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Wednesday, 16 August 2017
Page: 5785

Senator RICE (Victoria) (12:29): I'm rising today to speak to the Petroleum and Other Fuels Reporting Bill 2017 and the Petroleum and Other Fuels Reporting (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2017. Two years ago I participated in the Senate inquiry into Australia's transport energy resilience and sustainability, which was undertaken by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee. In that committee a lot of evidence was presented, and we heard, that Australia was not complying with our commitments under the International Energy Agency to hold 90 days of liquid fuel reserves. In many cases we didn't even know what our fuel reserves were. The data wasn't there. There was a complete lack of information about the level and exact extent of our fuel reserves. It was astounding how we were completely failing to meet our international obligations. For years the government has relied on compliance surveys by both upstream and downstream oil and gas companies. It was very apparent, as we heard the evidence and read the submissions, that the voluntary compliance was not doing the job. We heard from the industry that mandatory reporting would be very onerous and would create all sorts of compliance costs, but I must say that, when that evidence was presented, it rang hollow, and other witnesses to that committee confirmed that most of the super major oil companies know exactly what sort of fuel stocks they are holding and can spit it out at the push of a button but don't choose to.

We also heard from Air Vice Marshal John Blackburn that Australia is the only developed oil and fuel importing country in the world that has no mandated government or industry stockholdings or government control over part of the oil fuel infrastructure. This should have been shocking, but really, when you see how this government is serving the interests of the fossil fuel industries, it wasn't surprising at all. It has the lightest of touches with regulation or compliance with reporting when it comes to the oil, gas and coal industries.

But at least here we are with these bills, and they are an improvement on the status quo. I congratulate the government for finally bringing them to the parliament, for these bills will improve the situation. They will require that regulated entities provide a report to the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Energy regarding current petroleum and liquid fuel activities and products. They will permit the secretary of the department to collect and publish information regarding those petroleum and liquid products. They do contain important provisions around the handling of commercial information and they will give those necessary enforcement powers to government to ensure compliance.

We know the importance of an accurate record of our fuel stocks. Yes, they will help us to ensure compliance with our international obligations under the International Energy Agency, but it's also imperative that the Australian public and the stakeholders who require this information have an accurate record of the state of our industry. Analysts, researchers and, most importantly, the people who are planning the long-term decarbonisation of our economy rely on this data so we can make that energy transition. We need to have the best available data to keep prices down and energy supplies secure as that transition occurs.

In summary, the Greens acknowledge that moving to the mandatory collection of fuel statistics is way overdue, and we will support the bills before the parliament today. But what we aren't talking about today is the other, much more significant part of fuel security, and that's that, if we are serious about fuel security and energy security, our reliance on these petroleum products must come to an end. That means that we need to be seriously moving to decarbonising the transport fuels. That's where the debate should be moving. Yes, mandatory reporting of the statistics of how much we have of petroleum products is important, but much more important is the action that we need to take so that we don't need to rely upon those petroleum products.

All over the world there are actions in which Australia is being left behind. A key one is the shift from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. We are woefully behind in making that shift to electric vehicles, which can be powered on 100 per cent renewable energy. Given that our transport greenhouse gas emissions are up there second only to stationary energy as the most significant part of our greenhouse gas emissions, this is where we need to be taking action if we're going to be serious about tackling global warming.

In other countries around the world in recent months we have seen some really significant changes. For example, in the United Kingdom and France, they are going to be phasing out new sales of internal combustion engine vehicles by 2040. We have not seen a skerrick of a sign or heard a whisper that the government is looking at doing that. We haven't got a target for electric vehicles. We've got no mechanism in place to increase the number of electric vehicles on the market. It is such an important element of decarbonising our transport system, and we are just sitting still and going nowhere with that.

Fuel efficiency is another issue. While we still have petrol-fuelled and diesel-fuelled vehicles, we need to make sure they are the most fuel-efficient vehicles available. Internationally, we know that 80 per cent of the international light vehicle market already has standards, and yet Australia is a dumping ground for the low-quality vehicle variants because we don't have these standards. It would save consumers hundreds of dollars in fuel if we had fuel efficiency standards. And it would save fuel. That's the sort of measure that's going to be making a really important dent in ensuring we are using petroleum most efficiently, reducing the amount of oil that we're using and making sure that the oil that is being used is being used as efficiently as possible. From the reporting that's been done, we know that those hundreds of dollars in fuel savings to consumers are going to more than offset the extra cost of investing in more fuel-efficient vehicles.

There are other ways, of course, that we can act to reduce our reliance on imported fuel and so tackle our fuel security. One way is to shift as much transport as possible away from private vehicles and to public transport, which is much more easily powered by renewable energy than personal vehicles, which mostly use liquid fuels. That means planning our cities for that shift so that the amount and mode share of public transport is increased and the number of trips done on public transport lifts up from the current rate, which in cities across our country is only 10 to 20 per cent. That is the sort of thing that would make a serious dent in tackling fuel security.

Then there are the modes of transport which don't require any fuel, renewable or fossil, other than the fuel that you put into your body, and that's active transport. So we really need measures to increase the rates of walking and cycling in our cities. That would not only be good for fuel security and for reducing people's costs of transport; it would also be very important for our health. Every trip done by active transport, by people walking and cycling, is improving people's health. We need to be making cycling safer and more accessible. We know what's holding us back there. What stops people from cycling is that we don't have safe cycling infrastructure.

We need to look at these transport issues holistically. We can't just pick out one little thing and say, 'Okay, we're going to put in place measures that require mandatory reporting on fuel stocks.' We need to work out how we can bring all of these things together so that measures to improve cycling and increase the use of public transport can sit side-by-side with measures to shift freight from heavy road vehicles onto rail, to get freight vehicles to move away from fossil fuels and to encourage the use of hydrogen for heavy freight vehicles. If the government is serious about tackling the multitudinous issues involved in making our transport systems more secure and safer, and climate change, then these are the sorts of measures that we need to be undertaking going forward.

So the Greens are supporting this bill today, but we see that, really, it underlines just how much further we still have to go. We need to take action on a whole range of important measures if we are truly to make our transport systems safe, secure and reliable.