Oct 30, 2006

Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) Consideration in Deta

Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2006

Consideration in Detail

30 October 2006

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (7.53 p.m.)—by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) to (9) as circulated in my name:

(1) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1A After paragraph 3(1)(ca)

Insert

‘(cb) to protect Australia from the adverse effects of climate change;’

(2) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1B After sub paragraph 3(2)(e)(i)

Insert

‘(ia) establish a climate change trigger to ensure that large scale greenhouse polluting projects are assessed by the Federal Government; and’.

(3) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1C After paragraph 3A(a)

Insert

‘(aa) decision-making processes should consider and minimise where possible the adverse effects of climate change on Australia;’

(4) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1D After section 3A

Insert

‘3B Climate change

The Parliament acknowledges that climate change

(a) is the greatest threat to Australia’s natural environment;

(b) will have far-reaching impacts globally, in Australia’s region and in Australia, including:

(i) possible higher temperatures and lower-rainfall in southern Australia;

(ii) possible more frequent extreme weather events such as storms, heatwaves and drought,

impacts to which Australia’s natural, rural and urban environments, and many industries, are potentially vulnerable.’.

(5) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1E Subsection 5(5)

Insert the following definition:

Adverse effects of climate change means changes in the physical environment or biota resulting from climate change which have significant deleterious effects on the composition, resilience or productivity of natural and managed ecosystems or on the operation of socio-economic systems or on human health and welfare.

(6) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1F Subsection 5(5)

Insert the following definition:

Climate change means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

(7) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1G Subsection 5(5)

Insert the following definition:

Climate system means the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions.

(8) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1H Subsection 5(5)

Insert the following definition:

Emissions means the release of greenhouse gases and/or their precursors into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time.

(9) Schedule 1, before item 1, page 5 (before line 5) insert:

1I Subsection 5(5)

Insert the following definition:

Greenhouse gases means those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and re-emit infrared radiation.

(i) possible higher temperatures and lower-rainfall in southern Australia;

(ii) possible more frequent extreme weather events such as storms, heatwaves and drought,

impacts to which Australia’s natural, rural and urban environments, and many industries, are potentially vulnerable.’.

Adverse effects of climate change means changes in the physical environment or biota resulting from climate change which have significant deleterious effects on the composition, resilience or productivity of natural and managed ecosystems or on the operation of socio-economic systems or on human health and welfare.

Climate change means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

Climate system means the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions.

Emissions means the release of greenhouse gases and/or their precursors into the atmosphere over a specified area and period of time.

Greenhouse gases means those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and re-emit infrared radiation.

I am moving amendments to the Environment and Heritage Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2006 which amends the EPBC Act because this is a totally inadequate performance from the Howard government. It is an indictment that, after 10 years, they have produced what they say is their major piece of environmental legislation without any reference to climate change. And this is on the day that the Stern review in the United Kingdom, to be tabled in the coming hours, has indicated the drastic economic as well as environmental consequences of inaction on climate change. It underlines the lack of responsibility from this government.

The Stern review indicates a potential loss of global economic growth of some 20 per cent. It indicates a potential cost greater than the cost of two world wars and the Great Depression. It indicates that early action on climate change is what is required. By taking early action you will actually save money as well as save the planet.

I am moving this first block of amendments to the bill, and I have done them in two separate lots because I cannot comprehend that the parliamentary secretary for the environment and heritage opposite, in his heart, can vote against such amendments. A simple amendment to add an objective of the act to protect Australia from dangerous climate change—is the Howard government really going to vote against that? It is a simple position whereby we add a new principle of ecologically sustainable development to note:

decision-making processes should consider and minimise where possible the adverse effects of climate change on Australia.

The amendments add a new section 3B outlining the significance of climate change. They add a definition of climate change—and we have not made up a definition; it is the definition of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which the Australian government is a signatory. How can you argue for this massive bill, with 409 pages of amendments, totalling some 3,000 amendments to the act and not one mentioning climate change?

