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FOR – Bills — Net Zero Economy Authority Bill 2024; Consideration in Detail

Helen Haines

by leave—I move amendments (12) and (13) on the sheet revised 29 May 2024, as circulated in my name, together:

(12) Clause 23, page 24 (lines 11 to 13), omit paragraph (2)(d), substitute:

(d) 1 other Board member with expertise or experience, professional credibility and significant standing in the field mentioned in paragraph (3)(h); and

(e) up to 3 other Board members with expertise or experience, professional credibility and significant standing in any of the fields mentioned in subsection (3).

(13) Clause 23, page 24 (lines 14 and 15), omit "Paragraphs (b) and (c) do not by implication limit paragraph (a) or (d).", substitute "Paragraphs (b), (c) and (d) do not by implication limit paragraph (a) or (e).".

These amendments would ensure the board, which provides advice to the authority, includes a member with expertise or experience, professional credibility and significant standing in regional development. These amendments are an obvious improvement to the bill. Without these amendments, having a board member with regional development credentials would only be optional. But regional development experience on the board is vital to the success of the authority; it shouldn't be optional. To properly support regional communities, the authority must actually hear from a member from these communities. The authority must work with communities to determine what they need and want from the net zero energy transformation, and having somebody on the board who comes from the regions will help achieve this.

It's not just living in the regions that will make this board member valuable; it's about having experience in regional development too. When I talk about regional development, I'm talking about thriving, prosperous communities. I want to see this board member advocate for the transformational opportunity the net zero economy presents for regional communities—things like quality health care, available child care and well-paid, long-term jobs. I'm also talking about stable phone and internet connections, roads that aren't riddled with potholes and a cheap, reliable source of energy that's shared locally. This is what regional communities must expect from the net zero transformation, but it's not being shown to them right now. A board member with regional development expertise is a step towards realising prosperous livelihoods in the regions in a net zero economy.

I don't want to steal the minister's thunder here, but I think I'm going to do it again because it's important I say this: I understand the government will support these amendments, and I'm pleased that they will, of course. I thank the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister himself for meeting with me and discussing what is something I feel very passionate about. I want to emphasise—and I really want you to listen carefully to this—that having a regional member on the board of the authority will only be as useful as the authority itself. A regional board member must not be there to only support the regional communities transitioning out of fossil fuel industries. At the same time, the board and the authority must direct its work to the regional communities transitioning into renewable energy; I'm going to keep saying it because it's critical. I'm talking about the regional communities that are being told they are in renewable energy zones but don't know what this means. These are communities that are suddenly being told that they are in 'ideal' locations for grid-scale solar farms with turbines and large battery storage systems—told, not invited to plan and participate in this massive transformation. Communities are not being given the opportunity to plan their futures right now. To achieve net zero with these communities, we must reframe the question from, 'How do we gain their social licence?' to 'How do we achieve regional development and prosperity for them?' I'm going to keep saying that too, because it's just so critical.

My other amendments to this bill provide the pathways towards showing regional development—not merely writing it down in words but actually showing it. They're about action. I'm disappointed that the government is not supporting them at this time, but I look forward to continued discussions with the government, including with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, about how this can be realised. A board member with regional development experience is a good start, but we have a long way to go to ensure that their expertise is going to be utilised. I will be watching this very, very closely.

Patrick Gorman

I thank the member for Indi, not just for moving these amendments but also for separating them from her other amendments so that, as she foreshadowed, in very kind terms, the government is prepared to agree to these amendments. We have already indicated that to the member for Indi in conversations between myself, the Prime Minister and the member.

We agree that there's benefit in requiring that one member of the authority has significant expertise in regional development. We see that this will ensure that the board—and we've already outlined those broad areas we want—has the right skills mix. I of course note that the government's obligations that will apply to this member of the board will be exactly the same as for all other members of the board. We do recognise that an important piece of the work of this authority will be to prioritise communities in regions that are, or will be, significantly affected by Australia's transition to a net zero economy.

I thank the member for Indi for her engagement on this and for outlining her reasons for these particular amendments, effectively persuading the Prime Minister and others in the government. We're pleased to support these amendments.

Allegra Spender

I rise in support of the work of the member for Indi on this, and also for all the amendments that she has put forward on this bill. I represent a community which is, physically, one of the smallest communities in the country, and probably one of the least rural or regional in the country. But what my community constantly tells me is that they care about regional Australia and that they care about rural Australia. They don't only care about their own patch. Across this parliament, we always need to be looking just outside our own patches and making sure that we don't try to create divisions between different parts of the country, but use opportunities to bring these together. I think that the work the member for Indi is doing in this is excellent, because what she's doing is saying, 'This transition will benefit the whole country.'

In my area, we don't have the capacity for the solar farms and the other changes required to power my area. We will get benefit from this, but we want to make sure that regional communities get benefits too. Otherwise, it will fall down. This is beyond asking for social licence; it's saying, 'Let's use this as an opportunity to bring real benefit to our communities and to build the next evolution of our thriving regional communities.'

I thank the government for supporting these amendments and I urge it to consider the other very useful amendments the member has put forward, because I think this is about building community engagement across the country in this absolutely vital change.

Question agreed to.

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 5:40 PM on 2024-06-04
Allegra Spender's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 8
Total number of "no" votes: 29
Total number of abstentions: 114
Related bill: Net Zero Economy Authority Bill 2024

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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