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Monday, 19 June 2000
Page: 15073

Senator QUIRKE (2:17 PM) —My question is to Senator Hill, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Does the minister stand by his statement at the last round of estimates that a `greenhouse trigger' is essential if we are to meet our Kyoto target commitments? Given that government undertakings in relation to a greenhouse trigger were part of the deal with the Democrats to get the government's environmental legislation through the Senate, will the minister deliver on those undertakings and his own public statements about a trigger, or will he bow to pressure from the Deputy Prime Minister, Senator Minchin and others and abandon this proposal?

Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I am glad Senator Quirke has time for questions. He has obviously now pulled the knife out of Senator Schacht's back and he can get back to real business.

Senator HILL —Senator Bolkus intervenes! Of course, it was the pincer move-ment between the left and the right, with poor Senator Schacht the victim. We on this side think that Senator Schacht was treated extremely poorly, Senator Quirke. Although Senator Quirke has returned to the table, I think he has somewhat misquoted what I said in the estimates committee. Let us check the Hansard because I do not recall saying that I believed it was essential. What I would have said is that it would have been a useful—

Senator Carr —What you should have said!

Senator HILL —What I would have said is in all likelihood what I did say. What I would have said is that it would be a useful tool for the federal government because of course the federal government is the level of government that has accepted obligations under the Kyoto protocol.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Senator Faulkner! Senator Bolkus! I draw your attention to the standing orders.

Senator HILL —Under a greenhouse trigger major developments planned, very high emission developments—I am talking about very large developments, the equivalent of 10 per cent of total increased emissions in Australia within each year—would come to the Commonwealth government for analysis as to their greenhouse conse-quences. As a result of that, the Commonwealth government might well provide input to the developer, which could lead to modifications of the project and perhaps a better greenhouse outcome. That is what a Commonwealth greenhouse trigger would be all about.

The government has commenced a process of consultation with the states pursuant to the COAG agreement entered into between the Commonwealth and the states that set out matters of national environmental significance ultimately included under the current EPBC Act. That process of consultation is taking place. A paper was written by a consultant and distributed to all interested parties. Many submissions were received on it. As a result of that, a preferred model was developed, which was then distributed to the states for further consultation. That is the stage the matter has reached. When consultations have been completed, I will take to cabinet a final preferred model which will best meet the wishes of government if it seeks to introduce a regulatory greenhouse trigger as a matter of national environmental significance. That is the process that is taking place. Nothing has changed thereunder. If Senator Quirke remains patient, he will find out the final outcome in due course.

Senator QUIRKE —Madam President, I have a supplementary question. Is it true that the Minister for the Environment and Heritage is eventually to be stripped of responsibility for greenhouse matters and that this responsibility will be taken over by Senator Minchin? Does the minister propose to implement his greenhouse trigger before Senator Minchin takes over? How is Mr Brindal's health, Minister?

Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —How is Mr Brindal's health?

Senator Quirke —You in your office, knifing Brindal.

Senator HILL —Don't you talk about knives, Senator! Look at Senator Schacht. I could say that Australia's domestic response to the greenhouse challenge is as good as, if not better than, that of any country in the world. We are proud of what we have done since the end of 1997 to modify the Australian economy in different ways so that we can meet the target we agreed to at Kyoto—a fair target. We are pleased that we have a ministerial council which includes all relevant ministers, including Senator Minchin, and which is guiding the Australian Greenhouse Office towards the implementation of the best mix of policies to achieve the target that Australia committed to. That is what this debate is all about—Australia paying a fair price for moving towards a better global outcome. (Time expired)