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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8078

Senator BARNETT (3:02 AM) —I rise to oppose the Labor amendment, support Minister Macdonald's comments very firmly and acknowledge our common objective of encouraging renewable energy. I acknowledge the consistency of Senator Allison's comments with the report of the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee—which we sat on together—on the provisions of the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment Bill 2002.

I am shocked and surprised that Senator O'Brien is moving this amendment on behalf of the Labor Party. I take issue with the statement that he incorporated into Hansard, and specifically with his statement that the coalition `is not committed to Basslink, has considerably less commitment to renewable energy targets than Labor has and is not committed to Tasmania'. He goes on to say, `The lack of commitment from this government to renewable energy now appears to be turning into outright sabotage.' Those sorts of comments are very inflammatory. On behalf of the Tasmanian Liberal Senate team, I find them offensive. We are committed to Basslink, we are committed to the $208 million worth of investment that the Hydro are making in upgrading their hydro power stations, and we are committed to supporting the Hydro's plans for putting $100 million per annum over the next 10 years into wind farm development in Tasmania.

I put it to this chamber that the amendment proposed by Senator O'Brien would put at risk and undermine these very investments and developments. As I indicated earlier, I am shocked by it. The minister quite rightly referred to the report of the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Legislation Committee, which is dated December 2002—it came down just last week. Senator O'Brien and Senator Mackay were on that committee with me and with other members of the government, and we gave a majority report. We said:

2.1 With limited exception, the bill has the support of almost all the submissions, which reflects the largely administrative nature of most provisions.

That is what the minister has been saying throughout the evening. The bill is about administrative matters. I refer to the conclusion of the report, which makes it very clear that the committee recommends that the bill be passed. That is what the report says: `the committee recommends that the bill be passed'. Here we have amendments which are putting all that in jeopardy. The report says the bill should be passed:

... with consideration of the recommendations of this report.

I refer to paragraph 2.81 on page 28 of the report, where we talk about the actual target—the two per cent or the five per cent. The minister has just referred to the target, which was carefully considered by the committee. The committee says:

The Committee is sympathetic to these views but considers that it is too early in the life of the MRET scheme to fundamentally raise the target.

The two per cent has been supported by the committee in this majority report. I have acknowledged Senator Allison's minority report on behalf of the Democrats. That is why I am surprised that Labor is putting this up. This was tabled only a week or so ago in this chamber. There has been a total turnaround. We have had hearings, we have had submissions and we have looked at the research. We looked at the baseline studies and said, `Look, these sorts of things should be dealt with in the review, which is starting in January next year.' Senator Mackay, in her speech incorporated into the Hansard, said:

I further support, as mentioned earlier, the raising of the MRET to 5 per cent.

This is contrary to the committee report. She continued:

This will significantly generate new investment in the renewable energies industry.

I say that is wrong and, indeed, the minister says it is wrong. You need to make it clear that consequential amendments are required. The advice is quite clear that the amendment is flawed. You need consequential amendments as to the size of the penalty under the act. This is because it will be cheaper to pay the penalty than to buy renewable energy certificates. For example, under a five per cent target it will become cheaper to pay the penalty in around 2009. Under a 10 per cent target, it will become cheaper in around 2005. The facts are there; it is on the table. It is very disappointing. The Tasmanian ALP state government—

Senator Mackay —The Hydro support five per cent!

Senator BARNETT —Listen to the advice that was put by your own state Labor government. The advice by the state Labor government to this committee made it perfectly clear that they supported the bill and that amendments like those that have been put forward tonight are fundamental and would be best dealt with in the review that is coming up in January, in a few weeks time. I hope that the state Labor government will put pressure on their federal Senate colleagues to not undermine the many investments and developments in Tasmania. It is a great concern. I would encourage Senator Mackay and Senator O'Brien to review their position and to reconsider, so that we can get these administrative matters dealt with. I recognise that the Greens and Senator Allison, on behalf of the Democrats, have a different perspective, a different view, but this is an administrative matter and it needs to be dealt with. I know it is of concern to all the Tasmanian Liberal senators, certainly, who will be calling on all the Tasmanian politicians, state and federal, to support the majority committee report which came down last week and not to undermine this legislation and the entire renewable energy regime.