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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT, COMMUNICATIONS, INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AND THE ARTS
03/09/2007
National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill 2007

CHAIR (Senator Eggleston) —I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts into the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill 2007. The committee’s proceedings today will follow the program as circulated. These are public hearings. The committee may also agree to a request to hear evidence in camera or may determine that certain evidence should be heard in camera. I remind all witnesses that, in giving evidence to the committee, they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee. If a witness objects to answering a question then the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request, of course, may be made at any other time. I welcome everybody here today. I welcome our first witness, Mr Dwyer, representing the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network. Mr Dwyer, thank you for being here today. Do you wish to make any alterations or amendments to your submission, which is No. 7?

Mr Dwyer —No.

CHAIR —Do you wish to make a brief opening statement?

Mr Dwyer —Yes, with your indulgence I will make a brief opening statement. Thank you for the opportunity to appear. You have, as you noted, received a comprehensive submission from the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network and also from my own organisation, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association. I am appearing in something of a dual role today, both as a representative of my own organisation, APPEA, and as an AIGN member. AIGN chief executive John Daley sends his apologies for being unable to appear. AIGN, as the committee may be aware, is a network of industry associations and corporations which contributes to the climate change policy debate and promotes sustainable development through joint industry action on climate change. All AIGN members measure and report their emissions and implement active programs to reduce them. In the case of my own organisation, APPEA, we have been reporting publicly emissions from our members since 1996 through the Greenhouse Challenge program—which is now the Greenhouse Challenge Plus program.

For the committee’s information, AIGN membership is listed in the submission at attachment B. AIGN members have for many years supported the need for a vigorous, transparent, nationally-consistent energy and greenhouse reporting system underpinned by purpose-built Commonwealth legislation. In APPEA’s case, we have publicly supported such a call since 2003. This support has been contingent upon the need to reform current reporting arrangements to remove unnecessary and costly duplication in data collection within and across jurisdictions. AIGN also recognises the key role the reporting system will play as part of the underpinning of the infrastructure for an Australian emissions trading system. On this basis and subject to the specific comments contained in the submission, AIGN is supportive of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Bill. There are three or four key points to make in this context. AIGN supports refinement and further development of the OSCAR system, which is the current reporting platform under the Greenhouse Challenge Plus program. AIGN would also support the diffusion of the OSCAR software for installation on companies’ own computer systems. This has been raised with the department and is hopefully something that we can confirm through ongoing consultation. AIGN also warmly welcomes section 76 of the bill, which rules out the use of the National Pollutant Inventory as a reporting or disclosure vehicle. AIGN also welcomes the provisions in the bill that seek to protect commercially sensitive information and data from inappropriate disclosure. This is an issue of great importance to AIGN members. Importantly, AIGN notes that much the detail is still to be developed and will be implemented through regulations. It is important that these regulations are developed through extensive and ongoing consultation with all stakeholders. AIGN notes the bill contains some fairly far-reaching regulation-making powers.

We have also identified areas where either amendment or clarification to the bill is required. The bill as drafted mandates the Australian financial year as the only available reporting period. In our view, this is inconsistent with the understanding stakeholders had throughout the consultation period leading up to this bill, and that is evidenced by the regulation impact statement that is included in the explanatory memorandum. It is unnecessarily burdensome and is inconsistent with the streamlining objective underpinning the bill. AIGN suggests the bill be amended to allow reports to be aligned with corporate reporting systems, provided reports are submitted on an annual basis.

Finally, AIGN has some concerns about the lack of clarity around section 19(1) of the bill, which requires a registered corporation to report from facilities, defined, under its control and ‘entities that are members of the corporation’s group’. If that clause addresses defined facilities controlled by those entities, then we are supportive of it. However, if it refers to all emissions, production and consumption from those entities, without any threshold, then we oppose it, since it would be unnecessarily burdensome and inequitable. I am happy to attempt to answer any questions committee members may have.

