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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5453

Senator BIRMINGHAM (5:45 PM) —The coalition have enormous sympathy for what Senator Xenophon is attempting to achieve with these amendments, but, as Senator Abetz indicated previously, we are unfortunately in a position where we are not able to support them. That comes from a twofold perspective: firstly, there are some concerns about the detail of the amendments and the proposed banding approach that Senator Xenophon has taken; but, secondly, the coalition has, as indicated by Senator Abetz, negotiated a position and an outcome with the government.

We had of course sought to address ourselves in our own amendments to some of the issues that Senator Xenophon is attempting to address with these amendments. Amendments on sheet 5853, as proposed by the coalition but now withdrawn, had sought to achieve some of the same aims as Senator Xenophon. In my remarks in the second reading debate, I made a number of comments about the importance of the RET actually delivering baseload power and supporting the development of renewable energies with baseload power capacity within the target range.

We would hope that the government would be very mindful of this. We are disappointed that in our negotiations with the government they did not accept those amendments moved and proposed by the coalition. We achieved significant concessions from the government, and welcomed those, but we are disappointed that in this one area they did not accept the move by the opposition to preserve some 8,875 gigawatt hours out of the target of baseload capacity for emerging technologies. Those technologies, like solar thermal or solar concentrator energy, ocean thermal energy, tidal energy, biofuels, biopower or biomass and of course geothermal energy—all important ones that the coalition thought should be supported—deserved a particular band segment to ensure that, just as the initial renewable energy target when it was introduced by the coalition in government was about the development of technologies, in this expansion we would again encourage and incentivise the development of baseload technologies in particular.

This is the natural and necessary evolution within the renewable energy target. From a South Australian perspective, I note the great advances and potential of some of these baseload technologies in my home state—and the minister’s home state—especially those of the geothermal industry where we have, indeed, over 28 exploration licences.

I am not going to go into detail of all of those. Suffice to say that the opposition does take this matter seriously. We will be presenting a private member’s bill around the amendments that we had proposed. We will be presenting that at the earliest opportunity to try to preserve the potential for baseload energies in this regard. We would invite Senator Xenophon and the Greens to join with us in that and we hope that we can continue discussions with the government over the next few weeks in the same cooperative manner that we have on so many other issues, and that they will reconsider this issue and come up with a way to ensure that we can guarantee the potential for baseload power within the renewable energy target.