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Speech: Hydrogen and Renewable Energy

Speech: Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill - YouTube 

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I rise today to speak also on the Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill, noting that there is a crossover of portfolios within the Greens between myself and my colleague, the Hon. Robert Simms. The Hon. Robert Simms, of course, is the lead on this as he holds the energy portfolio, but I hold the Aboriginal affairs and environment portfolios and so will have not only a contribution to make today but amendments that have already been filed to debate.

The first ever hydrogen test station in Australia opened in December 2018. Evoenergy was opened in Fyshwick in Canberra, under the watch of the Greens' energy minister. I am not surprised to see these technologies, which ought to be based on renewable energy, being developed under a Greens government there in that territory. But the Greens know that hydrogen, of course, does come in many colours, many forms—a rainbow of colours, as the Hon. Robert Simms alluded to—and those colours require different technologies to produce.

We cannot go down the path of using fossil fuels at all in any form in the future. The Greens do not support the use of carbon capturing storage techniques for the creation of hydrogen as a fuel,
but we do support and encourage the development of renewable energy hydrogen fuels. It is clear that a fuel like hydrogen is a beneficial fuel for the future, as long as it is based on renewable energy, as long as it is not based on carbon capture and storage emissions.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) produced a report in September 2018 called 'Hydrogen from renewable power: technology outlook for the energy transition'. That report also makes the point that to achieve the targets in the Paris Agreement, the global energy system must undergo a profound transformation from one largely based on fossil fuels to an efficient and renewable low-carbon energy system.

The report says that over 95 per cent of current hydrogen production is fossil fuel based. Only around 4 per cent of global hydrogen supply is produced by electrolysis. We need to change that balance dramatically so that we are no longer reliant on fossil fuel-based hydrogen production, but we look instead to renewable energy as the basis for that production.

It is being sold to us that this legislation is designed to act as a regulatory framework and to streamline the process for companies wanting to invest in such projects in our state of South Australia, creating a single regulatory process for matters such as land access, native title and environmental impacts. That would be a good thing, but the further we delve into this legislation, and the more we talk to those stakeholders who the government say are happy with this legislation, the more we find there are concerns being raised, the more we also see a failure of this bill to truly balance the rights between those of the state, landowners and future proponents, particularly in my portfolio areas of environment and Aboriginal affairs.

The Greens are not satisfied with the current proposed protections in this bill—or really the lack thereof—and a 'Trust us, we are the government; we will put in the regulations'. This is not good
enough and that is not good governance. Renewable power is an essential tool to reduce climate change in future years. However, we do know that biodiversity is our most vital natural defence
against climate change. The two go hand in hand.

Our Crown lands, particularly our coastal fringes and riparian zones in agricultural regions, contain the majority of remnant vegetation, providing refugia to hundreds of critically endangered species and stabilising our coastline. These provide linkages to allow species to move in response to climate stress, generating new land to buffer our landscape against sea level rise, sequestering vast amounts of organic carbon, fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere, cleaning water inputs into our oceans, preventing algal blooms, reducing the effects of ocean warming, and providing key nursery habitat for the majority of our consumptive fish species. We cannot get this wrong.

Here in South Australia, we are leading the nation in that reform, so we must set the standard as high as possible. As such, I will be moving some amendments today in this debate to help raise that bar. Specifically, the Greens will be moving an amendment to include the environmental impact assessment criteria within the legislation itself—not leaving it to the minister to decide later on via
regulations. That would be the trust that we would need to trust the government.

This is built upon the intergovernmental agreement on the environment and will place specific obligations on the department to take into account factors such as biological diversity, best management practices, feedback made directly by landholders, the greater public interest, and any relevant integrated environmental management system or proposed integrated environmental management system. It is something we have signed up to within this nation, so we see no reason why the government would oppose such an agreement that apparently we have already made.

We believe, in the Greens, that that agreement and those standards should be set in the act, not put in the regulations. There is no reason for these considerations to be left to the power of a
minister under those regulations. These will be high-impact projects that have the potential to negatively impact our cherished landscapes, unique wildlife and cultural heritage. It cannot be left to chance as to the attitude of a minister or a government, a future government, on a particular day; it must be set by the parliament. Let us put into law a framework for promoting sustainable.
development, safeguarding ecosystems for present and, of course, future generations.

Another amendment I will be moving as part of this debate will be to include a general duty of care clause to provide protection against both a risk of harm and future harm, provide additional
statutory protections for biodiversity, mitigate the effects of climate change and further protect environmental harm. Our government's role is to protect the long-term interests of the South Australian population, not just mining companies or entrepreneurial types. This legislation is crucial. It must hit the sweet spot between encouraging investment, alternative power generation and protecting our other natural resources assets, climate change adaption strategies and cultural values.

The Greens firmly believe that this cannot be done without the amendments that we are putting forward. We do thank those stakeholders within the environment movement who have reached out to our offices and provided advice as to where they see the flaws in this legislation. Of course, an inquiry would allow the community more broadly to have a much more thoughtful and transparent conversation about where this legislation has further to go.

I note that in terms of the discussions with First Nations groups there were a number of forums and feedback was taken in those forums. In my briefing on this bill I asked, in terms of the feedback given by First Nations stakeholders, what had been the response from government. I was sent a copy of the feedback from First Nations respondents, which I had already seen on the website, and I would say to the government that consultation is a feedback loop.

It is not just allowing people to say what their problems are, it is also suggesting the solutions as the government sees them and then getting a feedback loop going on whether or not the
proponents—in this case the First Nations people—agree with that or disagree with it. It does not mean, as a member of parliament, if there is disagreement with what the government proposes that that will necessarily see the Greens either support or oppose the government, but it does allow a proper feedback loop and the transparency and thoughtfulness that this debate deserves.

What I would say is that all the way through the First Nations feedback, I see that Aboriginal groups need funds, resources and good legal advice for equal participation—I do not see that guaranteed here and there is a need to reform the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988 and the recognised Aboriginal representative bodies, which are known as RARBs. Agan and again this is raised. It needs to be clear that even the amended Aboriginal Heritage Act (AHA) is inappropriate and that until that is fixed up you cannot unscramble some of the problems that currently exist.

I accept that there are ways forward here that the Department for Energy and Mining is progressing with, but time and time again we have seen Aboriginal groups raise a concern about the Aboriginal Heritage Act and its workings, and we have an inquiry that was undertaken by the Aboriginal Lands Parliamentary Standing Committee into Aboriginal heritage which raised some of those same concerns and which has called for reform. I note that I believe we still have yet to see any further RARBs in the last several years and until we see reform of those processes, and indeed recognition of those RARBs, I do not believe that we are hitting the sweet spot that we need to in terms of First Nations groups.

Certainly, with the environment the feedback that we have had is that this is an opportunity that we have to get right. It is better to take a little bit more time and get it right than be left with the legacy of a rushed piece of legislation that did not really respond to concerns raised and did not really do what we were promised on the box, and that is to deliver green hydrogen projects for this state,
not the rainbow of other colours.

The Greens certainly will be fighting for the best legislation that we can possibly see, whether that is through an inquiry or through a series of amendments in the committee stage, or a combination
of the two. We do hope to see our state flourish, but we need to ensure these protections. With that, I look forward to hopefully seeing an inquiry set up that can report back to the parliament in the new year. It need not take more than a few months and certainly, given we are having a summer break, there can be hard work done by some committee members on that, including the Hon. Robert Simms, my colleague. With that, I look forward to the progress of this debate today.

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