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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6175

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (18:08): I am surprised, to say the least, by the tack that the opposition is taking. I am particularly surprised that the member for Riverina, who represents a farming area in this parliament, stands up here and opposes legislation that will deliver some return to farmers. I find it absolutely inexplicable, given that the National Farmers Federation supports this legislation and submitted to the inquiry by the Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts—that I am a member of and was part of the hearing that took place—that:

The legislation has also addressed NFF concerns around potential perverse outcomes in relation to food production, water, local communities, employment and biodiversity, as well as reducing some of the uncertainty and administration costs surrounding crediting periods, reporting timeframes and offsets compliance. The Government deserves credit for listening to the farm sector …

I suggest to the member for Riverina that he listen to the farm sector and talk to some of the farmers that he represents in this place. Listen to them and learn what they think about this rather than linking into the opposition's spin, the opposition's position of oppose, oppose, oppose. That is all this opposition does—opposes for the sake of opposing.

The Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011 fulfils the government's commitment to develop legislation:

… to give farmers, forest growers and landholders access to domestic voluntary and international carbon markets. This will begin to unlock the abatement opportunities in the land sector which currently make up 23 percent of Australia's emissions.

This legislation's first objective is to help Australia meet its international obligations. Its second objective is to create incentives for people to undertake land sector abatement projects and to achieve carbon abatement in a manner that is consistent with protection of Australia's natural environment and improve resilience to the impact of climate change. The Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011establishes a national register, which is a very important aspect of the legislation that we are debating, and it registers two primary purposes: as Australia's national register for Kyoto units and as a register for carbon credits.

As I indicated at the commencement of my contribution to this debate, I am a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Climate Change, Environment and the Arts. This legislation was referred to the House committee to consider the legislation, and the House committee did exactly that. We had a day's hearing where we received a number of submissions and evidence from a number of different parties. There was one question I asked every witness who appeared before the committee. That one question was: 'Do you support this legislation?' Every person that appeared before the committee said, 'We support this legislation. There are some things that we would like to see done a little bit differently, but we see it as a really good starting point.'

I was so surprised when I learnt that the opposition was opposing the legislation. Maybe I should not have been because oppose is what they do—oppose, oppose, oppose and say no, no, no. But when members of the opposition are working on House committees they are happy to work with members of the government to try and put together a report that is actually constructive. I have to say that a number of the members of the opposition did not turn up for consideration of the legislation, but the member for Moore did. When the member for Moore turned up he was, as always, very constructive and he supported the recommendations of the House committee. At a very late stage of the inquiry we received a letter from the Western Australian government with some concerns, but we noted those concerns in the report. It is important to highlight some of the issues.

Before I move on from the report, I must say that this is a unanimous report. Every member of the opposition had an opportunity to vote against the report, but this report is a unanimous report. I repeat for the benefit of the House: a unanimous report. That unanimous report made three recommendations. Recommendation 1:

The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives pass the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Bill 2011.

Recommendation 2:

The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives pass the Carbon Credits (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011.

Recommendation 3:

The Committee recommends that the House of Representatives pass the Australian National Registry of Emissions Units Bill 2011.

Those were unanimous recommendations. So you can understand why I was so surprised when I heard that the opposition were opposing this very important piece of legislation that delivers to farmers, to people that many in this parliament claim to represent. I would say that they do not represent the farmers. They represent their own self-interest, and their own self-interest is validated by opposing absolutely everything.

The scheme is outlined very succinctly both in the legislation and in the report that was brought down. The scheme, as I mentioned, will begin to unlock abatement opportunities in the land sector, which currently produces 23 per cent of Australia's emissions. Australia has amongst the highest agricultural emissions of developed countries, but there are significant opportunities to increase carbon storage in our landscape. The scheme will provide significant opportunities in regional and rural Australia—opportunities that I would have hoped members representing the National Party in particular would seek to embrace. It is about setting up a long-term framework rewarding land sector abatement. I feel this is very important legislation. The national register will also be an important part of this legislation.

When the committee held its inquiry, we decided we would concentrate not on every aspect of the legislation but on methodology, additionality, permanence and the risk of reversal buffer, native title, national resource management plans and perverse outcomes. They are the areas that were highlighted in a number of submissions that the committee received. At the start of my contribution I mentioned that there had been a number of submissions received by the committee, but there was also a Senate inquiry that received an inordinate number of submissions. As well as that there was extensive—I repeat: extensive—public consultation where interested parties had the opportunity to make submissions in relation to this legislation. The consultation period was from October 2010 to February 2011. The one issue that was of vital importance to the government was that everyone would have the opportunity to have input into this important legislation. Madam Deputy Speaker, I would say to you and to the House that that opportunity was taken by many people.

Methodology, as I mentioned, was one of the first issues that the House committee looked at. We found the methodologies to be an integral component of this scheme, and the support of research and development was also found to be an essential element. That was raised by a number of witnesses who appeared before the committee. The committee supported the view that there is a need for ongoing research and development. We strongly encouraged the department to examine that issue further, because ongoing research and development will see the industry that comes out of the legislation before us expand. The initial take-up rate is expected to be quite small and as it becomes more established it will need that research and development to look at new areas where carbon farming can be introduced.

The purpose of the additionality test is to ensure that credits only occur for abatement that would not have occurred before. So they have to be new activities. That is what additionality is about—making sure that credits are for new initiatives. Once again, I feel that that is an important component of the legislation and one that all members should support. The 100-year-permancy requirement is accompanied by a risk of reversal buffer. The 100-year-permanency requirement was raised on a number of occasions before the committee, but it was generally felt that it was about the right period of time. While some submissions felt that a lesser period would be better, the overwhelming majority supported the 100-year period. The committee noted those concerns, but we believed that it was important for there to be that 100-year period.

I will put on the record once again that this is great legislation. It was supported by every witness who appeared before the committee. It was a unanimous report. I ask the opposition to stop opposing for the sake of opposing and to support the people they are supposed to represent in this parliament, not their own self-interest.