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Monday, 23 June 2014
Page: 6870

Mr HUNT (FlindersMinister for the Environment) (12:26): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Australian people delivered a clear message on 7 September 2013 that they do not want a carbon tax.

The government is meeting this promise to the Australian people by repealing the carbon tax.

Repealing the carbon tax will boost Australia's economic growth, increase jobs and enhance Australia's international competitiveness by removing an unnecessary tax which hurts businesses and families and fails to do the fundamental job.

Repealing the carbon tax will reduce annual ongoing compliance costs for around 370 liable entities by almost $90 million per annum.

Repealing the carbon tax will lower retail electricity prices by around nine per cent and retail gas prices by around seven per cent, as opposed to what they would otherwise have been in 2014-15 with the carbon tax.

Repealing the carbon tax will remove over 1,000 pages of primary and subordinate legislation.

This bill is therefore part of a package of bills which contribute to the government's delivery of its commitment to repeal the carbon tax, reduce cost of living pressures and remove unnecessary bureaucracy.

This government is working to repair the budget, to lower taxes, to lessen regulation and build stronger businesses. We face an economic environment that demands greater rigour in the spending of public money.

The government has a longstanding commitment to abolish the Climate Change Authority, because it is not needed. I say this again with no disrespect to the highly professional members and staff of the Climate Change Authority. We will simply bring its relevant functions in house: into the Department of the Environment. Our pledge to abolish the Climate Change Authority will make a contribution to improving the budget.

The government is already well placed to receive authoritative advice on climate change matters from existing government bodies.

We have the Bureau of Meteorology to advise on climate trends and climate science. We have the CSIRO to advise on the environmental effects of climate change, climate science and the most appropriate and effective technological and scientific responses to climate change. We have an entire department of state—in the form of the Department of the Environment—dedicated to providing the government authoritative advice on environment and climate change policy and international trends and policies.

The government is clear—evidenced by our reintroduction of the carbon tax repeal bills today—that the carbon tax will be repealed and will be replaced with a more environmentally and economically responsible means of actually reducing our emissions.

We are abolishing the carbon tax to reduce cost pressures on households and businesses, boost economic growth, increase jobs and enhance Australia's international competitiveness.

The government is also abolishing the carbon tax because it does not work—it does not do the job for which it was purportedly created.

It does not work because, at its heart, the carbon tax is an electricity tax. It therefore relies upon the assumption that people will either change demand for or supply of electricity.

Yet the carbon tax has been a $15.4 billion burden on the Australian economy in its first two years. However, in its first year Australia's emissions fell by less than 0.1 per cent.

This scheme simply does not work to reduce our emissions. Instead it reduces economic activity, reduces jobs and brings pain to Australian households and small businesses.

Let us be clear. Climate change is a serious and fundamental issue. The government fully accepts the science of climate change. The government is committed, clearly and absolutely, to its unconditional emissions reduction target to reduce emissions by five per cent below 2000 levels by the year 2020.

This target is significant. It represents a major reduction below business-as-usual levels, as the Prime Minister set out. Over 30 years from 1990 to 2020, Australia and the United States are projected to achieve an almost identical net reduction.

The government has said it will consider further action and targets in 2015, as has been its policy, on the basis of comparable, real, demonstrated global action, in particular by major economies and trading partners.

The government believes there is a fundamentally better way to reduce emissions than through this carbon tax.

The government will reach its target through Direct Action with the Emissions Reduction Fund at its centrepiece. Our plan is to efficiently and effectively source low-cost emissions reduction and improve Australia's environment.

Through the Emissions Reduction Fund we will provide incentives for abatement activities across the Australian economy, rather than through pushing up prices in the hope of making electricity unaffordable.

Last week I introduced the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Bill 2014 into the House. This House and the Senate will soon have the opportunity to vote on this bill, to expand the Carbon Farming Initiative and make a real difference to the environment and boost businesses' productivity.

The Emissions Reduction Fund will support projects such as upgrading commercial buildings for energy efficiency, improving energy efficiency elsewhere of homes and industrial facilities, reducing electricity generation emissions, capturing landfill gas, reducing waste coalmine gas, reforesting and revegetating marginal lands, improving Australia's agricultural soils, upgrading vehicles and improving transport logistics and managing fires in savanna grasslands.

Countries around the world are implementing schemes which work best for them. In Australia we will introduce a scheme that works best for Australia—one which will reduce emissions, while not pushing up prices and not shutting down Australian businesses.

I will now turn in brief to the details of the bill. The bill repeals the Climate Change Authority Act 2011 in order to abolish the Climate Change Authority.

The bill makes consequential changes to other legislation to reflect the fact that the authority will no longer exist. To this end, references to the authority in other legislation will be removed, including references which allow for the sharing of information with the authority or concerning the authority's financial management.

The bill provides that the limited functions of the authority that are required in the future will continue. The bill amends relevant acts to provide that the legislated reviews of the Carbon Farming Initiative, the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme and the renewable energy target will be undertaken at the direction of the minister.

It is my intention that these reviews should be undertaken by the Department of the Environment, which has the requisite skills and expertise to do them. The review of the renewable energy target is currently being progressed, in cooperation between the Department of the Environment, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Industry.

Lastly, the bill transfers any assets and liabilities of the authority to the Commonwealth and makes arrangements for the winding up of the authority's activities.

The abolition of the authority is expected to result in a saving of $21 million over the forward estimates, further improving the budget bottom line. For all of these reasons, I commend this bill and all related bills to the House.

Debate adjourned.