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Thursday, 16 June 2005
Page: 186

Senator LUDWIG (10:30 PM) —I think this is in part one of those issues that is similar but obviously different from the issue of paraquat dichloride. What we have is a customs tariff amendment bill—and perhaps ‘omnibus’ is not a good descriptive word, given that there certainly is not a lot of bulk in it—which contains a range of disparate measures designed to change in a technical sense some of the customs tariff legislation. It is not a place where the policy or the intent of some of this legislation is being progressed.

One of my concerns, as with the paraquat dichloride, is that there are clearly some in the community who might be concerned about that particular chemical and who might wish to have it phased out. Balanced against that is the issue of the farming community and their needs, but that in itself is a policy position about which we can have a debate in the appropriate place at the appropriate time. What we were debating then, as we are now, are technical amendments to the tariff legislation.

The same applies to the debate that you want to have about renewable energy. I think there is a place for a debate on renewable energy, and the Labor Party is only too happy to join you in that debate about renewable energy. We have a shadow minister who is keen to progress debate on renewable energy, particularly in these particular fields. But what we have before us is in effect a technical piece of legislation designed to address technical issues that are required to be dealt with. In our view, this legislation is not the place for policy decisions about renewable energy to be progressed in this way.

If we were going to have a debate about those sorts of issues, it would be preferable that we have an appropriate piece of legislation designed to progress not only the policy issue but also the ways and means by which that might be progressed. Given that that is not before us, Labor is not minded to support the technical request for an amendment that is being proposed in respect of this quite technical piece of legislation, although we do understand and appreciate the position that Senator Murray has put to the chamber this evening and the passion and interest that he obviously brings to some of these areas of renewable energy. Likewise, that is shared by the Labor Party, but, as I have said, we are not in a position to support this request for an amendment in this way at this time.