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Thursday, 28 October 1993
Page: 2720

Mr SAWFORD (10.42 a.m.) —I move:

  That this House:

(1)recognises the need for innovative solutions to reduce unemployment;

(2)in particular, acknowledges the export potential of environmental industries; and

(3)takes note of the preliminary Scan Report of the Green Jobs Unit jointly set up by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Mr Deputy Speaker, there is growth in environmental industries. A fundamental issue for any group of people investigating employment in this country is to answer the question: where can job growth be enhanced? The continuing development of environmental industries can provide part of the answer. In fact, the scope is enormous: waste management; renewable energy products and services; pollution abatement; transport, particularly heavy rail and light rail; forestry and conservation, including ecotourism; agricultural land rehabilitation; and environmental research and development. These have all been identified as potential job opportunities.

  Lynette Wilks, the coordinator of the green jobs unit, put forward compelling arguments in Habitat Australia in August of this year. She stated:

The world market in environmental goods and services is growing rapidly. The O.E.C.D. has estimated international trade in the environment industry currently at $200 billion, growing at 5%-7% annually to reach around $300 billion by the Year 2000.

Lynette Wilks also points out that, although Australia is at the cutting edge in some technologies, such as waste water treatment, Australia currently holds only a tiny fraction of international environmental trade, with annual exports totalling $200 million and with imports of environmental technology and equipment and services estimated to be $1 billion.

  Wilks reminds us of the clear intentions of the United States and Japan. Firstly, in the United States, the Clinton-Gore administration is targeting the environmental industry as one of the brightest opportunities to spur economic recovery. A presidential task force has been established, with a brief to integrate employment generation into this fast growing area.

  Secondly, Japan has declared world leadership in environmental technology as a national goal. The influential Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry is now currently spending $1 billion a year on new earth 21, a joint government industry program, to produce cutting edge environmental technologies. An example of the potential market is Taiwan, which intends to devote five per cent of its considerable GNP to environmental management over the next five years.

  The developed world has a chronic and endemic human surplus of labour of some 10 per cent plus. Traditional industries such as textiles, iron and steel and metals processing are all declining in employment, whilst electronics, telecommunications and biotechnology are gaining, but not to an extent to take up the labour surplus. The microelectronic industry has spawned whole new industries but has also frighteningly reduced the need for labour throughout the world.

  Throughout the industrialised world we are substituting capital, energy and increased output for human labour, which is in surplus. Traditional economic growth no longer is always accompanied by commensurate increase in the number of jobs. However, there is growth in environmental industries. During the recent recession in the United States, the 40 largest environmental firms reported an average nine per cent increase in payroll, in dramatic contrast to most of the economy.

  This morning there are three examples I would like to point to where environment industries can provide part of the employment answer. They are renewable energy, rail transport and waste management. If we took a nuclear plant and wanted to produce 1,000 gigawatts of electricity, we would need 100 workers, in a coal or oil fired plant we would need 116, but if we were thinking of a solar-thermal facility we would need 248, or on a wind farm facility, 541. The challenge is to build renewable energy systems that are of lower or equivalent cost to conventional systems; that is to deliberately direct spending to areas that are labour intensive.

   A move to solar energy on a large scale would in fact create jobs. Australia has the potential to be a world leader and major exporter of manufactured solar thermal technology. A study by the Australian New Zealand Solar Energy Society demonstrated that an increase in the use of solar energy for hot water, for example, from a current six per cent of Queensland households to 25 per cent would create 1,500 new direct jobs, with a further number of indirect jobs. Applied across Australia, that would result in 12,000 to 15,000 new jobs.

  From an international perspective we could get the example of Denmark, which encouraged the wind power industry because oil prices had soared in the 1970s. By 1985, 10 per cent of Danish power needs were provided by wind power, creating 3,000-odd jobs and with the loss of only 28 in the conventional oil-fired power industry.

  A German study showed that the spending of a billion deutschmarks on road construction created fewer jobs, 14,000 to 19,000, than the same expenditure on light and heavy rail. For a billion deutschmarks, in light rail one gets 23,000 jobs and in heavy rail 22,000 jobs. Every year in Australia the cost and subsidy of road transport is about $10 billion, if one takes account of the $5 billion we spend on road building and maintenance and the estimated $5 billion subsidy as the result of road trauma. Little recognition appears to be given to the size of this particular road trauma subsidy for road transport. By contrast, subsidies for light and heavy rail are not so kindly treated in this country. That does not make sense, and a greater balance is required. Investment and development in heavy and light rail could be 100 per cent Australian in materials, design and manufacture. Enormous potential exists for the export of cost-efficient urban transport systems in our own region. I point out that the Hong Kong light rail system was made in this country.

  As far as waste management is concerned, it is interesting to point out that a recent Industry Commission draft report on the environment waste management industry estimated expenditure on sewerage systems by Australian water authorities in the 1990s to be $5.5 billion. Given 15,000 to 25,000 jobs per billion dollars spent, these developments alone could lead to the development of between 70,000 and 100,000 jobs. Compared with incineration and landfilling, recycling offers more employment and is cheaper due to its much lower capital cost. The jobs are permanent in both operation and maintenance activities.

  In an examination of the number of jobs to process one million tonnes of waste, Michael Renner observed that for landfilling one has a range of 50 to 360 jobs; for incinerators, 130 to 1,000 jobs; and for recycling, from 550 to 2,000 jobs, for the same expenditure. The cost of an incinerator, which has been canvassed in this country from time to time, is $500 million, which is three times the cost of a recycling facility to handle the same amount of waste.

  Alcoa, in the United States, estimated that there are 30,000 people employed in the recycling of aluminium alone. That number is equal to twice the employment figures in the primary aluminium production industry, and is based on a very low rate of recycling of only 11 per cent. If the recycling rate were boosted to 75 per cent, that could mean up to 375,000 jobs in the USA. Obviously, recycling would cause some job losses with the lesser need for raw materials but, as the International Labour Organisation points out, the gains would outweigh the losses.

  It is important to acknowledge that some of the debate in Australia on economic growth and the environment is very unproductive. On one hand, some people in the `economic growth at all costs' movement suggest that full employment must be left to the whims of the free market. On the other hand, some people in the environment movement suggest that full employment levels must be sacrificed on the altar of environmental purity. But economic health and environmental health are interdependent.

  The choice for lower unemployment levels is not between the environment and economic growth; it includes both. The ancient Greeks had a single word for the economy and the environment, and that word was `oikos'. That concept was right, back then, and it is right for now. The fundamental role of any economy is to provide jobs. If that is the case, it means that there must always be adjustments to policy to cover unintended consequences or negative aspects of any policies set. Australia led the world in the introduction of social benefits, and it can lead the developed world in breaking the cycle of unemployment.

  The economic orthodoxies of the past 10 years have had both positive and negative effects. From a positive point of view, Australia is much more internationally competitive. But those economic orthodoxies have had negative effects, too, with significant job losses. Economic growth alone will not solve the unemployment problem. There need to be balancing mechanisms for new industries. (Time expired)

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Is the motion seconded?

Mr Newell —I second the motion, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I reserve my right to speak.