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30 October 2014


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (15:48): I take this opportunity to applaud the government for delivering on two key election promises. We have scrapped the world’s largest carbon tax, which has delivered the largest reduction in household electricity prices on record. We are implementing our Direct Action policy—a policy that we took to the election and which achieves emission reductions without slugging families and businesses with higher energy prices.

I also applaud the efforts of the Minister for the Environment. Despite every effort to try to block the mandate we were given by the Australian people at the last election, the minister has negotiated an agreement with the Senate crossbench to secure legislative passage of the $2.55 billion for the Emissions Reduction Fund. This agreement ensures that 170 local farming, waste and revegetation projects are not put at risk. These projects deliver around 10 million tonnes of emission reductions. This agreement also ensures that many more new projects, including energy efficiency in buildings, soil carbon and fuel-efficient vehicle fleets will also be able to benefit.

Whilst on this topic I would like to promote the great work of a company headquartered in my electorate of Bennelong. Hyundai Australia is in the process of trialling its first hydrogen powered vehicles. They have already gained approval to build the first hydro filling station that is solar powered, uses no carbon fuels and emits nothing. As a gesture of good faith the government has agreed to amend the Carbon Farming Initiative Amendment Act 2014 to provide greater oversight powers to the Emissions Reduction Assurance Committee, improve access to savanna burning projects. We have also withdrawn the Climate Change Authority (Abolition) Bill 2014 and funded the authority to undertake a review examining emissions trading arrangements in five of Australia’s key trading partners and targets.

This does not mean that the Commonwealth government supports the carbon tax or an ETS. This is simply a review. It is not binding on the government. It is not our policy. The government’s policy has not changed. We will not bring back Labor’s carbon tax. The government has agreed to the review but not agreed to accept or adopt the findings. The coalition’s approach to direct action includes the Emissions Reduction Fund, which is a major environmental program which has benefits for air quality, land management and agricultural productivity; and a program to reduce emissions.

The 2014-15 budget provided for $2.55 billion for the fund. This is available from the commencement of the Emissions Reduction Fund, to be committed in contracts by the Clean Energy Regulator for emissions reductions. As set out in the Emissions Reduction Fund white paper, further funding will be considered in future budget rounds.

Since February 2010 the Emissions Reduction Fund has been the centrepiece of the coalition’s climate change policy. The coalition took this policy to both the 2010 and the 2013 elections. The design of the emissions reduction has been guided by three key design principles: lowest-cost emission reductions, genuine emission reductions and streamlined, efficient, low-cost administration. The Emissions Reduction Fund has three elements: crediting and purchasing, which are provided by the bill, and a safeguard mechanism which will be subject to further consultation before finalisation. The safeguard mechanism will ensure that emission reductions are not underdone by emission increases elsewhere.

The Emissions Reduction Fund will not create new government architecture. Instead, it will leverage and streamline existing structures and processes that are understood and supported by industry, namely: the Carbon Farming Initiative, to credit emission reductions; the National Energy and Greenhouse Reporting Scheme, as a basis for data measurement; and the Clean Energy Regulator, to administer the scheme.

The types of projects that could be supported by the Emissions Reduction Fund include: cleaning up Australia’s waste sector; emissions reductions from the transport sector; the capture of coalmine gas; using alternative waste treatment facilities to stop the waste getting into landfills; capturing methane from waste water facilities at abattoirs and chemical processing facilities; improving industrial energy efficiency; energy efficiency improvements in the commercial building sector; and improvements in the efficiency of household electricity consumption leading to a reduction in household energy costs. (Time expired)