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Senator Waters speech on amending the renewable energy target legislation to exclude native forest burning.

Senator WATERS (Queensland-Co-Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens) (21:44): I move Australian Greens amendment (1) on sheet 7707:

(1) Schedule 1, Part 4, page 13 (line 1), to page 15 (line 2), to be opposed.

This is a similar amendment to the one we just voted on. Although it is drafted somewhat differently, it achieves a similar outcome. It is drafted in such a way that we had hoped to have sufficient numbers to support it, unlike the amendment we have just seen. It similarly excludes having native forest burning in the renewable energy target. It is an affront to common sense, ecology and carbon pollution calculations to ever think that burning native forests could be considered a clean energy source. It is far from carbon neutral. There is new science emerging that shows it is three times as carbon intensive an energy form as coal.

We know that we are talking here about native forests with immense biodiversity and habitat value, not to mention tourism value. These forests are worth far more standing than they are logged. We have heard some pathetic contentions, in my view, from the government benches that this is just going to be waste. What an absolute joke. Everybody knows that this is not going to be waste from the forest floor. This is going to incentivise native forest logging. At this point in history, when the bottom has fallen out of the woodchip industry, this one change that the government is now ramming through is going to throw a lifeline to the native forest logging industry. We are going to see the loggers rubbing their hands all the way to the bank on this one.

I think it is really disappointing that on the last amendment, which would have achieved a similar outcome, albeit through different drafting, we saw the majority of the crossbenchers voting with the government to include native forest logging as a source of so-called clean energy. I recall an election commitment from the Palmer United Party for one that they would not change the renewable energy target. Much was made of that election commitment, and I am very disappointed tonight to see that in that last vote the Palmer United Party senator voted with the government on what is a clear change to the renewable energy target. It is one that worsens it, it is one that would see native forests logged and then burnt and it is one that would crowd out genuine renewable energy.

It is an outrageous attack on the renewable energy target to see the 41,000 gigawatt hours reduced to 33,000. It is outrageous to now see the wind sector being attacked by this government, presumably at the behest of and with the complete agreement of much of the crossbench. Now we see some new architecture being talked about with a wind farm commissioner. We know that this government has axed the Disability Discrimination Commissioner and is frantically trying to get rid of its environmental responsibilities, devolving them down to the states, and now we have a move in the complete opposite direction to establish additional regulatory infrastructure around wind for no good reason except on the basis of some confected concern about people's health. There is no credible evidence that wind farms are in any way damaging to people's health. On the contrary, there is immense evidence that coal mines are damaging to people's health as well as to the climate. Yet we see continued denials from this government about that actual and accurate health concern and information, as we see denial of the climate science itself. Is it any wonder when the fossil fuel industry is basically running this government? Again, they will be absolutely thrilled at this cut to the renewable energy target.

Yes, there was excess energy in the national electricity market. What a perfect opportunity that was, then, to retire some of those oldest and dirtiest coal fired power stations. Instead, we see this government acknowledging that there is an abundance of renewable energy and doing all that it can to reduce and slash that. It just does not get that the rest of the world is already turning away from our coal. Demand is already reducing. The bottom has fallen out of the coal price. The government should know this. I do not understand how it cannot see the writing on the wall that this is a time of transition. The rest of the world has already begun that economic transition for good environmental reasons as well as good economic reasons. Yet this government is just wedded to the fossil fuel sector. It has slashed the carbon price. It repealed the mining tax rather than fixing it up so that it could raise some decent revenue. It got rid of the Climate Change Authority. It still wants to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, although bizarrely it has some strange draft agreement with the crossbench to give that authority more direction. That is pretty inconsistent when you want to abolish that same organisation.

We have an amendment that we are very proud to move. We are seeking all-party support for it. In fact, we are seeking party support to oppose this very bill should native forest logging be allowed by these changes that this amendment would preclude.

 

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