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Monday, 7 November 2011
Page: 8423

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South Australia) (21:20): I want to address the matter of the amendment before the chair. We have heard Senator Xenophon move this amendment and we have heard responses from the government and from the Greens on the amendment. I understand the government's position, which is of course sticking to the five per cent target and wanting to work for international fora. Indeed, there is consistency on that front between the government and the opposition. However, I did hear Senator Milne talk about how, during the CPRS debates, the level of ambition was too low. I remember Senator Milne's contributions then. I think what Senator Milne was seeking at that stage was something along the lines of a 20 or 25 per cent unconditional target by 2020.

I want the Senate to note that Senator Xenophon has put on the table an amendment that would allow the Greens to vote for higher action than the government's policy and that the Greens are not voting for that. Senator Xenophon's amendment is very clear that it would have an object in the act—not necessarily binding but at least it would be a statement of intent—that Australia's net greenhouse gas emissions reductions be at least 10 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020. Once upon a time the Greens would have jumped at the opportunity to support an amendment like this. They would have bent over backwards to support this. They would have been amending the amendment to take the 10 per cent to 20 per cent or 30 per cent. But instead, this time around, because we have this sort of mutually captive arrangement happening opposite whereby the Gillard government is held captive by the Greens but equally the Greens seem to be held captive by the Gillard government, the Greens are stymied from speaking up for what they want. Senator Milne keeps coming back to the fact that everything will be determined by the Climate Change Authority. She places great store and puts great stock in her belief that the Climate Change Authority will take out of the hands of the government of the day any real setting of these targets. So I want to seek one reassurance from the minister. I refer the minister to the Climate Change Authority Bill 2011 and, in particular, the proposed section 18 on the appointment of authority members. I would invite the minister to provide an assurance to the Senate in committee that the Australian Greens will in no way, shape or form play any role in the appointment of authority members.