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AGAINST – Bills — Treasury Laws Amendment (Financial Market Infrastructure and Other Measures) Bill 2024; Second Reading

Helen Haines

I rise to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Financial Market Infrastructure and Other Measures) Bill 2024. I want to specifically address the measures in this bill which will introduce mandatory climate reporting requirements for large businesses regarding climate-related governance, strategy, risk management and emissions targets, including for greenhouse gases. This will include reporting emissions from supply chains, so farmers in regional elections like mine will be impacted by this bill. Businesses who must comply would meet two out of three thresholds: one, that they have over 100 employees; two, that the value of their consolidated gross assets is $25 million or more each financial year; and, finally, that the business's consolidated revenue for that financial year is $50 million or more.

I welcome measures that Australia's major companies must now be transparent with and can be held accountable by investors and consumers when it comes to climate change. We must measure how businesses are progressing as they transition to net zero emissions. We're now living in a world impacted severely by climate change. This is accepted internationally. Indeed, this bill makes sure we are in step with international requirements for a credible climate disclosure regime.

Even though these measures are necessary, which is why I will ultimately support the bill, I want the House to hear and I want to acknowledge that they will be challenging for some sectors. In particular, the measures will be challenging for the agricultural and primary production sectors. Although some farming businesses won't meet the thresholds for mandatory climate risk reporting, it's important to acknowledge that they are part of the supply chain for larger businesses that will. Emissions from the supply chain are known as scope 3 emissions, and scope 3 emissions reporting will require farmers to report on the emissions from production, including diesel and farm machinery in transport, fertiliser and even methane emissions from cattle. This bill is setting out what is going to happen with or without legislation.

Farmers are increasingly required to provide the emission profiles for insurance and banking and to identify opportunities for emissions reductions on their own farms. This may be the case, but I do hear farmers' concerns about meeting emissions reporting requirements. Many farms struggle to calculate and disclose their farm emissions. It's a relatively new part of farming practice. It can be costly, confusing and time-consuming. Many farmers I speak to across my electorate of Indi also tell me that they want to do their fair share in reducing our national emissions but they must be mindful about the expense to their livelihoods. They talk to me about the challenge in balancing these factors.

To get the balance right, it's critical that governments provide the resources and support to get farmers up to speed on emissions reporting and don't leave farmers carrying the cost of compliance. Hearing farmers' concerns about emissions accounting and reductions is why, in the 2022 election and last year, I advocated for federally funded agricultural extension officers. Extension officers would work with farmers one-on-one to adopt the technology, products and farming practices that would help them calculate and then lower their emissions to achieve net zero. These extension officers would translate the science into practice, delivering the research on how to accurately measure soil carbon or what nutritional additives could be used to reduce methane emissions in livestock, for example. The advice must be from local, trusted, neutral, independent officers who know the specific environment that the particular farmer is working in, because the techniques applied in low-rainfall, poorer soils will be different from those in high-rainfall, organically rich soils.

Government funded extension programs have been used historically to help farmers navigate changing times and changing technology. Extension programs have fallen by the wayside in recent times, but I was pleased to see, in last year's budget, the take-up of my idea and the funding of a network of sustainable agriculture facilitators. These facilitators will provide extension services to farmers to build their knowledge of climate-smart practices. This directly replicates my policy, which, I heard from farmers in my electorate, would indeed help bridge this significant knowledge gap. I understand that the design of the sustainable agricultural facilitators is in the final stages and will be delivered by regional development partners, including natural resource management organisations. I very much look forward to learning more as these agriculture facilitators are rolled out, including in my electorate of Indi.

Sustainable agriculture facilitators sit within the broader $302 million Climate-Smart Agriculture Program. This program is all about driving agricultural sustainability, productivity and competitiveness by reducing emissions, building resilience to climate change and conserving national capital and biodiversity. Under the latest budget, I was pleased to see an additional $63 million to support the reduction in emissions in agriculture, including $28.7 million to improve greenhouse gas accounting. The National Farmers Federation welcomed this announcement, saying it aligns with what the farming sector has been calling for, giving them much-needed independent advice to make informed decisions about their businesses. More money to help farmers calculate and reduce their emissions is a timely announcement when considering the bill before us right now. It's common sense that the government supports farmers in this way if it is also requiring them to report on climate risk issues like the scope 3 emissions I've just outlined.

I support the bill, and I will watch the government closely to ensure that they continue delivering the support farmers need to calculate and reduce their emissions. This, in turn, produces sustainable, productive and profitable food and fibre needed to feed and clothe our nation and to remain competitive in international markets.

Long debate text truncated.

Summary

Date and time: 12:49 PM on 2024-06-06
Allegra Spender's vote: No
Total number of "aye" votes: 51
Total number of "no" votes: 84
Total number of abstentions: 16
Related bill: Treasury Laws Amendment (Financial Market Infrastructure and Other Measures) Bill 2024

Adapted from information made available by theyvoteforyou.org.au

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