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

Zali Steggall

by leave—I move amendments (1) to (18) on sheet 2, as circulated in my name, together:

(1) Clause 4, page 3 (line 24), omit "or a gas-fired power station", substitute ", gas-fired power station or other relevant facility or business".

(2) Clause 5, page 8 (after line 11), after the definition of national security information, insert:

net zero emissions economy means an Australian economy where:

(a) Australia's absolute greenhouse gas emissions have been significantly reduced to zero or to a residual level consistent with global efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5℃ above industrial levels in accordance with Articles 2 and 4 of the Paris Agreement; and

(b) any residual Australian greenhouse gas emissions are neutralised by, and continue to be neutralised after, the net zero target date.

net zero target date means the target date set out in paragraph 10(1)(b) of the Climate Change Act 2022 for Australia's net greenhouse gas emissions to reduce to zero.

(3) Clause 6, page 10 (after line 23), after subclause (2), insert:

(2A) An employer is also a closing employer if:

(a) the employer:

(i) is a constitutional corporation; and

(ii) owns (whether alone or jointly) or operates (whether alone or jointly) one or more parts of a facility that is a designated large facility for the purposes of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007 for a financial year;

whether or not the employer employs employees to perform work at the facility; or

(b) the employer is a constitutional corporation that owns (whether alone or jointly) or operates (whether alone or jointly) one or more parts of a business specified in a determination under subsection (2B).

(2B) The Minister may, on recommendation by the Authority, determine in writing one or more classes of businesses for the purposes of paragraph (2A)(b).

(2C) The Minister must cause a copy of the determination (including as varied) to be published on the Authority's website.

(2D) A determination under subsection (2B) is not a legislative instrument.

(2E) The Authority may, by notifiable instrument, make recommendations for the purposes of subsection (2B).

(4) Clause 6, page 11 (after line 19), after subclause (4), insert:

(4A) An employer is also a dependent employer if the employer (the relevant employer):

(a) is a constitutional corporation; and

(b) has a commercial relationship with:

(i) a closing employer within the meaning of subsection (2A); or

(ii) an associated entity of such a closing employer; and

(c) will, or will be likely to, cease a substantial part of the operations carried on by the relevant employer at the facility or business concerned, or in the same geographic area in which the facility or business concerned is located, as a direct result of the eventual closure of that facility or business.

(5) Clause 7, page 12 (after line 26), after subclause (2), insert:

(2A) A transition employee, of a closing employer within the meaning of subsection 6(2A), is an employee of the closing employer who is employed to perform work at the facility or business concerned.

(6) Clause 7, page 13 (after line 5), at the end of the clause, add:

(5) A transition employee, of a dependent employer within the meaning of subsection 6(4A), is an employee of the dependent employer who is employed to perform work in the operations that will, or will be likely to, cease as mentioned in paragraph 6(4A)(c).

(7) Clause 9, page 13 (line 21), omit "or a gas-fired power station", substitute ", gas-fired power station or other relevant facility or business referred to in subsection 6(2A)".

(8) Clause 9, page 13 (line 26), omit "or a gas-fired power station", substitute ", gas-fired power station or other relevant facility or business referred to in subsection 6(2A)".

(9) Clause 16, page 17 (after line 15), after paragraph (1)(b), insert:

(ba) with the Climate Change Authority and in consultation with industry, communities and the public and private sector—to proactively plan, coordinate and advise on the phasing out of fossil fuels, including their exploration, extraction and export and their use in Australia;

(10) Clause 16, page 18 (lines 3 to 6), omit subclause (2), substitute:

(2) In performing the Authority's functions, the Authority must have regard to the following principles:

(a) the principle of prioritising communities, regions, industries and workers that are or will be:

(i) concerned with manufacturing, installing or maintaining equipment, appliances, vehicles or devices that consume fossil fuels; or

(ii) otherwise significantly affected by Australia's transition to a net zero emissions economy;

(b) the principles of:

(i) economic efficiency; and

(ii) environmental effectiveness; and

(iii) equity; and

(iv) the public interest; and

(v) the impact on households, businesses, workers and communities; and

(vi) an effective global response to climate change; and

(vii) consistency with Australia's foreign policy and trade objectives; and

(viii) complying with Articles 2, 4, 8 and 12 of the Paris Agreement; and

(ix) boosting economic, employment and social benefits, including for rural and regional Australia; and

(x) achieving the safeguard outcome in paragraph 3(2)(d) of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007;

(c) any other principles that the Authority considers relevant.

This subsection has effect subject to subsections (4) and (5).

(11) Clause 21, page 23 (line 5), omit "5", substitute "7".

(12) Clause 23, page 24 (after line 26), after paragraph (3)(f), insert:

(fa) climate science;

(fb) engineering;

(13) Clause 54, page 40 (line 5), omit "or a gas-fired power station", substitute ", gas-fired power station or other relevant facility or business".

(14) Clause 55, page 42 (line 29), omit "or a gas-fired power station", substitute ", gas-fired power station or other relevant facility or business".

(15) Clause 56, page 43 (line 24), omit "or gas-fired power station", substitute ", gas-fired power station, facility or business".

(16) Clause 56, page 45 (line 2), after "power station", insert ", facility or business".

(17) Clause 57, page 47 (line 11), after "power station", insert ", facility or business".

