Crossbench MP predicts ‘welcome’ car emissions change as climate negotiations continue

An independent MP says she understands the government will ‘‘welcome’’ her legislation introducing fuel efficiency standards for cars as it continues to negotiate on climate change targets to be introduced to Parliament next week.

Legislation for a 43 per cent emissions reduction target will be introduced to Parliament next week.

On Thursday Energy Minister Chris Bowen spoke again to members of the crossbench about their proposed additions to the bill.

North Sydney MP Kylea Tink told The New Daily that negotiations had been positive and already fruitful.

She said the government was now referring to its emissions target as a “floor”, one she expected initiatives such as a future bill on fuel efficiency standards to be added.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that the government is open to initiatives over and above which may not currently be calculated into that 43 per cent,” Ms Tink said.

“I am under the understanding that that private members’ bill, when we bring it forward, will be welcomed and it will be seen as a positive development in the overall framework.”

Late last year Labor formally dumped a commitment to developing fuel emissions standards the party had taken to the 2019 election and which had been attacked by former prime minister Scott Morrison.

Mr Bowen’s office did not respond to a written question asking if the private members’ bill had been raised during discussions or if the government had signalled its likely support for it.

Fuel emissions on agenda

Ms Tink committed to introducing the fuel emissions bill at the recent election and said work was continuing on the “key elements” of the legislation.

“It’s very early days,” she said.

She did not go into further detail about the expectation her bill would receive support.

Ms Tink was one of half a dozen independent MPs who challenged Coalition MPs with climate-focused campaigns and who are now providing input on the government’s signature climate bill before Parliament convenes on Tuesday.

Ms Tink said she was advocating for clarity on handling the progressive increase – or “ratcheting” – of targets under the Paris Agreement and to beef up the annual climate statement energy ministers will be required to make to Parliament .

“I believe a number of those suggestions that we put forward are being taken on board by the government,” she said.

“They are now talking about referencing the fact that future carbon emissions reduction targets need to be science-based […and] looking to re-empower the Climate Change Authority, which I think is a good thing for our nation.”

The Greens, who have the balance of power in the Senate and whose support will be needed to pass the bill, have been critical of the government’s approach to negotiations which leader Adam Bandt suggested amounted to a “my way or the highway” approach.

The party wants a ban on new coal mines. 

The Greens say the government’s refusal to rule out their approval will undercut broader climate targets. 

“We’re not here to pass a bill and feel good and have some confetti drop from the ceiling,” new Greens Senator David Shoebridge told the ABC on Thursday. 

“We’re here to pass legislation that keeps coal and gas in the ground and keeps future generations as safe as we possibly can.”

Despite the government’s majority in the lower house, independents’ more positive accounts of negotiations to date suggest they are already having influence in the new Parliament.

Zoe Daniel
Teal independent Zoe Daniel has called the government’s 43 per cent target inadequate.

Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel this week issued a statement saying the government’s 43 per cent target was inadequate after the release of a report showing major environmental losses in Australia.

But she says her engagements with the government on climate policy and a forthcoming anti-corruption commission have been held in a spirit of “bipartisan problem solving”.

“I have a responsibility to articulate the views of my electorate on something like climate policy, and my electorate wants more ambitious action,” Ms Daniel said.

“But that said, I understand the government’s position as well.

“Perhaps you can’t fully satisfy both of those positions. But there are compromises I think that we can come to, that will enable us to move forward together without having to be combative.”

Climate targets priority

The government’s slim majority also means the independents could fast come to hold the balance of power.

There have been more than three by-elections on average for every Parliament.

The Electric Vehicle Council’s CEO Behyad Jafari said every developed nation except Australia and Russia had laws mandating fuel efficiency.

They were considered by the Coalition during Malcolm Turnbull’s prime ministership but dropped.

“Introducing the stricter standard that they were looking at at the time, which was in line with the United States, would save a car driver over $500 a year,” he said.

“That’s as well as saving some $29 billion to 2030 through less imports of fuel in the first place, as well as dramatically cutting emissions.”

The government is seeking the passage of its climate targets by the end of the first fortnight of Parliament.

It can introduce the targets without MPs’ backing via regulation but wants Parliament’s backing for greater action on climate change.