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Tuesday, 14 August 2007
Page: 23

Senator WEBBER (3:23 PM) —Isn’t it interesting that, whenever we have a debate about measures to address the real challenge of climate change in this place, those opposite choose to trumpet as one of their very few initiatives the establishment of the Australian Greenhouse Office. What they neglect to say each and every time they raise this is that the Greenhouse Office no longer exists as an independent entity. It must have been another Crosby Textor poll-driven initiative. They must have been told way back then that they had to do something to address this issue. With great fanfare, Senator Minchin’s predecessor as leader of the government in this place announced the establishment of the Greenhouse Office, but very quietly, very trickily and very sneakily later on decided just to shut it down and subsume it back into the department. Where is any one of those opposite actually in here, being honest and accountable? The announcement of that office was a political stunt. If it was your strategy, if it was doing real work, why doesn’t it still exist?

It is a bit like all the other initiatives that you have announced—and Senator McEwen went right to the heart of that. In this place there is much fanfare by those opposite about the amounts of money that are put into this and that program in trying to address the political problem that the government has, which is that the community wants something done to address this very real challenge—this challenge that the voting public accepts but that those opposite do not. So what does the government do? It announces, with much fanfare, different funding programs. What the government does not do is then be honest and accountable and admit to us how much of that money is being spent on administration.

We learned from Senator McEwen today in question time that, for every dollar this government claims to spend on politically expedient policies in attempting to address some of the challenges of climate change, it spends $2 in administration. That is not a serious effort at addressing one of the most significant challenges that this planet faces—a challenge that most members of the community have accepted for a long time and who, in fact, are trying to do their bit in their homes and their workplaces and through their community organisations to address because the government will not. Two dollars spent on administration for every one dollar spent out in the community is an absolute disgrace.

I am glad Senator Macdonald mentioned the Solar Cities program, because that is a real demonstration of this government’s lack of commitment. In my home town of Perth, the City of Belmont—not renowned for being an ultra-trendy left-wing inner city council but renowned for being a responsible metropolitan suburban council—has applied time and time again to this government for funding under that program and time and time again it has been rejected by this government. In fact, these days the only federal government member from Western Australia we can find who wants to talk at all about alternative energy sources is the member for Tangney. He does not believe that there is any such thing as human induced or human caused climate change, but he does believe in nuclear power. He sees that as the main plank of policy to address our future energy needs. According to him, when he is forced to discuss climate change, it can be addressed very well by nuclear power and by littering this country with nuclear power stations. He does not come out and support good, accountable local government organisations, like the City of Belmont, when they apply for funding to try to diversify our energy sources and address this challenge at a very local grassroots level. He does not actually support them at all, nor does this government, by giving them the funding they are seeking. Instead, Dr Jensen and others say that we should have nuclear power plants throughout the state—something that the people of Western Australia refuse to believe in.

Senator Abetz in question time today claimed that this government is addressing these issues with rigour and robustness. It would seem that the only rigour and robustness that the government is exercising, as I say, is to spend two dollars for every one dollar—two dollars in administration. (Time expired)