Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 15, 2023



Hydrogen and Renewable Energy Bill

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 14 November 2023.)

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (11:03): I take the opportunity to thank all those who have made contributions so far on this bill. This is, after all, a bill that will have a profound impact on our state for our positive future. A number of comments were made during the second reading contributions, and I think it is fair to say that, during the briefings that have made on the bill to honourable members who have sought them, they have certainly been taken into account and we appreciate all of those who have been willing to provide feedback. My understanding is that most, if not all, of those have been addressed in some way.

I will be happy to provide more specific feedback on some of the comments that have been made when we go into the committee stage and look at the clause by clause discussions. However, I think this is a bill that, as the Hon. Mr Hanson referred to yesterday, has a lot of analogies in terms of the opportunities that we have going forward. Mr Hanson, of course, referred to a copper rush, I think, and that was following the discussion, or the observation, by the Hon. Mr Simms that this was potentially being referred to as a new gold rush.

What I think is particularly relevant is that there are the opportunities here for South Australia to be leading the way in many different ways. We talk about how Western Australia has had a boom in recent years, and the Premier has referred, as has been observed by members in this place, to the opportunities that, for example, Victoria had back in the 1800s. With the opportunities presented by hydrogen, there is the potential for South Australia to experience similar levels of growth, similar levels of investment in today's terms, and similar levels of excitement within the state.

This is something that as a state we should be proud of. This government is committed to renewable energy. We have a strong record already that we stand upon. We have a strong record in terms of solar energy. We have a strong record in terms of wind energy, and now we have the opportunity for hydrogen to similarly contribute to our credentials for renewable energy. Existing renewable project frameworks have served the state well, helping us to reach over 70 per cent renewable energy, and it is clear—

There being a disturbance:

The PRESIDENT: Minister, sit down for a sec. I have a good idea, the Hon. Mr Wortley: take it outside. That is now warning number 20. It was 19 yesterday. Today is 20. I can see a privileges committee coming on.

The Hon. R.P. Wortley: Is that a threat?


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: I will say again—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN: Existing renewable energy projects and frameworks have served this state well, helping us to reach over 70 per cent renewable energy, and it is clear that the world is headed for a new wave of large-scale hydrogen and renewable energy development.

Gigawatt-scale renewable energy projects are necessary to manufacture green hydrogen, which can be used as renewable energy firming, closing the gap in renewables that is currently met by gas and interconnection with coal-addicted states. This change in scale and complexity demands a single end-to-end framework that can consider the needs of the environment, landowners, communities and the state's strategic and economic ambitions.

We already have dedicated regulatory frameworks for other natural resources like minerals and gas, but we are missing a dedicated framework for one of our highest quality natural resources: our world-class wind and solar. In response to the Leader of the Opposition in this place yesterday, who asked why this is needed, that is exactly why it is needed: an apolitical, technology agnostic, regulatory framework to govern large-scale hydrogen and renewable energy projects.

To the north-west of Port Augusta and Whyalla, we have some of the most abundant prospective wind and solar resources, not just in this country but in the world. These are the best examples of coincident wind and solar resources that you will find anywhere, the kind of resources one might say other countries only dream of. It is almost the equivalent of finding oil in Saudi Arabia, in addition to what we mentioned earlier, such as finding gold in Victoria. That is why we have seen sudden interest from international investors, following global geopolitical events which have outlined or even underlined the need to diversify supply chains and move away from traditional fuels.

Our regulators are renowned globally, so they relish the opportunity to draft fit-for-purpose legislation. The consultation, I am advised, has been comprehensive. Certainly, the minister in the other place considered it was perhaps the most comprehensive consultation that he has witnessed on a bill. The government released an issues paper in late 2022 and a resultant draft bill was released in May 2023, with the government receiving nearly 200 submissions throughout the consultation.

Since the beginning, the advice of our First Nations people was sought on the design of the reforms. The state hosted two South Australian Aboriginal Renewable Energy Forums in Port Augusta—one in November 2022 and the second in March 2023—to understand the issues and challenges impacting on Aboriginal groups and to discuss opportunities to work together on the development of renewable energy.

There was a regional visit, dedicated workshop and follow-up online webinar delivered for the pastoral community to support quality engagement with the government on the draft bill. A total of 18 information sessions were conducted across South Australia's regions during consultation. Two online webinars were held and recorded, with over 200 recorded attendees. There were dozens of meetings with key stakeholders and individuals and an extensive conversation, which will continue once this bill does pass—in the event, of course, that it does, which is our hope.

The government will continue to work with all stakeholders and rights holders to develop the associated regulations and to move forward in identifying the first release areas for competitive tender under this framework. This landmark legislation gives South Australia a real opportunity to help decarbonise the world.

Hydrogen for renewable energy firming is just one application, and there are other applications that can further our decarbonisation efforts. Steel, for instance, accounts for between 12 and 15 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. There is no foreseeable future anywhere in the world where steel is phased out and we stop using it. Steel needs to be decarbonised, but presently it is hard to abate. One method to abate it is by using green hydrogen.

South Australia has the world's best magnetite resources to the west of Whyalla, and locally we have a population that has social licence and is well trained. The projects made possible by this legislation could allow South Australian companies to decarbonise those products here and export them to those countries using our vast renewable resources, using our vast magnetite resources, using our smelters and ports to export a decarbonised product that will not attract looming carbon import taxes.

