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Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Page: 85

Mr RIPOLL (3:22 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the State of the environment report released today shows there has been a significant increase in sea surface temperatures since 1950? Does the Prime Minister also agree that, if this continues, it represents a serious threat to the Great Barrier Reef, which is not only an environmental icon but also responsible for supporting the livelihoods of 200,000 Australians and a tourism industry worth $4.3 billion annually?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Oxley for his question. As I indicated in answer to the Leader of the Opposition, the report that was released today indicated a number of things, including some of the things referred to by both the member for Oxley and the Leader of the Opposition. It is true that this country faces significant environmental challenges. That is why it is absolutely fundamental that we have a proper debate with every idea and every response on the table, not a debate that ideologically rejects out of blind prejudice and ignorance consideration of one source of environmentally clean energy generation—namely, nuclear power. Anybody who understands anything about this debate would have to acknowledge, politics aside, that the way forward for this country, if we are to maintain our economic growth, is to have power generation based on cleaner use of coal and other clean environmentally friendly alternatives, and that has to include nuclear power. The member for Batman knows that, and I invite the member for Batman to talk to the member for Oxley and to educate him on some of the relevant issues.

Mr Ripoll —Relevance would be good.

The SPEAKER —The member for Oxley has asked his question.

Mr HOWARD —You cannot look at the environmental challenges of this country through ideological blinkers, and that is essentially what the Australian Labor Party is doing. I am very proud of the things that this government has done for the environment. When I answered the question from the Leader of the Opposition I really did not do the government’s performance justice. For example, I did not mention that in the last budget we had a historic additional investment of $500 million to restore the health of the Murray and I did not remind the House that we have spent over $2 billion in relation to measures designed inter alia to meet our Kyoto target of 108 per cent. I point out that we are one of the few OECD countries and the only non-nuclear OECD country which is currently on track. Let me say that again: we are one of the few OECD countries and the only non-nuclear OECD country currently on track to either meet or go very close to meeting our Kyoto target. Today, for example, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage and the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources announced $13 million for eight renewable energy projects under the government’s renewable energy development initiative.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat.

Mr HOWARD —I am perfectly happy to sit down, Mr Speaker.

The SPEAKER —I have not given the member for Oxley the call yet.

Mr HOWARD —You have not? I am sitting down anyway.

The SPEAKER —Does the member for Oxley wish to raise a point of order?

Mr Ripoll —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The response by the Prime Minister has nothing at all to do with the question I asked.

The SPEAKER —The member for Oxley will resume his seat. I call the honourable the Prime Minister.

Mr Ripoll interjecting

Mr HOWARD —What is your problem? I was being courteous: I sat down because you were on your feet.

The SPEAKER —The Prime Minister is in order. I call the honourable the Prime Minister.

Mr HOWARD —I thought that was good manners, but if you would like me to continue to stand up all the time I am happy to do so.

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The member for Swan is warned!

Mr HOWARD —Who did you warn, Mr Speaker?

An opposition member—Swan, not you.

Mr HOWARD —Swan—not me, I hope. I sometimes do not hear these things, Mr Speaker. Let me just remind the House that, amongst the many things that we have done, we have a commitment to low emissions technology that has been demonstrated through the $500 million Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, the $75 million Solar Cities program and the $100 million investment in the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. We have already announced a large number of the allocations. We have announced three solar cities—Adelaide, Townsville and Blacktown—and they will install some 3,000 photovoltaic panels. They will assist more than 230,000 residents and businesses in learning how to reduce their energy use and to save money. They will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 64,000 tonnes each year and save their communities $9 million a year in electricity bills.

We have made a massive investment in the water fund to the tune of $2 billion. A lot of that money has already been allocated, and the member for Wentworth is in discussion with the states about some of the larger projects that they have put forward. Water is the great environmental challenge that this country has, and we are examining those projects. I welcome the release of the State of the environment report because it has given me an opportunity, courtesy of questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Oxley, to tell the House and, through the House, the Australian people of the magnificent more than $10 billion program this government has had over the last five years. It is a figure that I do not think many Australians would be conscious of, but over the last five years we have invested $10.5 billion in environmental projects. I warmly thank the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Oxley for the opportunity to remind the Australian people of that achievement.