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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9493

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (9:07 PM) —In speaking to my bill, I begin by referring to the comments of the shadow minister for climate change, environment and water, the Hon. Greg Hunt, relating to the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2009. He said that if the government was willing to consider the opposition’s amendments then the legislation would pass. The government did in fact undertake to agree to a number of those amendments but it did not agree to those dealing with food processing and preserving a portion of the renewable energy target for emerging technologies, such as geothermal, wave, tidal and biomass. The coalition supported the bill, which was passed, but feels very strongly about the need to protect farmers from adverse consequences of the renewable energy target and the need to keep access possible for newly emerging technologies—hence my private member’s bill, which I hope the government will permit a second reading and vote.

The case to give food processing activities the same exemption from the RET as aluminium and other industries—that is, 90 per cent—is compelling. If the same treatment is not given to food-processing activities to the extent that they are trade exposed then the Australian dairy industry, livestock farmers and food processors in particular, and farming families in general, will unfairly suffer. If food-processing costs incurred because of the RET were passed back to farmers, this would lead to substantial farm gate income losses. All of this will impact on industry viability, such as food cannery firms, our food security and rural jobs.

Senator Boswell in the Senate drew attention to the plight of the Murray Goulburn dairy cooperative, which is a trade-exposed high-energy user. The coop told the Senate Economics Legislation Committee that the RET would add $1 million in 2010 to its costs, rising to $2 million in 2020. This in turn would impact on some 2,500 farming families because the additional cost of electricity forced upon them by the RET legislation would be passed back to those families. With regard to the issues addressed in my bill relating to newly emerging technologies, there is a need for them to have guaranteed access to the RET as it has been established. This is both sensible and essential.

Geothermal technology is of much importance to South Australia and must not be crowded out. As my colleague the member for Grey has told me, in Innamincka Geodynamics have succeeded in moving water 500 metres underground at an operating depth of more than 4,200 metres. Basically, the water is pushed down one well to full depth, then through the natural structure of the rock at high pressures, forcing the fissures to fracture, which allows the now superheated water to be retrieved at a paired well. Water is recovered at the surface at a temperature of around 200 degrees Celsius. This energy would then be harvested using a heat exchange system, and the water would then be pumped back down the hole. These are the sorts of technologies that are set out in the schedule for my bill, which means that in the future there would be available room for these new technologies to get access to what will become a 20 per cent guarantee of the electricity market.

In not accepting the amendments at the time of the passage of the original bill, we believe, the government erred. Hence, I am presenting them in a private member’s bill, enforcing the argument, firstly, that there is a need for farmers to have the same degree of protection that other industries are going to be given by the government and, secondly, that there will be room left in the market for new and different technologies, as I have described in the bill, to have access to that guaranteed spectrum. If this is not done then Australia will be the poorer—and South Australia in particular, with geothermal. I commend the bill to the House.

Bill read a first time.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DS Vale)—In accordance with standing order 41(d), the second reading will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.