Both domestic and international steelmakers need hydrogen-based iron to reduce their carbon footprint, to help achieve the global goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. South Australia is one of the few locations in the world where renewable energy and iron ore sources are co-located, putting the state in a prime position for boosting export potential of green iron or green steel. This proposed legislation is a sensible and necessary step to achieving our decarbonisation aspirations, and I commend it to the chamber.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Pangallo, you are on your feet.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: Yes, I am. Mr President, I am not on the list to speak.

The PRESIDENT: No. The Hon. Mr Pangallo, the debate has been concluded. If you wish to make a contribution, if we get to clause 1 that would be your opportunity to make a contribution.

Bill read a second time.

Referred to Select Committee

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (11:13): By leave, I move contingent notice of motion No. 3 in an amended form:

1. That the bill be referred to a select committee of the Legislative Council for inquiry and report.

2. That the committee consist of six members and that the quorum of members necessary to be present at all meetings of the committee be fixed at four members.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

I have already outlined in my second reading speech the rationale for this committee, but to make it very clear to this council, the Greens have always been open-minded on the proposal that the government has put. Indeed, my default position when it was canvassed during the election was to be supportive in principle of the proposal, but we always said we wanted to see the detail. We did try over many months to get briefings with the government. We did eventually secure one and that was a welcome breakthrough for us, but it would have been good to have had the opportunity to dive into this bill in more detail.

That is why I will be moving to refer this on to a committee, so that there is an opportunity for the parliament to scrutinise in greater detail the implications of this bill. What are the implications for the environment? What are the potential implications for native title? What are the implications for our economy and do the benefits stack up? What do the individual provisions of the bill mean? How do they interact?

I think there is a dangerous precedent being established in this parliament; that is, when the government has big picture projects, they seek to rush them through with limited scrutiny. I really urge crossbenchers in considering this proposal to consider their role in this place. It is not the role of the crossbench to acquiesce to the government of the day. People do not vote for crossbench members because they want them to simply wave through the legislation the government presents. They vote for a crossbench because they want bills scrutinised.

This is not about trying to delay or stymie the government; it is about ensuring that we do our due diligence as a parliament and consider a significant proposal, so I urge crossbenchers in particular to turn their minds to their role when they consider this question.

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (11:16): I want to remind members of what I said just a few minutes ago in the summing-up around how much consultation has happened on this. That was consultation with stakeholders and with the general public, all of which we have all had an opportunity to be part of in addition to formal briefings within the parliament on the final draft bill, so therefore the government will be opposing this motion.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (11:17): I rose yesterday in support of Mr Simms's contingency motion, and I rise again today to reiterate that support. I also reiterate Robert Simms's call to the crossbench.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Robert Simms.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Apologies; the Hon. Robert Simms. I urge the crossbench to think very carefully about their decision today on this contingency motion. This bill is an incredibly technical bill. I note that we were receiving amendments filed by numerous members only just yesterday on this bill. I think many of us have not had an opportunity to really consider those amendments properly, and I think that, certainly from the opposition's point of view, it is absolutely pertinent that this parliament do its due diligence when it comes to these significant bills, bills that have the power to, in particular, have significant impact on landholder and landowner rights. So I again urge the crossbench to think about that when they are considering the Hon. Rob Simms's contingency motion.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (11:18): I rise briefly to address the comments that have just been made. If it has to be said in relation to amendments, I would urge the opposition to heed the same advice that has just been provided to us.

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C. BONAROS: No, we have had this issue time and time again when it comes to amendments being filed in the same week that we deal with a bill.

The Hon. N.J. Centofanti interjecting:


The Hon. C. BONAROS: I urge the opposition to not make a suggestion that anyone on this crossbench has not done their due diligence just because they do not agree with you, and with respect, in this instance, with the Hon. Robert Simms. That does not mean that we have not done—I have not done—my due diligence. If that is the suggestion—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. C. BONAROS: If that is the suggestion of the opposition, then I will remind you of every occasion that you have come in here and made a decision that suits you. I have done my due diligence. I have looked at the work and I am not going to be criticised by you about the work that I have done on this issue. Other members in this place can speak for themselves. I speak for me and I will not take a criticism from the Hon. Nicola Centofanti, or indeed anyone else in here, about whether or not I have done my due diligence.

The PRESIDENT: I am going to put the question that the motion in the name of the Hon. Mr Simms be agreed to.

The Hon. C. Bonaros: And we don't need the smirks either.

The PRESIDENT: You can actually be silent, thanks, while I am speaking.

The council divided on the motion:

Ayes 6

Noes 9

Majority 3


Centofanti, N.J. Girolamo, H.M. Henderson, L.A.
Hood, B.R. Lee, J.S. Simms, R.A. (teller)


Bonaros, C. Bourke, E.S. Game, S.L.
Hunter, I.K. Maher, K.J. Ngo, T.T.
Pangallo, F. Scriven, C.M. (teller) Wortley, R.P.


Hood, D.G.E. Martin, R.B. Lensink, J.M.A.
Hanson, J.E. Franks, T.A. El Dannawi, M.

Motion thus negatived.