Climate policy push heats up as parliament returns

Paul Osborne |

The Albanese government will seek to get its signature climate policy through parliament in the final sitting before the budget.

MPs and senators return to Canberra on Monday for a fortnight-long sitting, with the lower house due to debate and pass the safeguard mechanism bill.

Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen says he is “quietly confident” of getting the bill through the Senate, as negotiations continue with the Greens and crossbench senators whose vote will be needed.

Mr Bowen says the aim of mechanism – which applies to the 215 biggest emitters in the country – is to reduce emissions by 205 million tonnes by 2030, as the government seeks to achieve its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Greens leader Adam Bandt wants the government to end coal and gas development as part of the bill.

“We are yet to hear a convincing explanation from the government about why they want to open coal and gas mines in the middle of a climate crisis,” he said on Friday.

The government also plans to introduce in the coming fortnight laws setting out the wording of a constitutional change for an Indigenous voice.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is aiming to have the bill voted on in June, following a short parliamentary inquiry into it, with a referendum between October and December.

Ahead of the main referendum bill being introduced, the government is seeking to finalise separate laws setting out rules around the distribution of referendum information and political donations.

However, there are a myriad of proposed crossbench amendments which could hold up the machinery bill.

Labor also hopes to progress its draft laws to set up a Housing Australia Future Fund in the Senate, following the tabling of a report on Wednesday.

Mr Bandt will bring on a bill on Monday which would give workers the “right to disconnect” from their jobs when they clock off for the day.

Workers in a number of industries have sought to have such clauses included in enterprise agreements, ending what has been described as “availability creep” – being compelled to answer emails and other messages at home.

The Greens also want the government to release the details of how the nuclear regulator has worked with the task force in charge of the multi-billion dollar AUKUS submarine program.

With the NSW state election due on March 25, it is expected key issues in the most populous state – such as roads and health – will be raised.

The coalition will seek to set up a Senate inquiry into how Labor has handled grants to improve coverage in mobile phone black spots.