Can the Direct Action Plan be blocked in the Senate?

Parliament house flag post
Senate chamber

Can the Direct Action Plan be blocked in the Senate?

Posted 24/04/2014 by Alex St John

The leader of the Palmer United Party (PUP), Clive Palmer, has this week expressed an intention not to support the Abbott Government’s Direct Action Plan, the Coalition’s climate change policy, in light of reports that the Government was planning to tighten eligibility for the aged pension. Mr Palmer has suggested that his party would block the policy in the Senate when three PUP senators take their seats after the first of July. The Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, cast doubt on this by saying that the Direct Action Plan will be part of the federal Budget, which is traditionally passed by the Senate. Mr Palmer replied that PUP could ‘reconsider its stance’ on passing the repeals of the carbon pricing mechanism and the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, if this happened. So which parts of Direct Action will actually need to be passed by the Senate?

There are a number of elements to the Direct Action Plan, although the details of many parts of the policy are still under development by the Government. The best information on the policy comes from the Green Paper on the Emissions Reduction Fund, and a speech given by Minister Hunt in December 2013. These elements include:

The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF): a competitive tender process through which the Government will purchase greenhouse gas emissions abatement from Australian entities at the lowest available price. This will be a grants program costing $1.55 billion over its first three years, which could be set up in a number of ways:

(a) It could be enabled through new legislation that appropriates funds for the program and sets out how it will operate at a basic level – examples of this include the Automotive Transformation Scheme and the Steel Transformation Plan;

(b) It could be appropriated through the Budget process, and set up by regulations that operate under existing legislation (an example is the Clean Technology Investment Program, which was appropriated for in the budget process, and administered by regulations made under the Industry and Research Development Act 1986;

(c) It could be appropriated through the Budget, and administered under ministerial direction, without any specific legislation – like the Ethanol Production Grant Scheme.

If the ERF is set up under option (a), legislation must be passed by the new Senate to set up the fund, requiring the support of PUP, the Australian Labor Party or the Australian Greens. If option (b) is used, the regulations used to set up the fund could be disallowed by either house. If option (c) is used, the only way for the Senate to block it is to refuse to pass the Government’s appropriation bills, otherwise known as ‘blocking supply’, which is a highly unusual event. Although option (c) may be the most expedient way to appropriate money, governments may use the other options to set up grant schemes to ensure good governance, or place legal requirements on scheme participants (like the Green Army scheme).

Emissions safeguard mechanism (baselines): Under the DAP, entities will be prevented from emitting large amounts of greenhouse gases once the carbon price is repealed by the setting of ‘emissions baselines’, which entities must not exceed. Although the collection of emissions data is already provided for under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System, new legislation will be required to impose baselines on emitters and compliance measures  for exceeding them. The emissions safeguard mechanism are an essential part of the DAP; in the absence of financial constraints on emissions (a carbon price), these safeguards are necessary to ensure that any emissions reductions achieved through the ERF are not cancelled out by increased emissions from other emitters.

One million solar roofs: Part of the DAP is to provide $500 rebates to install an additional one million solar hot water heaters or photovoltaic systems over ten years, at a cost of $500 million. Like the ERF, this scheme could be set up by legislation or by administrative measures. Previous schemes to provide these rebates have generally been set up administratively, with funds appropriated through the Budget process, not requiring passage of separate legislation.

Solar schools and towns and twenty million trees: These elements of the DAP will provide for the installation of solar panels in schools and towns, and for the planting of twenty million new trees in green corridors and urban forests. Few details have been released about how these schemes will operate, but it is likely that they could be set up through the Budget.

So the only part of the DAP that will certainly require enabling legislation (beyond the appropriations bills) to be passed by the Senate is the provision of emissions safeguards. Whether the new Senate will oppose any or all of the measures is a story that is still unfolding.


  • 28/04/2014 9:22 AM
    Jeremy Dore said:

    If the Government wishes to change the existing Carbon Farming Initiative in any way, they will need legislation as it is an act of Parliament.

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration parliament climate change Australian foreign policy elections social security welfare reform welfare policy school education Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force health financing taxation women Private health insurance higher education emissions trading Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking statistics Middle East illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations Asia politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour transport aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Industrial Relations Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health Senate Australian Public Service constitution Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection environment poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention aged care 43rd Parliament slavery health system OECD ASADA Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Fair Work Act governance labour force people smuggling debt international relations New Zealand food Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme electoral reform Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking International Women's Day corruption pensions public service reform children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability parliamentary procedure Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment multiculturalism Youth Allowance sea farers leadership military history by-election political parties High Court skilled migration voting mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations accountability youth paid parental leave same sex relationships coal seam gas customs planning doping crime health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy Productivity United Kingdom firearms public policy Population violence against women domestic violence China ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council Australian economy forestry food labelling vocational education and training Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report energy social inclusion human rights paternalism election timetable citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy trade unions export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry regulation Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage rural and regional alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran ANZUS regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers sitting days First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra environmental law federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top