The Prime Minister from time to time concedes that climate change is occurring. Surely, if it is occurring, we need a reference to it in the Commonwealth’s environmental legislation. But this exposes the hypocrisy of the government. The parliamentary secretary actually spoke about morality when it came to climate change. I think this is a moral question for our generation and we will be judged extremely harshly for generations to come. We will talk about two groups: one will be the climate sceptics; people will just feel sorry for them. They will be regarded as the flat-earthers of the 21st century—the industry minister, the Prime Minister some of the time, but not the parliamentary secretary. I give him credit. I think he knows that climate change is real. But you will be judged more harshly if you know the problem but refuse to do something about it—if you refuse to take the action that is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change.

These amendments that I am moving are very simple. They should not be controversial—they are straightforward, they put climate change front and centre of our national environmental legislation. Quite frankly I was shocked when I received the amendments from the government (Extension of time granted) to find that there was no mention of climate change. When I spoke to people—economists, environmentalists, people concerned about this in the scientific world—they said, ‘You can’t be right. It can’t be right that the Commonwealth would, in the year 2006, produce 409 pages of amendments to the act, more than 3,000 amendments to the act but not one of them mentioning climate change.’ We raised it in the briefing we had from the minister’s office—the department frankly are embarrassed by this. Why wouldn’t they be embarrassed by the lack of action?

Of course, the parliamentary secretary did speak about morality. The parliamentary secretary featured in an article by Peter Hartcher on 20 October. That was extraordinary. We had Alexander Downer stating that he had gone to the Port Elliot Show—it was hot day, it was 33 degrees, and there was a north wind—and a bunch of people, not just farmers, were saying that maybe there is something in this climate change thing. Who was the Minister for Foreign Affairs when Australia signed the Kyoto protocol back in 1997, when the Prime Minister said it was a win for jobs and a win for the environment? It is absolutely extraordinary that we have had 10 years of denial from the government and then they think they can come up with, ‘We think there might be something in this climate change thing,’ and announce a couple of projects and everyone will go, ‘That’s okay—they take it seriously.’

The government will be judged very harshly by history because on this, the most important issue facing the global community, you cannot fudge. You cannot say on the one hand that the Kyoto protocol, if we ratified it, would ruin the economy and then in the next breath say, ‘But we’ll meet the target.’ It does not make sense. You cannot have both positions—and the parliamentary secretary knows that well. You cannot say, ‘We are doing a great job,’ when the figures show that, if you exclude the decisions on land use, between 1990 and 2004—

Mr Hunt—Just look at the real figures.

Mr ALBANESE—If you look at the real figures on our emissions, you will see that they are increasing by 21.5 per cent. Under the Howard government they have exploded. The parliamentary secretary talks about meeting targets. Two weeks ago the Minister for the Environment and Heritage said in the Senate that we might not even meet our target—in spite of the concessions which have been given by the government. The truth is that the record is appalling. We have an abrogation—an attempt to undermine the protocol. This is something that environment ministers such as Senator Hill, when they had some integrity on the other side, said was foolish. Senator Hill said that only a fool would think that Australia has an interest in undermining the Kyoto protocol. Yet we have this argument that China, Japan, India and all these other countries—we heard it again today—are not part of it.

It is just extraordinary to blame the developing world—in particular China, which is identified by the Stern review, along with California and the European Union, as taking the most action to avoid climate change. We know the hypocrisy is there because, when the environment minister went to China two weeks ago, the Roaring 40s project that he opened was, of course, totally funded by the clean development mechanism of Kyoto. It was 51 per cent owned by a Chinese company and 49 per cent Australian. (Extension of time granted) Were it not for the clean development mechanism, if it had been a totally Australian based company and if it were not for the fact that it was a 51 per cent Chinese company, that project would not have proceeded. That project was, of course, by the Roaring 40s company, from Tasmania, which has not proceeded with projects worth $550 million in Tasmania and South Australia.

So here we have a situation whereby renewable energy projects in Australia are not being proceeded with. We know that the Vestas nacelle factory in Tasmania, a renewable energy manufacturing plant, shut down in August. Australia is the only country on the planet where renewable energy projects are actually being closed. In addition to that, the government says that one-off projects have been announced under the low emissions technology fund. Labor supports such projects, but one-off announcements will not go anywhere near the action we need if we are going to avoid dangerous climate change. Of the projects that have been announced, the Victorian project is only viable because of the Victorian renewable energy target and the Queensland project is only viable due to the Queensland government system—

Mr Hunt interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE—The company involved, Solar Systems, have said they may not be able to proceed with the project if Steve Bracks is not re-elected, because the neanderthals in the Victorian Liberal Party are going to move away from the Victorian renewable energy target.