CHAIR —We have essentially 45 minutes, so we might give everybody 10 minutes each.

Senator WORTLEY —We might want to cross between us.

CHAIR —We can crosshatch too. I just want to have some sort of system in the approach. Please go ahead, Senator Wortley.

Senator WORTLEY —Thank you. Mr Dwyer, you were speaking about some amendments. In relation to that, you talked about consultation. Can you detail the consultation between your group and government that led to this legislation.

Mr Dwyer —We have been involved, through AIGN and through my own organisation, APPEA, with a number of consultation processes, most relevantly the joint Ministerial Council on Energy and Environment Protection and Heritage Council working group process in 2005 and into 2006 and the draft regulation impact statement that was released in October last year for public consultation. AIGN members and APPEA provided a number of submissions in both of those processes. There were a number of public forums around those, and we participated in all of those. That gave rise to the November-dated regulation impact statement that is included in the explanatory memorandum, as I understand it.

Senator WORTLEY —What about consultation relating specifically to the legislation before you?

Mr Dwyer —On the actual bill itself, no. There was significant consultation around the regulation impact statement and around what you might call the conceptual underpinnings for the bill, but, on the content of the bill itself, no.

Senator WORTLEY —So does the content of the bill reflect the consultation that you had prior to receiving the actual piece of legislation?

Mr Dwyer —In the vast majority of cases, yes, it does. That is the basis on which we are generally quite supportive of the bill. I have highlighted a couple of areas—the mandate of the financial year as the only reporting period, for example. That is probably the clearest instance of where the consultation involved with the regulation impact statement has not flowed through to what is in the bill itself.

Senator WORTLEY —I was interested in this comment in your submission:

AIGN has concerns about the lack of clarity of Section 19(1)—

and you touched on that—

which requires a registered corporation to report in respect of emissions, production and consumption from facilities (defined) under its control “and entities that are members of the corporation’s group”.

Would you be able to elaborate on that perceived lack of clarity and shed some light on why you believe the reporting on those entities to be unreasonably burdensome, given that your members supported the need for a vigorous and transparent reporting system?

Mr Dwyer —To put it briefly, the concern is: do the thresholds that are in the bill apply to all of the reporting by those controlled entities? If you read that clause in one particular way, you can interpret it to mean a situation where every single piece of information related to all facilities under the control of that entity, regardless of their size, might be captured, in which case you are getting down into potentially some very small facilities with very burdensome reporting requirements. If it relates only to those entities that breach the thresholds, whatever the thresholds may be in the bill—and there are thresholds in there—and all of the reporting relates to those facilities, then that is an outcome that we are supportive of. Our concern is that you can read the legislation in one of two ways, and some clarity around which of those two ways is intended would be beneficial. If it means that the first case that I pointed out is the case, then we would not support that.

Senator KEMP —Have you had a chance to raise this with the minister’s office? What answers have you been given?

Mr Dwyer —We have raised it in discussions with the department only very briefly and we have had some clarity provided, but the concern that we have got is the words in the bill as they stand.

Senator KEMP —So the department gave you a lot of comfort in their response?

Mr Dwyer —Yes.

Senator KEMP —But you think the wording in the bill is not sufficiently tight?

Mr Dwyer —Yes. It is a question of provision of clarity. If we can get that then that would be beneficial not just to AIGN members but also to everyone to whom the bill applies.

Senator WORTLEY —You argue in your submission that:

advocates of greater mandatory disclosure seldom recognise the importance of commercial confidentiality—

and—

Facility level data are most vulnerable to being taken out of context or deliberately misinterpreted.

What would you say to investor groups who propose increased levels of disclosure in the interests of their member’s ability to assess risk or opportunity or to match emissions with, say, any residual liability?

