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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8080


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (3:15 AM) —I rise only to give my colleague Senator O'Brien the opportunity to check with the shadow minister whose responsibility this is. It may be that Senator O'Brien is not aware of Mr Thomson's position; he is the shadow minister and it is his bill. To assist Senator O'Brien, I want to quote to the chamber what Mr Thomson said in the House of Representatives on 9 December, four days ago. He was talking about RFAs; this might help you in relation to RFAs as well, Senator O'Brien. Mr Thomson stated:

I believe that this is an issue that should be examined by the forthcoming review. Some of the things that the review should examine are whether the MRET target should be five per cent or a higher figure; whether there is a genuine problem regarding the baselines and unders-and-overs for existing hydrogenerators and, if so, how it should be resolved; whether the use of native forest residue would have a significant adverse effect on forest biodiversity, increase its greenhouse gas emissions or lead to an unsustainable increase in biomass from native forests; and the proper role of plantations and whether it is appropriate that they are excluded from the MRET definition. These are all things that the government's MRET review needs to consider.

They are not my words; they are the words of Mr Kelvin Thomson, the Labor shadow minister. It is his bill; it is his issue. Not four days ago in the House of Representatives, he said quite clearly that these issues should be reviewed in the government's review. We agreed with him then and we agree with him now. I do say again that, for the reasons Mr Thomson has outlined, we will not be accepting the amendment. If the amendment is pursued, we will get the situation where we will not have any relevant legislation on renewable energies come 14 February, and the current system, no matter how imperfect some may say it is, will not be workable at all. Again, I urge Senator O'Brien to seek clarification of Mr Thomson's view. If he has changed his view, nobody has indicated what the catalyst was to change it. Here we have Senator O'Brien talking about the Senate committee senators changing their minds—


Senator O'Brien —No, I didn't say that.


Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am paraphrasing. Whilst there may be some justification for what Senator O'Brien said in relation to a Senate committee report, I am not agreeing; I am saying there may be. But certainly the same thing cannot be said about the shadow minister, who, not three days ago, clearly said that this was a matter for review. He was right and he explained why he was right. He understood that it was an important issue and it needed a review, not a debate at 3.20 on the last day of sitting. I plead with the Labor Party and Senator O'Brien to get instructions from Mr Thomson to ensure that Mr Thomson's wishes, which he so clearly stated not four days ago, are in fact carried out. I am sure that is the Labor Party's position and I have confidence that Mr Thomson was right. He knew what he was talking about—he is an intelligent person—and he made it very clear. Can I suggest, Senator O'Brien, that you get instructions from Mr Thomson so that we can move on and get this administrative bill through so that we can fix up a few of the errors that we made at this time of night two years ago.

Question negatived.

Senator O'BRIEN (Tasmania) (3.19 a.m.)—I move opposition amendment (2) on sheet 2797:

(2) Schedule 1, item 68, page 19 (lines 22 and 23), omit the item, substitute:

68 Section 40 (table)

Omit the table, substitute:

40 Minimum required GWh of renewable source electricity: 2010

The minimumrequired GWh of renewable source electricity for the calendar year 2010 shall be that number of GWh which represents 5% of the total number of GWh of electricity acquired from all sources under relevant acquisitions during the previous calendar year.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Bolkus)—The question is that opposition amendment (2) on sheet 2797 be agreed to. I think the ayes have it.


Senator Ian Macdonald —I am sorry, Mr Temporary Chairman, you—


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —It is 3.20 a.m., as you have said.


Senator Ian Macdonald —I know you want to go to bed and so do we all—


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —I have already put that question.


Senator Ian Macdonald —This is a very important—


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —I am sorry, Senator Macdonald.


Senator Ian Macdonald —I was on my feet; you did not look over this way. It is appropriate that we, as a government, are entitled—


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —I call you, Senator Ian Macdonald.