Mr Hunt interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE—The clowns opposite speak about $75 million. It is a $420 million project which is only viable because you have those market based mechanisms. Unless you have economic incentives and market based mechanisms, you do not get progress; you do not get application and multiplication of clean technology. And history tells us that. Indeed, the Howard government took credit back in 1997 for the fact that, under Kyoto, it had these economic market based mechanisms. The United States and Australia, under the previous government—and it continued under Robert Hill—pushed for emissions trading to be at the core of Kyoto because they understood that you need those market based mechanisms to drive that change through. They understood that opposition to that was a triumph of hope over experience. They understood that you do not just cross your fingers and hope that the companies do the right thing; you actually need those economic incentives.

So we have a situation whereby the government, instead of having a comprehensive plan to tackle climate change, announced this project in June 2004. That was when they announced the fund as part of the energy white paper. Then nothing happened for more than two years: for almost 2½ years not a single announcement—not one project worthy of support. Why is that? Why is this before us now? Because we are now into an election year. In the last 12 months before an election you can be certain that the money will be rolled out. What that exposes is that it is all about politics, not about good policy. This Prime Minister is only concerned about his future, not the future of this nation and of the future generations to come on this planet, because we are so far behind the rest of the world on climate change that it is an embarrassment.

I put a simple proposition if the amendments that I have moved in this House are defeated: mention ‘climate change’ in the national environmental legislation; mention a neutral definition of climate change as an objective. How can that possibly be opposed by the Howard government? I am sure we may well hear some creative reasons for why. I urge the parliamentary secretary to show a bit of ticker, vote for these amendments and acknowledge that climate change is real.

* * * * *

 

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (8.18 p.m.)—It is an extraordinary position from the government that they are advocating a command economy approach to this. Maybe they have been listening to those Maoists in education departments. But they are wrong and they are shown to be wrong if you look at what was actually said. When he was Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, in a media release of 11 December 1997, said:

The Kyoto agreement permitting Australia an eight per cent increase in emissions of six greenhouse gases by 2012 over 1990 levels will preserve the interests of farmers, miners, manufacturing industry and the economy in general.

Former senator Warwick Parer, who was then the Minister for Resources and Energy, said:

The Kyoto protocol provides a sound basis for protecting Australia’s export competitiveness and employment prospects in our minerals processing and energy export industries.

Robert Hill, the then Minister for the Environment and Heritage, said on 19 December 1997:

There are those who foolishly believe that Australia has something to win by derailing the Kyoto protocol.

John Howard said the Kyoto protocol is ‘a win for the environment and a win for Australian jobs’. You need market based mechanisms and a whole-of-government approach if you are going to fix the problem. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage mentioned clean air. In fact, greenhouse gas emissions trading is modelled on the Clean Air Act, brought in by George Bush Sr in the United States in 1990 to control sulphur dioxide—acid rain—and it was successful.

The government says that Kyoto is flawed and somehow blames everyone moving to developing countries on the Kyoto protocol. Here in Australia we are seeing manufacturing industry go to China. We are seeing Qantas and Telstra move jobs offshore. Is that because of Kyoto? What an absolute nonsense. The truth is that we need market based mechanisms to drive that change through. We need it to happen.

The Kyoto protocol provides $133 billion of projects through the Clean Development Mechanism. They are already in the pipeline—already approved. The fact is that Australian companies are only able to use the Clean Development Mechanism if projects are owned by overseas companies. We are seeing great Australian companies like Pacific Solar fly the flag of another nation and companies moving to New Zealand or Fiji.

It is simply irresponsible to argue that the sorts of changes that are required to avoid the economic and environmental problems that have been identified by reviews—most notably the Stern review on this very day—are not required. But it is not just the Stern review; it is absolutely consistent with what the participants in the Australian Business Roundtable on Climate Change have called for. They want a price signal. BP, Visy, Westpac and Origin Energy—these great Australian companies—know that the action is needed. And they know that the government is frozen in time while the globe warms around it.