Mr Dwyer —We support public disclosure of information. The bill provides for public disclosure of greenhouse emission, energy production and consumption information, and the level at which that is provided for in the bill is something that AIGN is supportive of. We have touched on the broader question of the provision of additional information to investor groups, for example, in the submission. From our perspective and understanding it really goes to the information they are seeking to gather. If they are seeking to provide information on the exposure of companies to an emissions trading system—a carbon price, for example—then the data that is provided through a reporting system of this nature does not give you that information. What is required is your financial exposure and, whatever your industry or company is, that requires an understanding of your place in the supply chain and how you can pass price increases forward to customers and backwards to suppliers and what that means for you at the end of the day. That is why our view is that the information that is provided for through this bill is not appropriate, nor should it provide that sort of information.

Senator MILNE —I am interested to hear you say that you support the bill disclosure at this level. Clearly, this level is looking at the aggregated totals of the corporate group not individual facilities. Do you agree that carbon dioxide is a pollutant?

Mr Dwyer —Do I agree that carbon dioxide is a pollutant?

Senator MILNE —Does your group believe that carbon dioxide is a pollutant?

Mr Dwyer —It depends on the context.

Senator MILNE —Pardon?

Mr Dwyer —It depends on the context in which you are talking.

Senator WORTLEY —When is it a pollutant and when is it not?

Senator MILNE —When is carbon dioxide not a pollutant?

Mr Dwyer —Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant when it is used, for example, in my industry as an input into enhanced oil recovery.

Senator MILNE —Okay. When it is emitted to atmosphere, is carbon dioxide a pollutant?

Mr Dwyer —It is certainly a greenhouse gas and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.

Senator MILNE —Do you believe that as a greenhouse gas carbon dioxide is a pollutant?

Mr Dwyer —Not in that context, no; it is a greenhouse gas.

Senator MILNE —So greenhouse gases are not pollutants? Is that what you are saying? This is a critical question, because this is your reason for supporting evading this information going on the National Pollutant Inventory, is it not?

Mr Dwyer —No. It needs to be made clear that we support reporting and we support public disclosure.

Senator MILNE —But only at a corporate level.

Mr Dwyer —The National Pollutant Inventory is not the appropriate vehicle. It is not designed for greenhouse reporting. The architectural infrastructure, or the system, is not designed for greenhouse reporting. The information provided will not inform either the policy debate or the public about greenhouse reporting and greenhouse emissions. It is not the appropriate vehicle. The vehicle that is provided through OSCAR, under the Greenhouse Challenge Plus Program, which members have been reporting to for over a decade now, does provide the vehicle—with refinement to move it forward to what is required to underpin, for example, an emissions trading system. As it stands, OSCAR provides the basis for that.

Senator MILNE —That is your view, but the question I am asking you is: if your individual members and individual facilities emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and we accept, as I do—you do not but I do—that carbon dioxide is a pollutant in a world trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, why shouldn’t the information on individual facilities be made available on the National Pollutant Inventory?

Mr Dwyer —There are two key reasons. Firstly, the National Pollutant Inventory is provided without context—it is a series of numbers; secondly, the National Pollutant Inventory’s aim—and I guess this is a question that is best put to others—is around the local impact of particular pollutants, and on that basis it is an entirely appropriate vehicle. Greenhouse gas emissions have global impacts, so particular emissions at a particular facility or at a particular point in time do not provide the sort of information that other pollutant information provided through the NPI does. So that is the appropriate basis for that to be reported. In our view, it is not the appropriate basis for greenhouse gas emissions to be reported through a vehicle of this nature.

Senator WORTLEY —On that point, your organisation has accepted that state and territory jurisdictions have a legitimate interest in knowing the amount of emissions within their borders, but you say it is questionable whether greenhouse emissions data is needed on a facility level basis as distinct from company by state level for any legitimate reason. Can you explain why it is questionable whether emissions data is needed on a facility level basis?

