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Tuesday, 15 August 2000
Page: 16359

Senator BROWN (4:14 PM) —I want to reiterate what I said last night in regard to this legislation. What we have here is a so-called trigger mechanism, which would mean that the federal government and the Minister for the Environment and Heritage would be required to make an assessment of any project in Australia that was a big producer of greenhouse gases. The obvious need for this trigger comes from the fact that, despite Australia getting the laxest conditions of all under the Kyoto agreement whereby we can increase pollution through greenhouse gases by up to eight per cent over 1990 levels by the year 2010, the federal government, in particular the minister for the environment and the Prime Minister, have been totally remiss in doing anything constructive, in making any real contribution towards reducing Australia's greenhouse gas situation. By the year 1998—that is, halfway through the period of the Kyoto agreement—Australia was producing 18 per cent more greenhouse gases than the 1990 levels. That is, it had overshot the increase permitted by more than 100 per cent under this minister for the environment, this do-nothing minister for the environment.

We have here a trigger mechanism which says, `You'll have to at least do something about such things as new power stations and new massive vegetation clearance projects, which produce greenhouse gases; new highways, which lead to an increase in greenhouse gas production; and so on.' It is a responsible sort of move that has been in place for years in many European countries. The Labor Party says, `Let's restrict it to new projects which are going to introduce more than half a million tonnes of carbon dioxide or its equivalent into the atmosphere each year.' The Democrats are saying 100,000 tonnes, and the motion I have put forward on behalf of the Greens says 50,000 tonnes, which catches quite a few projects like gas-burning power stations and cogeneration plants—projects that we need to take into Commonwealth consideration if this country is going to take seriously its obligation, not just to the world but to itself, to rein in the awesome potential threat of global warming. I do not think that in the year 2000 any member of this chamber would say that global warming is any longer a matter of contention.

I ask the Labor Party and the Democrats to look at the more stringent Greens provisions here. Whatever we end up with, putting a provision like this into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act will override the government yet again. That act, which the Democrats and the government guillotined through this parliament last year, should have had some teeth in it then to deal with global warming, as most Australians would want it to do.