The government really are being left behind on this stuff, like absolute dinosaurs. The community has moved on; business has moved on. These amendments, simply asking for a climate change definition and for climate change to be included in the environmental legislation, are worthy of support.

Question put:

That the amendments (Mr Albanese’s) be agreed to.

* * * * *

 

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (8.34 p.m.)—by leave—I move amendments (10) to (22) together:

(10) Schedule 1, after item 67, page 16 (after line 14), insert:

67A After section 25 (subdivision G)

Insert

25AAA Requirement for approval of climate change actions

(1) A person must not knowingly, intentionally or recklessly take a climate change action that has, will have, or be likely to have, a significant impact on the environment.

Civil penalty:

(a) for an individual—5,000 penalty units;

(b) for a body corporate—50,000 penalty units.

(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to an action if:

(a) an approval for the person to take the action is in operation under Part 9 for the purposes of this section; or

(b) Part 4 allows the person to take the action without an approval under Part 9 for the purposes of this section; or

(c) there is in force a decision of the Minister under Division 2 of Part 7 that

(i) the action is not a controlled action; or

(ii) the action is a controlled action but this section is not a controlling provision for the action.

25AAB What is a climate change action?

A climate change action means any of the following:

(a) establishing an industrial plant or other facility which emits, or is likely to emit, more than 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent per year; or

(b) any other action, series of actions, or program of actions, which will lead, or are likely to lead, directly or indirectly to the emission of more than 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

25AAC Requirement for decisions about climate change actions

In deciding whether or not to approve for the purposes of section 25AAA the taking of a climate control action, and what conditions to attach to such an approval, the Minister must consider whether the direct or indirect emissions of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent that are likely to result from the action will be minimised by the use of best practice environmental management and low emissions technology.

For the purpose of subsection (1), best practice environmental managementandlow emissions technology are management and technology to achieve an ongoing minimisation of the emissions of carbon dioxide or carbon dioxide equivalent through cost-effective measures assessed against the measures and technology currently used nationally and internationally.

(11) Schedule 1, item 85, page 20 (line 32) to page 21 (line 1), omit the item.

(12) Schedule 1, item 388, page 144 (lines 21-25), omit the item.

(13) Schedule 1, item 415, page 150 (lines 25-29) omit the item.

(14) Schedule 1, item 448, page 159 (lines 7-11), omit the item.

(15) Schedule 1, item 465, page 163 (lines 25-29), omit the item.

(16) Schedule 1, item 530, page 184 (lines 1-5), omit the item.

(17) Schedule 1, item 550, page 202 (lines 21-22), omit paragraph 324JJ(5)(b).

(18) Schedule 1, item 607, page 256, (lines 16-17), omit the item.

(19) Schedule 1, item 759, page 294 (lines 8-9), omit the item.

(20) Schedule 1, item 762, page 294 (lines 15-19), omit the item.

(21) Schedule 1, item 840, page 369 (lines 1-8), omit the item.

(22) Schedule 1, item 841, page 369 (lines 9-10), omit the item.

(i) the action is not a controlled action; or

(ii) the action is a controlled action but this section is not a controlling provision for the action.

What members might not know is that they have actually just voted against any recognition of climate change being included in the federal environmental legislation. This is absolutely absurd. The first lot of these amendments that we are moving onto now would establish a climate change trigger in the EPBC Act.

Introducing a greenhouse trigger would provide another measure for addressing our international responsibilities in relation to climate change and ensuring Australia meets its Kyoto target.

Those are not my words; those were the words of Robert Hill on 10 December 1999 when he released a consultation paper on the possible application of a greenhouse trigger under the EPBC Act.

The climate change trigger would apply to the establishment of any industrial plant or other facility which emits or is likely to emit more than 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent per year—or any other action, series of actions or policies which lead or are likely to lead to the emission of more than 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or equivalent per year. Any such action will require ministerial approval unless the minister decides that the action is not controlled under the act. If the action is approved, the minister can, under the act, attach conditions to the approval such as the need to mitigate its greenhouse emissions. This is a sensible amendment. It is sensible to actually acknowledge that one of the actions that needs to be a trigger in the federal environmental legislation is the impact of climate change.