Mr Dwyer —I guess it goes to where the decision making power within a particular corporation lies. For example, depending on how the consultation process unwinds, under an emissions trading system, companies will make those decisions, and that is the appropriate level at which to deem the reporting to take place. That is our view.

Senator WORTLEY —What are the benefits of your view for organisations or the companies that belong to our organisation?

Mr Dwyer —One of the key benefits of this bill at a broad level is about streamlining reporting arrangements. That is one of the key underpinning objectives. So it is about allowing all the information that needs to be provided to underpin policy development nationally and through the states and territories and public disclosure to be provided through a single streamlined process and to replace the multiple and very close but slightly different reporting regimes that many companies need to undertake throughout the various state and territory jurisdictions. That is one of the key benefits that we see. It provides all the information that is required but does so in a far more cost-effective and efficient way than the way it does at present.

Senator WORTLEY —Do you think the legislation as it currently stands provides enough information to the states for them to be able to make the decisions that they need to make with regard to planning and the impact of climate change?

Mr Dwyer —I think that is clearly the intent of the bill, yes.

Senator WORTLEY —So you believe that, as the bill currently stands, the states will receive enough information to enable that to happen?

Mr Dwyer —My understanding of the bill’s intention is that information necessary for those processes will be provided through the system.

Senator WORTLEY —What are the other benefits to your member organisations with regard to this bill? You have just stated one of them. What are the other benefits?

Mr Dwyer —Clearly we have supported reporting for many years, as I mentioned in my opening statement. The reason for that is to gain an understanding of how emissions are taking place and also underpin policy development. We see that as a very key role. If we are to develop an emissions-trading system in Australia, which clearly we are going to do, that is a data intensive exercise, and to have rigorous, transparent reporting infrastructure in place to underpin that we feel can only aid us in getting to where we need to get to.

Senator WORTLEY —Will your member organisations, under the legislation as it currently stands and the legislation in the various states, have to provide more or less information once or if this bill goes through?

Mr Dwyer —We do not see that they will necessarily need to provide less information. I guess that will depend on the consultation processes that go forward between the states and territories, for example, and involving us. What we see, though, is a similar level of information being provided—as I said before, in a far more cost-effective and efficient manner.

Senator WORTLEY —So you cannot think of any instances where this legislation would result in your member organisations having to provide less information on a reporting level than they currently do?

Mr Dwyer —Not at this stage, necessarily—though, as I said, that will be the outcome of a process that is still to go through. The bill points towards cooperative development with the states and territories of the information that they need to underpin their processes. So what we see is a removal of duplication as one of the key—

Senator WORTLEY —So it is only duplication. There is no situation that you can think of where the organisations will have to provide less information?

Mr Dwyer —It will, as I said, depend on the processes that are gone through.

Senator WORTLEY —What about at a facility level?

Mr Dwyer —At a facility level?

Senator WORTLEY —In a particular state, for example.

Mr Dwyer —My understanding of the bill is that if a state makes requests for that information to be provided through the system then that can be the outcome.

Senator WORTLEY —Is your understanding of the bill that, if the states make requests for that information, they are entitled to that information or that it ‘may’ be provided?

Mr Dwyer —My understanding is the latter: that it may be provided.

Senator WORTLEY —But that it does not necessarily have to be provided.

Mr Dwyer —That would be a cooperative process through the states and territories.

Senator WORTLEY —I will go back to my last question, which is: under the current legislation, and in the various states, will individual organisations have to provide more or less information regarding greenhouse gas emissions and climate change than they currently have to provide?

Mr Dwyer —I think I qualified my answer by saying that it will depend on the outcome of the cooperative process through the states and territories.

Senator WORTLEY —Have you had the opportunity to look at that? Have your organisations had the opportunity on an individual basis to look at whether there will be more information or less information required?

Mr Dwyer —Not on an individual basis at this stage. The bill has only been out for two weeks now, and a lot of that detail will depend on the underpinning regulations. As I mentioned before, there is an entire regulatory process to go through to develop very detailed regulations to underpin what is, if I can put it this way, the framework legislation that we have before us.

