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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8085

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) (3:35 AM) —Senator O'Brien indicated earlier that, if there were a clear statement from the government on this issue, the Labor Party would not be pursuing their amendments. I want to very clearly state that the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Kemp, has authorised me to say that he will consider the suggestions raised by the opposition when deciding the terms of reference for the review. Two of the matters, in relation to greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity, are already encompassed in the terms of reference for the review contained in the legislation. The minister confirms that the place of wood waste in Australia's renewable energy arrangements will be considered as part of the review. I ask Senator O'Brien to accept that as an indication of the government's good faith, so that this amendment need not be pursued by the Labor Party, and I ask that he withdraw it.

I again point out the danger of doing these things at this time of night. If you cut through the wording of the amendment, Senator O'Brien, and follow this in the act as you are suggesting it should be amended, this is how it would read:

The Minister must cause an independent review of the operation of this Act, including consideration of:

... ... ...

(f) other environmental impacts that have resulted from the implementation of the provisions of this Act, including the extent to which non-plantation forestry waste—

for the purpose of clarity, and accepting that this is not exclusive, I will read `native forest waste' there instead of `non-plantation forestry waste', just for this example—

has been utilised as an eligible renewable energy source, with particular reference to:

(i) net greenhouse emissions; and

(ii) biodiversity; and

(iii) the level of biomass extraction under the Regional Forest Agreements; and

(iv) the plantation industry;

It just does not make sense. I am not being critical of anyone's drafting. I am simply pointing out the danger of doing these sorts of amendments at this time of night, on the run. I can hand this piece of paper to you if would like to read it through. It just does not make sense.

Whilst we oppose the amendment—and I have given you a clear statement which I had hoped you would accept in lieu of the amendment—even if you did proceed with it, it is just silly. It does not make sense. That is the danger. That is how we got to this position before, Senator Allison, if I can emphasise it to you. It is silly. It does not make sense. It is not properly done, because it has been done on the run; it has been done since four o'clock this afternoon. We get into the situation where we were two years ago— making these amendments on the run—and we end up with legislation that then desperately needs attention. We all make mistakes—I am not being critical—but if we pass this we will have a piece of legislation that does not mean anything. I ask again that you accept the undertaking I have given on behalf of Dr Kemp and withdraw it. In support of that, I suggest not only that we have done what you have asked us to do, but, more importantly, we can save the legislation books from being cluttered up with amendments that do not mean anything.