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Monday, 19 March 2012
Page: 3241

Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (13:36): I second the disallowance motion moved by the member for Lyne on the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Regulations 2011 (No. 5). This disallowance motion is simply one of common sense, not hypocrisy. The coalition does not support the amendment. We support the member for Lyne's disallowance of the amendment. Disallowance of the new regulations would maintain the status quo which we would, when in government, seek to improve in line with the coalition forestry policy of 2010. It is not new, but it is based on common sense and practical measures. A coalition government will reintroduce amendments to the renewable energy legislation allowing wood biomass to benefit from energy incentives available to other energy resources. The regulations put forward by the government prevent any biomass derived from native forests, be they privately or publicly held, being declared eligible for renewable energy credits under the renewable energy target scheme. That is hypocritical, especially for a government that has introduced a carbon tax specifically to reduce emissions and to make the world more sustainable. How can they possibly put forward amendments to their own legislation that will actually reduce the ability of Australians to reduce emissions? Previously biomass from native forests was eligible provided the primary purpose for harvesting the timber was not biomass for energy production and that the logging activities complied with a number of other criteria designed to ensure relevant Commonwealth, state or territory planning and approval processes associated with ecologically sustainable forest management principles were met, such as regional forest agreements and comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve systems.

This is a prime example of the government being held hostage by the Greens. As if we ever had any doubt about it, this proposed amendment to the regulations proves that the Greens are running the country. If forests are being sustainably harvested, surely it is common sense to make use of the offcuts and leftovers to maximise the use of the harvested timber. What else should we do with it? Throw it back into the old-growth forests so that it can simply add to the methane emissions of those mature, old-growth forests? That is what happens. There is currently untapped potential in our forests. Without cutting down a single extra tree, Australia can generate up to 3,000 gigawatt hours of energy using wood waste over and above what is already being done. This is an enormous contradiction from the government. It wants to cut emissions via a carbon tax—and no-one in Australia except they and the Greens want that, and by 'they' I mean not Labor people in Australia but the Labor Party in this House—but is excluding a vital renewable resource that could reduce our carbon imprint. It is pure hypocrisy to deny the opportunity to make use of wood waste for renewable energy within 3½ months of introducing a carbon tax.

This lack of understanding underpins the whole of the government's approach to carbon emissions, and it certainly highlights why we should get rid of this government. We should get rid of the carbon tax and implement practical programs that reduce emissions. On 1 July the government's new tax will begin. It will bring about a massive redistribution of wealth, it will be a massive tax to fund government spending and it will not be a tax at all related to cutting emissions. That is underlined by the disallowance motion of the member for Lyne, which we are supporting. This government is not interested in common sense—it is so desperate to hang onto government that it will do anything the Greens want. The Greens just want to shut down sustainable forest harvesting, and this is just another in a long line of changes meant to make sustainable harvesting of native forests more uneconomic in an effort to drive the timber harvesters out of business. This is having no regard for the loss of jobs or the effect on communities that depend on the economic benefits of timber production. It must be hard for some members of parliament who come from places like Tasmania and perhaps even the Central Coast of New South Wales to tell their constituents why they are going to make their communities, not just their forests, less sustainable. We are not just talking RETs here; we are talking about making communities less sustainable.

Perhaps members from electorates in Tasmania and along the coast of Australia, for whom this issue is a big deal, should be listening to their constituents for a change. Do government members care? Obviously they do not. Do they make sense? Obviously they do not. It this about sustainability? Obviously it is not. We have already seen from the water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin that those opposite do not care. In the basin they could have invested in water infrastructure and efficiencies to return water to the environment without any cut in production. In their rush to please the Greens and in their rush to simply say they were doing something, they have bought back incredible quantities of water with no plan for how they will or even can use it. They do not care about regional communities and they most definitely do not care about jobs—except for their own jobs, and they will do anything to hang onto power. I congratulate the member for Lyne for standing up to the government. No rational perspective can support the regulations. This change has been conceived and designed to hurt the forest industry, and that in turn will damage regional communities, depriving them of future opportunity and inhibiting the reduction of carbon emissions.

The overwhelming weight of science supports the use of native forest biomass for energy generation. This is not just me as a farmer who happens to be in parliament going crook—people who have spent their lives studying these things are supporting the use of native forest biomass for energy generation. The 1,200 members of the Institute of Foresters of Australia, an organisation strongly committed to sustainable forest management, sustainable use of biodiversity, conservation and the provision of sustainable livelihoods, support the use of native forest residues for energy production. The vocal minority should get in touch with the Institute of Foresters and get the facts about greenhouse gas emissions, wood waste and native forests. A group of 50 eminent Australian forest scientists have provided their considerable weight in support of the continued publication of native forest residues for the RET scheme, providing tangible evidence that the clear weight of science supports this position. Most Australians know that the stated intention of the Greens is to completely end the native forest timber industry in Australia, even though this is not supported by any credible evidence. I am embarrassed that an Australian government could stoop to taking such steps just to remain in power.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): It being 1:45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may resume at a later hour, and the member for Calare will have leave to continue his remarks.