Senator WORTLEY —So you are supporting the bill without the regulatory framework requirements?

Mr Dwyer —We are supporting the intent of the bill, subject to the comments that are contained in the submission, and we are looking forward to continuing the consultation process around the regulatory arrangements.

Senator WORTLEY —Have you had discussions with your member organisations regarding this bill?

Mr Dwyer —Absolutely.

Senator WORTLEY —Do they feel—and I gather for what you have said that there will be less requirement for reporting to different levels—that the information that they provide will not need to be as detailed?

Mr Dwyer —No, that is not their understanding at this stage.

Senator WORTLEY —On a state-by-state basis?

Mr Dwyer —That is not their understanding at this stage.

CHAIR —Changing the subject, can I ask a question about your reporting time frame. You are saying that you would prefer to use the calendar year as the reporting time frame. Do you want to explain that a little bit further to us?

Mr Dwyer —Certainly. We have recommended that the option to report on a particular time frame be aligned with corporate reporting systems. So, for example, if you are a company operating on an Australian financial year then you report in the Australian financial year. If you are a company operating on a calendar year basis—and we have numerous companies in Australia that do so—the option should be available to you to report on a calendar year basis, provided you do so on an annual basis. There are analogies in the taxation system, for example, to allow reporting on that basis.

CHAIR —Wouldn’t most companies report on a financial year basis, though, overall? That is the generally accepted practice, is it not?

Mr Dwyer —It is. But, as I said, there are opportunities within the taxation system for substitute accounting periods to be used—where they align with the corporate reporting systems of companies that might operate on a calendar year basis, for example—and we see no reason why a similar process could not be put in place to underpin this bill. As I mentioned, that is something that we had understood to be the case, through the consultation period last year and as evidenced in the regulation impact statement. That has been removed from the final content of bill. Our recommendation is that that be reinstated.

CHAIR —All right. I still do not really see that it would make a great deal of difference. Surely, if everybody was reporting on the same date, which is essentially what the government is seeking here, I am not sure that I see a reason why you could not report this in this way, as the government wishes it to be done.

Mr Dwyer —It goes to one of the other intents of the bill, which is around streamlining and reducing compliance burden. That outcome would, for those companies that are on a calendar year basis, for example—and there are some very large companies that will be reporting under this system that operate on that basis—see that outcome undercut. We are not sure exactly why that needs to be the case.

CHAIR —You are also seeking a two-month extension of the reporting time, which might be before the end of four months after the end of the financial year. You want to have it extended to six months, which you say is in line with the Greenhouse Challenge Plus reporting arrangements. Do you really need to do that?

Mr Dwyer —It is a view that it is appropriate for the system to be aligned with the current reporting arrangements and the current reporting cycles that are in place for companies that report under the OSCAR system.

CHAIR —Won’t that in effect mean that companies will report six months after the end of the financial year, though, which is not what the government wants to happen? The government wants the reporting done at the end of the financial year. If you give an extension of six months, isn’t it likely that most companies will tend to use that extra time before reporting?

Mr Dwyer —The bill at the moment has a four-month period—

CHAIR —Yes, it does. Which is quite generous.

Mr Dwyer —and we have sought to align that with the current reporting arrangements, which are for six months. That is certainly a view.

Senator WORTLEY —On that same question, what costs would be incurred by having a unified reporting system?

Mr Dwyer —On an individual company basis, I cannot answer that. I do apologise. But it does go, as I mentioned before, to the streamlining reporting arrangements—to whether quite specific and different reporting time frames need to be put in place for companies that otherwise, for all their other accounting and taxation purposes, report on a calendar year basis.

Senator WORTLEY —How do you reconcile such views with the responsibilities of states and territories to implement their own legislation, policy and locally based programs to deal with the imperatives of climate change in relation to compliance cost, in business terms, of reporting?

