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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5916

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (20:01): The Greens have some concerns with the Taxation of Alternative Fuels Legislation Amendment Bill 2011, which I will briefly outline. They will be taken up more fully by Senator Christine Milne when this bill is in the other place. In short, whilst we support the use and development of second and third generation biofuels, we do have some concern about first generation biofuels. It is the same concern that is shared by the Productivity Commission, namely that their use and cultivation can tend to displace food crops and that poses a threat to agricultural land, which in an era of concerns about food security is something that ought to be foremost in any government decision making. Of course, that then has a consequent effect on inflation and food prices and so on.

We are pleased that, in the course of discussions with the government about this bill and about the matter generally, the government has said it will be taking steps towards looking at the accreditation process to ensure that it assesses the full cycle of production of these second and third generation fuels. It is not enough to simply measure it on the basis of emissions alone; one needs to look at the full production cycle. What we do support in this bill is that it is, in a sense, a step on what is unfortunately a long road—it should be a much shorter road—towards looking at fuel excise not in terms of a simple revenue grab but in terms of the embedded energy and carbon and the consequent pollution that comes out of particular fuels. What we should have, on any rational assessment, is a system of fuel excise that is graded ultimately on the basis of the level of carbon and the level of embedded energy in a fuel so that consumers are then able to make a choice about choosing between different types of fuels knowing that there is a cost and price incentive to move towards more environmentally friendly and less polluting fuels. So we are pleased that this is a step towards that and that it is going to be recognised in the treatment of the various fuels covered by the bills, but ultimately we do need to move towards a system where consumers are able to look at the various fuels and understand transparently what taxation and excise treatment there is for particular kinds of fuel and make their decisions accordingly. We will be supporting this bill to facilitate its passage through the House, but as I indicated at the start, my colleague Senator Christine Milne will have more to say when this bill reaches the other place