Senate votes down emissions trading scheme

By: Jason Whittaker

The Federal Government’s emissions trading legislation has been rejected by the Senate, with 42-30 senators voting against the bills. The failure

The Federal Government’s emissions trading legislation has been rejected by the Senate, with 42-30 senators voting against the bills.

The failure of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) to pass through Senate has been met with mixed responses from the transport sector.

Bus Industry Confederation (BIC) Executive Director Michael Apps says the failure of the CPRS to pass through the Senate has "got nothing to do with us".

Apps says public transport has not entered into the CPRS debate in any serious way.

"At the moment the discussions are at a very high level in the context of the emission-intense industries," he says.

"Where public transport fits, currently, in relation to the Parliamentary debate in Canberra, it’s probably at a fairly low priority.

"In our view [public transport] should, as part of the overall exercise, obviously be looked at favourably in the context of the holistic view of the legislation."

In contrast, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) is "very disappointed" by the Senate’s vote against CPRS.

ATA spokesman Bill McKinley says: "If emissions trading is not introduced, the trucking industry is likely to be lumbered with confusing, ad-hoc and complicated environmental regulations by the state and even local governments".

"The result would be a paperwork and compliance nightmare for trucking operators; it would make it harder and more expensive to meet Australia’s targets," he says.

BIC, Greens call for public transport focus
Apps says the bus and coach sector is not recognised as separate from the freight sector under the CPRS. Had the legislation been accepted by the Senate, buses would have been charged as heavy vehicles, resulting in increased costs and disincentives to travel on public transport.

"Our view from day one is that whatever emissions trading scheme they come up with, it needs to closely look at how public transport and the bus and coach industry is treated as environmentally-friendly industry rather than being impacted on in a way that increases the costs of operations for bus and coach operators, and therefore in effect doesn’t provide any incentives to leave their cars at home and take an alternative," Apps says.

"None of the political parties except for the Greens have actually said anything in relation to how public transport should be treated."

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam told Parliament the bus and coach industry was not recognised in the proposed emissions trading legislation as an environmentally positive industry.

"This is what the bus and coach industry are saying to us… the Government’s centre piece climate change legislation has been drafted to make public transport more expensive relative to private cars and this is not really an accident; it is something that has been known for many months."

The Australian Greens say the collapse of the CPRS presents Australia with the opportunity to "move ahead with meaningful climate action," a position Apps says BIC supports.

In a letter to Climate Change Minister Penny Wong and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the Greens have called on the Government to commence discussions on a suite of measures to begin reducing Australia's emissions immediately.

This includes bringing on the Renewable Energy Target legislation on Monday and moving towards a renewable energy feed-in tariff, forest protection, clean transport and comprehensive energy efficiency upgrades.

"The CPRS would have locked in failure on the climate crisis with its inexcusably weak emissions target and its $16 billion handout to polluters," Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, says.

"Three in four Australians support the Greens' decision to reject the bill if the government refused to toughen it up."

Business lobby calls for clarity
The Australian Industry Group (AI Group) says a number of important issues remain unresolved.

AI Group Chief Executive Heather Ridout says an agreement is needed in the interests of business certainty and the development of good policy for Australia.

"Ai Group will continue to negotiate in good faith to resolve outstanding issues and calls on all sides of politics to work the issues through to an acceptable conclusion so that these can be embodied in comprehensive legislation," she says.

The Ai Group is seeking changes including:

- Strengthening of measures for trade exposed businesses that do not receive support under the emissions intensive trade exposed (EITE) program. This includes early implementation of the Climate Change Action Fund;

- Refinements to measures targeted at EITE industries, including for the coal industry;

- Improved measures for the electricity generation sector to ensure the continuity of electricity supply in the transitional years; and

- A strong and effective assault on the regulatory overburden in the areas of emissions reduction and energy use.

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