Mr Dwyer —If the information is provided on an annual basis, and on the same basis required in the bill currently, and if all the processes that we were talking about before for the provision of information for the states are followed, it is not clear how over time it would make any difference to policy underpinnings, whether it be on a financial year or a calendar year basis.

Senator MILNE —I just want return to this issue of clause 76 overriding the National Pollutant Inventory. My understanding is that, according to your submission, the reason that your members particularly like this bill is that it gives you an aggregated total of your corporate group and it overrides your current mandatory obligation to report at facility level. Is it true that, as this bill stands, it overrides that obligation to report at facility level?

Mr Dwyer —No, it does not.

Senator MILNE —How does it not?

Mr Dwyer —The threshold provisions in the bill, for example, clearly require reporting at the facility level through this system and therefore—

Senator MILNE —How?

Mr Dwyer —It has a facility level threshold that requires that if a facility emits more than 25 kilotonnes in the reporting period then it is required to report through this system. It is mandatory for it to do so, and there are quite significant penalties within the bill to prevent it from not reporting. So, no, that does not change at all.

Senator WORTLEY —And that information will be made available to the states?

Mr Dwyer —That is my understanding, through the processes in the bill.

Senator WORTLEY —It will or it may be?

Mr Dwyer —My understanding is that there is a process established in the bill for that to happen.

Senator WORTLEY —But it is not a mandatory process for the states to be notified?

Mr Dwyer —That is my reading of the bill, but that is—

Senator MILNE —Currently, what is the threshold for reporting at facility level?

Mr Dwyer —The NPI is not in place. There is a proposal in place—

Senator MILNE —Exactly.

Mr Dwyer —to amend the NPI, but there is not a facility-level threshold in place at the moment. So this will introduce one and mandate the provision of that information.

Senator MILNE —Why do you argue that the whole incentive behind a national pollution inventory is to shame enterprises rather than to allow for public access to relevant information—transparency?

Mr Dwyer —The bill as it stands provides public information and—

Senator MILNE —No, I am talking about your objection. You say in your submission:

  • the NPI requires public disclosure at a facility level, which is inappropriate ...

Then you go on to say that you ‘do not accept that data collected should be used to “shame” enterprises, an evident motive of the NPI’. Why do you say it is ‘an evident motive of the NPI’?

Mr Dwyer —That is a question that could be usefully put to some of the witnesses that you have appearing later—

Senator MILNE —No, I am asking you. That is the conclusion you have drawn.

Mr Dwyer —because that was a clear outcome evident from some of the public consultation that underpinned the NEPM NPI amendment proposal.

Senator MILNE —But why do you object to this information being out there? What is wrong with this level of disclosure? If carbon dioxide is a pollutant, why should the companies you represent not be required to put that information out for the public on an inventory?

Mr Dwyer —Because the National Pollutant Inventory does not provide an appropriate basis for that information to be provided.

Senator MILNE —Why?

Mr Dwyer —Because it is provided without context, without its overall place in the corporation’s corporate strategy—the actions that are undertaken to reduce emissions; whether emissions have grown simply because the facility has grown in size. None of that information comes through clearly from the NPI process. It can come through clearly from this process. I go back to one of my earlier statements: all the information necessary to underpin policy development at both the national and the state and territory level can be provided through this system, subject to the comments we have made. The appropriate level of public disclosure is underpinned through this bill, and it is all done—hopefully, over time—in a more cost-effective and efficient way. So, from our perspective, the information necessary is provided—there is not a significant loss of information—and it is done in a more cost-effective way. It is hard to see how that would be a problem.

Senator MILNE —How does the corporate context influence the climate?

Mr Dwyer —It provides information about, for example, why particular changes in emissions have happened over time, how that fits into the growth strategy of the company and what processes the company has in place to reduce its emissions. All of that information is very important alongside the numbers that are relevant for that period.

