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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6735


Senator ALLISON (3:43 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Defence (Senator Hill) to a question without notice asked by Senator Allison today relating to greenhouse gas emissions.

I must say it was a non-answer to a question, and that is disappointing. The minister, generally speaking, makes an effort to answer questions that are put to him in this chamber, but today's effort was abysmal. I started my question by pointing out that the Parer energy report, which came out last week, indicates that far from achieving a 14 megatonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, energy market reform will increase emissions by 2010—by only 0.1 per cent but, nonetheless, it is an increase. So it is a difference in what we have projected will happen by 2010 and what we told the international community, which was an equivalent reduction of 14 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

I also asked if the minister would admit that the energy market reforms that this country has had under way for some years have not made our industry energy efficient. They have done the opposite. They have made electricity cheap, and they have advantaged brown coal generation. As a result we have had a blow-out in our emissions. I will just quote from the Parer report because I think it is instructive. It says:

Government policy makers anticipated that energy market reform and its acceleration would lower the average greenhouse gas intensity of energy. Analysis now shows that far from achieving 14 Mt reduction in 2010, as estimated in Australia's Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, energy market reform is now estimated to have resulted in an increase of 0.1 Mt of CO2-e by 2010.

The growth in emissions from electricity supply since 1990 is attributed to an increase in the brown coal share of electricity generation and a corresponding reduction in the combined share of some of less greenhouse-intensive energy forms.

In fact, it was the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee that identified this as a problem in its report more than two years ago. We had a very close look at energy market reforms and we were persuaded by the submissions and those who presented before the committee that this would be a major problem for Australia in meeting its Kyoto commitment. Lo and behold, that is how it has turned out.

Sadly, the government chose not to report this. Having sent a second communication to the climate change committee earlier last year that we would abate 14 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, in the third communication this year the government failed to mention that. They hinted at it but they did not indicate that this was the scale of the problem. They said:

Accordingly there has been an increase in greenhouse intensity of energy supply. However, this is not expected to persist over the longer term.

There is no justification for that or explanation as to why it will not persist over the longer term. What is the longer term? Is that 2010 or some other time? Who knows. The government clearly does not want to admit to this problem. On top of that we have the ridiculous situation that the two per cent renewable energy measure—passed in this place without Democrats support because of all the problems associated with it—turns out to be not two per cent at all. The figure of 9,500 gigawatts turns out to be 0.9 per cent—on the best, most favourable calculations—but more likely to be 0.5 per cent of our emissions by 2010.

So we have a situation where the government refuses to fix the `hydro loophole' where all of the measure of the so-called two per cent renewable will be taken up for hydro, for which there has been no extra investment in renewable energy at all, due to the baseline and the calculations that allow that enormous windfall to go to Hydro Tasmania. I am glad to see they are spending it on renewable energy. That is a very good thing. However, they could choose to do otherwise and do nothing. We have a loophole which means that even the 0.5 or 0.9 per cent is probably far less than that amount. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.