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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3954

Senator FAULKNER (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate)(10.37 a.m) —Briefly in reply, Senator Parer could just have easily provided us with a video tape of his contribution when we had the debate on this particular disallowance last year. It is the same tired old arguments presented in the same tired old way. He is perhaps a little less enthusiastic this time than he managed on the last occasion.

Senator Parer —Oh, I thought it was all right!

Senator FAULKNER —Maybe you are right; perhaps for you that was enthusiastic. It is hard to believe if that is the case. Senator Parer accuses the opposition of hypocrisy on the environment.

Senator Parer —No, on export controls.

Senator FAULKNER —On export controls. It is a little rough having those allegations made by the Howard government whose record on the environment and export controls would be one of concern to very many Australians. This is the government that went to the last election after Mr Howard and the then environment spokesman, Senator Kemp, traipsed through a forest in Victoria and promised the world to those who were interested in the environment in Australia.

What have they delivered? A record level of export woodchips; all but given the green light to uranium mining adjacent to the world heritage Kakadu National Park; given Hinchinbrook the go ahead; made cuts to energy efficiency; and stated its position in relation to greenhouse gas emissions, the control of greenhouse gas emissions and the issue of climate change in the international community. This is the same government that has cut the environment budget by $55 million over three years and has dramatically slashed core environment funding when it promised something very different through the National Heritage Trust.

We hear from Senator Parer that the opposition is hypocritical. But I would have thought that senators in this chamber and many outside this chamber have every reason to be concerned at the hypocrisy of this government and the way they deceived the Australian people prior to the election in relation to their environment commitment—the way that Senator Brown correctly has described some in the environment movement as being conned by the government.

I said very frankly and honestly in my earlier contribution proposing that these regulations be disallowed that we see the export controls as an inadequate mechanism for environmental protection in this country. I do not resile from that. I acknowledge their deficiency, but in so many areas it is the only opportunity the Commonwealth government has to exercise its judgment and its responsibilities in relation to the protection of Australia's environment. I do not accept that state governments in Australia have the necessary level of the environmental commitment that is required for the protection of the Australian environment.

It is true that the former Labor administration put in place many mechanisms, including as Senator Parer says the intergovernmental agreement on the environment and a raft of legislation to ensure that Australia's environment is protected. But you never saw the previous Labor administration proposing that these export controls be lifted, because we acknowledged their importance in this area—however inadequate and however deficient they might be. We believe it is important that the Commonwealth government have a role.

I believe that this would be a retrograde step for the Commonwealth if it were to abolish these export controls. It would have serious consequences for the protection of the Australian environment. The only objective and rational conclusion that we can come to, having seen the performance of this government in office and its lack of environmental commitment, is that the Commonwealth has to hold on to every power it has to protect the environment. I simply do not trust the Howard government. I simply do not trust the ministers in the Howard government like Senator Hill and Senator Parer to do to right thing.

Senator Parer —How unkind.

Senator FAULKNER —I do not trust you and I for one, on behalf of the opposition, am not willing to give you even further powers to abrogate your national responsibilities in this area. Your record is abysmal; it is disgraceful. You should be ashamed of yourself and I would urge the Senate to maintain a consistent position and support the disallowance of these regulations.

   Question put:

   That the motion (Senator Faulkner's ) be agreed to.