Senator MILNE —I am referring to the physical climate, not the corporate climate.

Mr Dwyer —That is what I was referring to.

Senator MILNE —Surely if you are so concerned about putting the company context, there is nothing to preclude the company from adding that information as an addendum, or additional information. The problem I have here is that, once you give aggregate figures, it is meaningless to the community in terms of a facility level assessment of what a company is doing.

Mr Dwyer —One of the things we have done—and we do—is very much support the provision of voluntary information through the system. Many of our members provide information beyond the level that would be mandated under the bill, and they should be encouraged—and are encouraged—to continue to do so. That is a decision that they will be able to make through their corporate reporting and through this system.

Senator MILNE —So if they are keen to put out information on a voluntary level, why do they object to mandated information at a facility level?

Mr Dwyer —Because it is provided without context and it does not provide useful information for policy purposes.

Senator WORTLEY —As the legislation currently stands, will there be data that is currently being collected from your member organisations by the states that will not have to be provided?

Mr Dwyer —Not that I am aware of at this time.

Senator WORTLEY —So there is no information that organisations are currently providing to the states that they would not have to provide under this bill?

Mr Dwyer —I cannot answer that definitively.

Senator WORTLEY —Have you looked into that at all?

Mr Dwyer —Not in detail at this stage, so I cannot answer definitively. A process will be put in place through this bill to determine the level of information to be provided. We do not see any significant reduction in the level of information provided. As I said before, we see the level of information to be provided in a more cost-effective and efficient manner.

Senator WORTLEY —What is the difference with the current Greenhouse Challenge program in this bill?

Mr Dwyer —I think the departmental officers that you will have with you later today will be able to provide you with significantly more detail than I can, but OSCAR—the system that underpins reporting through the Greenhouse Challenge program—has been in development for a number of years and is, we think, a quite effective and useful platform on which a more detailed system can be built. It is clear that a more detailed system will need to be built to underpin, for example, an Australian emissions trading system. OSCAR provides the basis upon which to build the more detailed system that is proposed under this bill.

Senator WORTLEY —Has it been discussed with your member organisations that, if this bill goes through, they will not have to provide the information that they are currently providing to the states until the implementation of the emissions trading system in 2011, 2012 or whenever it happens?

Mr Dwyer —No. That is not my understanding. There will not be a gap in information provisions.

Senator WORTLEY —So if this bill is to go forward in its current form, they will continue to provide to the states the information that they are currently providing?

Mr Dwyer —That is my understanding.

Senator WORTLEY —Is it your understanding that it is mandatory for them to continue to provide the information to the states?

Mr Dwyer —My understanding is that there will be a process established to determine the information that we provided through this system and what that means for current—

Senator WORTLEY —Is there a possibility that, should this legislation proceed in its current form, they will not have to provide the information to the states in the lead-up to 2011 or 2012?

Mr Dwyer —No. That is not my understanding. My understanding is that there would be a transitional arrangement. If, for example—and this is not clear from the processes to be gone through yet—a state program were to be wound up and the reporting under that was therefore discontinued and there was the opportunity for it to be rolled into this reporting system, there would be a transfer from one program to this reporting process and the information would continue and there would be no gap in reporting.

Senator WORTLEY —So, in your view, this legislation will not have any impact on the legislation that is currently in place in the states and territories?

Mr Dwyer —Subject to what I said before about the cooperative process to be gone through between the states and territories.

Senator WORTLEY —What about in the interim? That is what I am trying to get at here. I understand what you are saying in relation to clause 5 and that, although it is not mandatory, there may be reporting to the states. I want to talk about the interim between the time that the legislation goes through and 2011-12.

Mr Dwyer —The state processes will still be in place. If you are reporting under a particular state program, until that state program is discontinued there would be no reason not to report.

Senator WORTLEY —Do you believe that this legislation will have any impact on that state program up until 2011-12?

