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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8079

Senator O'BRIEN (3:10 AM) —I point out to Senator Allison that our figures are based on 2.6 per cent growth in energy consumption, which is the figure proposed in the McLennan Magasanik Associates report. That is the basis of our numbers, not 2.2. Two point two is one of the numbers contained on page 10 of the Greenpeace Next energy report. That is the calculation basis of our numbers. I was trying to point that out, and I am sorry if I did not adequately make the point that we chose a target which was perhaps between the two poles which the Next energy report suggests were the two parameters within which one might expect energy to grow by over the decade. I hear what you say, and I am not going to waste the time of the Senate trying to argue that extensively. That is the basis of our argument. We think they are the correct figures, and that is why we have put them up.

In relation to the Senate committee report, I remind the Senate that this was a report where hearings were conducted and a report prepared in a short space of time, immediately before the resumption of the last fortnight of sittings. The opposition position clearly was that we would support the passage of this legislation and that we reserved our right in relation to other amendments. The government has a majority on this committee, and it was clear that the report would be carried on the majority of the government.

Senator Barnett —You supported the report. You didn't make any reservations.

Senator O'BRIEN —We supported the passage of the legislation, which we are supporting. We will give this legislation our support at the third reading, as we did at the second reading, but we are moving an amendment which is consistent with our policy announcement—the one that I detailed earlier—which is that Labor supports a five per cent target.

Senator Mackay —So does the Hydro.

Senator O'BRIEN —Yes. Do many of the other renewable energy generators support it? Yes. Do we believe it is affordable? Yes. Is it a policy that, if the government insist that the amendments to this legislation cannot go ahead, we will be continuing to pursue? Yes. However, in relation to Senator Allison's comments about whether or not the Labor Party would insist on its amendments were the government to reject them—it is hypothetical and it is not my call tonight—I do recall the Democrats on a number of occasions taking positions only to change them when matters came back before the Senate.

Senator Allison —You can talk.

Senator O'BRIEN —Senator Allison says I can talk. That is certainly true, I can, because that is exactly what the Democrats do and, on occasions, so do the opposition. That is only reflecting the fact that sometimes the passage of a piece of legislation may be more important than the passage of a particular amendment. I am not attempting to call our position one way or the other but simply saying that it is a bit much for the Democrats to suggest that somehow they are pure on the issue of the passage of amendments and then insisting on them some time down the track. I do not think I need to say any more with regard to that. I hear the call of the numbers. We will move our next amendment, and apparently that will carry. Our preference would be for this amendment to carry because we think it sets a better framework in terms of the ongoing administration of renewable energy certificates. We do say, in relation to the minister's suggestion, that this would require the amendment of another piece of legislation. That is certainly true; but, as the minister himself said, the intersection of the workability of this legislation and the other comes about in 2009, so we have a bit of time to achieve the second leg of the equation.