(18) Clause 57, page 47 (line 25), after "power station", insert ", facility or business".

I'm actually disappointed that I need to move these amendments. When we look at the consideration in detail of this bill, where many on the crossbench have attempted to improve the effect and powers of the Net Zero Economy Authority, alleged, under this bill, it's clear that the government is still very limited and very blinkered with regard to which industries and which specific workers it's willing to help.

That's why I moved my amendments. They will amend the name of this bill to what it in fact is: the 'coal and gas-fired worker transition authority' bill. It's necessary for the government to be very clear and not to mislead people and communities as to the very limited extent of support that its bill offers. Coalmining communities, such as those in the Hunter and in other areas around Australia, that work in mines where the product is for export, might be mistaken in thinking that a just transition would be afforded to them under this bill. That's not the case, and that needs to be made clear. This House has not voted to accept amendments moved by many here that would provide a mechanism to do that or, at the very least, a mechanism to ensure it's possible within the powers of the authority to do it—or even that it would be within the terms of review, to broaden the scope and powers of the authority over time. Then it would be in keeping with the alleged name 'Net Zero Economy Authority'.

Instead, we have seen industries, especially those that we know will phase out as a result of the transition to a low-carbon economy, left out. We know that our economy is changing, that it needs to and that it needs to change fast. In fact, we need to put an end to coal and gas. We need no new coal and gas; we need to end those export industries and transition to others. The first step in that is recognising it. The year 2023 was the first where temperatures on land exceeded two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Joel Gergis' quarterly essay named 'Highway to Hell: Climate Change and Australia's Future' outlines a grim scientific account of what we are facing. Transition will, and must, occur, and we need to support our economy, communities and workers in doing so. The International Energy Agency forecasts that the world is decarbonising, that our trading partners are decarbonising and that the demand for our fossil fuels is going to change and decline, so we need to address this and assist those communities. It would be remiss only to pick, narrowly, a few winners—a few communities which deserve the power of the authority and not others. That's why, reluctantly, we need to ensure that this bill is only directed to those who it's actually empowered to assist. It will not impact many others in the fossil fuel industries who will be impacted by the transition to net zero.

We see a lot of greenwashing across a lot of industries,. The use of the term, 'net zero' is a nice phrase. It rings, and makes people reading it think that it's addressing a very specific thing. I know there's a very real reason why the government drafters used that term in the name of this authority, and that's why I've moved these amendments to change it. I think we need to be really clear that a net zero economy is much broader than just coal and gas workers in the fossil fuel energy industry. If we're genuinely going to say that it's a net zero economy, it must be much broader. That's why I have moved these amendments, to ensure that we don't leave anyone behind. I want to make sure that no-one is misled by the title of this bill; that it's in fact very clear and that communities know the importance of the terminology 'net zero'. There's a growing awareness about this, and they know that the use of the term is also associated with much greenwashing. We need to make sure that consistency and climate commitment are attached to the term.

In the absence of broadening the scope of the authority to provide work plans which address the other industries that will be impacted by the net zero transition, it's necessary to call a spade a spade and to say that the operating provisions of this act should be reflected in its name. This is why I have moved these amendments.

Patrick Gorman

The government does not accept the proposed amendments. Indeed, to accept them would be to mislead about the intent of this bill or the provisions within it. We have just spent almost two hours considering this bill in detail. I have stood here and outlined the broad powers that sit within the Net Zero Economy Authority. If we were to accept this change, which in my view talks down to workers in a range of essential industries for our economy, it would not reflect the bill that is in front of us. It would not reflect the ambitions that the government has for this authority and it would not reflect the expectations of this parliament, who I hope will soon vote for this bill. It would not reflect our ambitions for what that authority needs to go on and do.

I outlined the powers in section 16 and I outlined the hundreds of millions of dollars the government has put in the budget for this authority to do all of that work, so to simply try and divide Australians by saying, 'This is just for a small section of workers,' is completely wrong. The amendment would not reflect the bill as it is on the table right there, and I would urge the member for Warringah—who I know comes and does, as I seek to, raise the standard of political debate—that I don't think that this is an appropriate way to raise the standard of political debate. It narrows the title of the bill and it narrows the title of the authority in a way that actually doesn't reflect the work that it will do. I agree with the Member for Warringah when she says it's time to stand up for integrity and accountability and restore trust in Australian politics. This change would not do that.

I know that the Member for Warringah has done a lot of work when it comes to increasing accountability for those of us elected to parliament and when it comes to integrity in political advertising. In my view, it would be a lie in terms of what this authority does if we were to change it to this name. It's so much bigger in scope. The transformation is so much bigger than the simple title change that's proposed. The government doesn't support it and I don't think anyone in this parliament should.

Zali Steggall

I have a question for the assistant minister. If it is the intent of the government to generally have an authority that addresses an entire net zero economy transition—which means going broadly across a lot of areas—could the minister clarify why part 5, Energy Industry Jobs Plan, is limited in section 54 to only those relating to the closure of the whole or part of a coal-fired power station or gas-fired power station, and that is the only requirement to trigger the creation of an energy industry job plan?

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 6:12 PM on 2024-06-04
Allegra Spender's vote: Aye
Total number of "aye" votes: 82
Total number of "no" votes: 51
Total number of abstentions: 18
Related bill: Net Zero Economy Authority Bill 2024

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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