Mr Dwyer —Subject to whatever consultation takes place between the jurisdictions about the future of that program. If there were an agreement for it to be wound up and for it to be moved into the reporting regime, that would be a potential outcome; otherwise, it could continue—

Senator WORTLEY —I think you have avoided answering the question in relation to the interim period.

Mr Dwyer —I see no reason for the reporting not to continue. I am not sure that I can be clearer, Senator.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —In relation to the issue of shifting from a state based system to a Commonwealth based system, do your members generally believe that there are significant savings to be achieved from this—that there are additional costs borne by industry at present through the disparate approaches of the states?

Mr Dwyer —Yes, that is our view.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —With that, there is potential for a streamlined national system to be more effective for your members than the current approach and model, which is modelled at a state level.

Mr Dwyer —It is certainly our great hope that we will get out of this the information necessary to inform the public and to underpin policy development, but to do so—as I have said a couple of times—in a more cost-effective and efficient way than the disparate reporting regimes that are in place.

Senator BIRMINGHAM —I would like to clear up the area around the aggregation and disaggregation of data. A range of views have been presented to this committee through the different submissions. Could you elaborate on the reasons that you think the bill strikes the right balance around commercial sensitivity issues?

Mr Dwyer —Certainly. The opportunity to provide the necessary information to underpin policy development and to provide quite detailed information through to the regulatory agencies throughout Australia that might need the data for their own purposes is provided for in the bill. There is a range of reasons that information might be commercially sensitive—issues going to production processes, to an understanding of particular energy consumption by individual sites and so on—and we are concerned that there be a process under which a balance can be struck between the provision of that information and the protection of that commercial sensitivity.

Senator MILNE —For clarification, you have been saying that you speak on behalf of your members, and that would include BHP-Billiton, Rio Tinto, Woodside and all those you have listed.

Mr Dwyer —The members are listed in the attachment.

Senator MILNE —I want to be clear that all of those companies oppose public disclosure at a facility level of greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr Dwyer —No. All of those facilities support the bill as it stands and support the provision of voluntary reporting of information at whatever detailed level might be consistent with that company’s views.

Senator MILNE —You are evading the question. I just said: do all of your members oppose public disclosure of greenhouse gases at a facility level? And I will say ‘mandatory’ public disclosure at a facility level.

Mr Dwyer —All of the members were consulted on and supported the content of the submission that was provided.

Senator MILNE —So they oppose facility-level disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions?

Senator KEMP —Chair, I raise a point of order.

Senator MILNE —It is a yes or a no answer.

Senator WORTLEY —It is a straightforward question.

Senator KEMP —Excuse me, there is a point of order.

Senator WORTLEY —Answer yes or no.

Senator KEMP —Would you mind just keeping quiet while I take my point of order! Have you finished?

Senator WORTLEY —No. I just thought that it would be appropriate—

CHAIR —There is a point of order before the chair, so we will hear the point of order.

Senator KEMP —Kindly keep quiet while there is a point of order! The question has been asked twice. It has been answered fully, as far as I can see, in a very specific manner. I think we have to be careful that what we are doing is seeking the information from the witness, not attempting to harangue the witness. The witness has now answered the same question twice, and I think that that should be sufficient, Mr Chair.

Senator WORTLEY —Thank you. What the witness has done is repeat something in reference to the submission. What has been done is a question has been asked that requires a yes or no answer. If the witness does not know then the witness can say that they do not know.

CHAIR —I think the response is quite clear from his answer.

Senator WORTLEY —Just for the record, could we have the response again, because I was—

CHAIR —Well, no. That would be the third time.

Senator KEMP —It is all on the Hansard.

CHAIR —And, as it happens, we are also out of time, so we might conclude at this point. Thank you very much, Mr Dwyer.

Mr Dwyer —Thank you, Chair, and thank you, committee.

Senator WORTLEY —Thank you, Mr Dwyer.

Proceedings suspended from 10.51 am to 11.03 am