14 million tonne blow-out? Minister, the so-called two per cent renewable energy measure was supposed to reduce emissions by seven million tonnes but clearly it will not—it is more like 0.5 per cent. Will you now fix the hydro loophole and raise the renewables target in real terms to five per cent so Australia can close that 14 million tonne gap in its Kyoto commitment?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —We support energy market reform because it can achieve win-win outcomes—wins for the economy and wins for the environment. Obviously, if you are more efficient in relation to your energy resources, that reduces cost. That helps grow the economy, create jobs and do all those sorts of things that are good for the people. But, in using energy more efficiently, you also have the consequence of using less and drawing on our natural resources less and therefore achieving environmental gains as well. So this government makes no apology for energy market reform. We believe, as I said, it is good for the country.

In relation to the renewable energy legislation, yes, our legislation was designed to encourage a take-up of renewable energy in this country. It has been successful in that goal. The Australian Democrats are apparently opposed to hydro. We on this side of the chamber believe that more efficient hydro is also in the national interest. It means that that resource is used more efficiently, and again that can achieve economic benefits and environmental benefits. As is well known by this Senate, because the Senate put it into the legislation, there is a time for review of that legislation, and that review would be expected to include the target.

Senator ALLISON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, the Democrats are not opposed to hydro. They are opposed to windfall gains that do not achieve anything for renewable energy. The draft report says an increase in emission-intensive coal-fired generation is mostly to blame for our 14 million tonne blow-out. Does this suggest that serious efforts need to made, in particular to reduce Victoria's reliance on brown coal? The COAG report recommends developing a national emissions trading system, potentially ahead of an international scheme. Will the government at least support this recommendation?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —The only new coal-fired power station I can think of in recent times has been as a result of the Beattie Labor government in Queensland. Certainly, our coal reserves are very valuable to this country and we have an embedded infrastructure in relation to energy production from coal. What we in the government want to see is that coal used more efficiently. There are new methods coming on stream that will allow, again, the benefit of cleaner fuel and economic advantages as well. I repeat that those dual goals are the aim of this government.