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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4252


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (17:37): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

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.

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 by around nine per cent and retail gas prices by around seven per cent, as opposed to what they would otherwise be 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 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 members or 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 Department of the Environment—dedicated to providing the government authoritative advice on environment and climate change policy.

The government is clear—evidenced by our reintroduction of the carbon tax repeal bills today—that the carbon tax will be repealed and replaced with a more environmentally and economically responsible means of 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 work because, at its heart, the carbon tax is an electricity tax. It relies upon the assumption that people will either change demand for or supply of electricity.

The carbon tax has been a $15 billion burden on the Australian economy, yet 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 issue. The government accepts the science of climate change. The government is committed to our unconditional emissions reduction target to reduce emissions by 5 per cent below 2000 levels by the year 2020.

This target is significant, representing 17 per cent below business as usual emissions. Over 30 years from 1990 to 2020, Australia and the United States are projected to achieve an almost identical net reduction over 30 years.

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

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

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

Through the Emissions Reduction Fund we will provide incentives for abatement activities across the Australian economy, rather than pushing up prices.

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, improving energy efficiency of homes and industrial facilities, reducing electricity generator emissions, capturing landfill gas, reducing waste coal mine gas, reforesting and revegetating marginal lands, improving Australia’s agricultural soils, upgrading vehicles and improving transport logistics and managing fires in savannah grasslands.

Countries around the world are implementing scheme 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 shut down Australian businesses.

I will now turn 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.

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.

Debate adjourned.