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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8063


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (1:41 AM) —Let the record show that I was laughing at Senator Brown for confusing this debate with some of the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric he goes on with. I do not know whom he is trying to impress. We are not on broadcast and I can guarantee that nobody is going to read Hansard in 50 years time, or even tomorrow. Senator Brown, no-one on my side listens to what you say, and I am sure that no-one on the Labor side listens to what you say. Senator Nettle, I am sure, has heard all of the Marxist-Leninist rhetoric from you before. Save the impassioned speeches for someone else. We are not interested in it. No matter what you say, this bill is about administrative changes. If you want to change the policy, enter into the policy review that you voted for two years ago when this bill was here.

You have asked me four questions and I will answer those questions. The other countries that have modelled their approach on the mandatory renewable energy target or on investigating a similar scheme now include the United Kingdom, Sweden and Japan. Your second question was about the target not being achievable. A government study on targets conducted by McLennan Magasanik Associates vindicates that five and 10 per cent targets are not achievable under the current penalty. This is important, Senator Brown, if you are interested in the real debate. Nobody has thought of changing the penalty. You cannot, because it is in a different bill. Five and 10 per cent targets are not achievable under the current penalty, since it will be cheaper for liable parties to pay the penalty. For example, under a five per cent target it would become cheaper to pay the penalty from around 2009. Under a 10 per cent target it will be cheaper in around 2005. This means that, for the majority of the time that the measure operates, liable parties will pay the penalty rather than helping with renewable energy. Much as you might want to change the penalty regime, none of us can. Even if I want to, I cannot—not in this bill— because it is in a different bill. If you had the wit to understand that, you would have introduced a bill to amend the levy bill.

Again, I hope Senator Allison understands the point—I think the Labor Party are aware of it—that, because of these targets, people will pay the penalty because it will be cheaper than going into renewable energy. It is counterproductive, and that is why it is wrong to do these things at a quarter to two on the last night of sitting for the year, because we miss these important things. We need to deal with these important things during the proper review that the Senate voted on not two years ago.

The third question from Senator Brown was about the Chief Scientist, Dr Robin Batterham—that very distinguished, very able, very capable Australian. I think the question was: did he give any advice on this bill or on the original bill? It does not matter which one; the answer is no. Why would we seek his advice on this particular matter? The advice we got on this matter was from the Australian Greenhouse Office and from the Australian Government Solicitor. The Australian Government Solicitor has pointed out the administrative errors in the bill that need correcting. That is what we are trying to do today. We get our advice on greenhouse policy issues from the Australian Greenhouse Office—a very good element of government, which gives very sound advice.

The fourth question asked by Senator Brown was: who is going to be on the review committee and when will it commence? On 29 November, Dr Kemp wrote to a very wide range of people—and, I suspect, to all the political parties—seeking input into the terms of reference. The principal act says that we cannot start the review prior to 18 January 2003, Senator Brown. The act says that, but Dr Kemp is on record—and his letter of 29 November is an indication that he wants to get this moving—as saying that he wants this review under way at the very earliest time.

Senator Brown asked who was on the review. Nobody has been appointed to it yet. Dr Kemp is considering this matter. I say to all senators here, including Senator Brown, Senator Allison and the Labor Party, that if you have suggestions of who might be an appropriate person to put on this independent review—it must be independent, under the act—please send them in. Dr Kemp will consider all nominations, and the appointments will be made in due course. I hope that answers the four questions that you asked, Senator Brown.