If the government truly acknowledge that climate change exists, they should support these amendments. Labor has moved amendments which would repeal the proposals contained in this bill that will curtail third party appeal rights, undermine public consultation processes and further politicise decision-making processes. These amendments would restore the right to appeal ministerial decisions before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which has been removed under this bill.

The bill contains seven separate measures to strip away the right to appeal ministerial decisions before the AAT. They relate to threatened species, migratory species, marine species, whales and dolphins, wildlife trade permits and complying with conservation orders. That shows extraordinary arrogance and sets an amazing precedent. The appeal rights in relation to wildlife permits have existed since 1981. It is very important that there be a balance in the act and Labor will restore that balance and that transparency.

We have also moved an amendment to maintain the Register of the National Estate and require the government to take it into account in decision-making processes. The Whitlam government, through the leadership of my friend Tom Uren, established the Australian Heritage Commission as an independent statutory authority. The commission was responsible for managing Australia’s Register of the National Estate and it served Australia well in managing that role. Today the register has some 13,000 sites of natural cultural and Indigenous heritage significance. So I pay tribute to the register and argue that it must be maintained.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in his second reading speech referred to the archiving of the Register of the National Estate. Let us be honest: that means it is being abolished. The bill removes the requirement for the minister to have regard to the Register of the National Estate when making decisions and five years after the act comes into force the Register of the National Estate will cease to exist.

In moving these amendments, Labor want to restore a balance in the act. The government portrays this legislation as being absolutely critical. (Extension of time granted) The government does not want debate on this legislation. In spite of the fact that we are against this legislation we did not call a division on the second reading in the interests of proper debate, but we demanded to have our amendments outlined. None of this has occurred. The fact is that currently the government and the minister are against the minister’s own legislation. Section 28A says:

Every 5 years after the commencement of this Act, the Minister must cause a report to be prepared on whether this Part should be amended …

It goes on to say:

Before preparation of the report is completed, the Minister must cause to be published in accordance with the regulations (if any):

(a) a draft of the report; and

(b) an invitation to comment on the draft within the period specified by the Minister.

None of this has occurred. One of the amendments that I have moved is an amendment to remove the suggestion in section 324JJ(5) that, in deciding whether or not to list a place on the National Heritage List, the minister must have regard to advice from the Australian Heritage Council but may also seek and have regard to information or advice from any other source. What does that mean? That we will give carte blanche to this government to take advice from any other source? Could it be from a Liberal Party branch or from a particular business with an interest? This undermines the objectivity that is required in this act.

I conclude with this statement—and it is not from me; it is from Western Australian Liberal Senator David Johnston. On 18 October in the Senate, he stated:

This explanatory memorandum is probably one of the most appalling I have ever seen in the short time I have been in the Senate. It discloses no motivation, no reasoning and no justification for some of the most draconian powers that this parliament can conceivably and possibly enact:

And further:

… this legislation should go back to the drawing board.

That is right. He got it right, and that is why we will be supporting these amendments and, if they are not successful, we will be voting against the third reading of this legislation. It is sloppy legislation, hastily put together, it undermines the balance of the EPBC Act and, most importantly, it ignores the greatest global challenge facing the world community—not just the greatest environmental challenge but the greatest environmental economic and social challenge: climate change.

Mr Ian Macfarlane interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE—The fact we have Mr Flat Earth, the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, sitting over here presiding over this act indicates it all. At least he is honest. To give him credit, he says there is no connection between emissions and climate change. He is a sceptic. That is the direction in which the government is going—climate sceptics, market sceptics trying to play catch-up with one-off announcements. The Australian public are a wake-up to you: they want real action on climate change. I commend the amendments to the House and condemn this shoddy, sloppy, hopeless piece of legislation.

 

* * * * *

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (8.44 p.m.)—The parliamentary secretary knows full well that Labor supports an emissions trading system. We are opposed to new taxes. You can have two price signals. The government, the parliamentary secretary, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Treasurer have all said that a price signal is necessary. You can have two forms of price signal on carbon. One is an emissions trading system. That is what we stand for. If they support a price signal, that means they must support a tax.

Question put:

That the amendments (Mr Albanese’s) be agreed to.