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Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Page: 7705

Mr WINDSOR (1:52 PM) —It is with pleasure that I speak to the Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Bill 2008 and cognate bills. I was interested in some of the comments that the member for Corio made in his contribution. For his interest and the interest of others, I recently had a meeting with the Guyra tomato producers, and the Costa family, who are constituents of the member for Corio, are very much involved in that particular operation. How that relates to the bill is that in that particular greenhouse operation—I guess there is a bit of a play on the word ‘greenhouse’—they are capturing carbon dioxide and injecting it during the growth of the tomato, generating increased growth.

I think there are a number of opportunities in relation to the so-called climate change-greenhouse gas issue. Coming from an agricultural area, I think that rather than looking at it and saying, ‘It’s a bit hard; it will not work unless the Indians and the Chinese are involved; why should we do anything when no-one else is?’ we should look at the opportunities that Australia has to be a pioneer in this area. I would rather be remembered as a parliamentarian who actually tried to do something about it than have my grandchildren look back in 50 years time and say—as we are saying about the Murray-Darling—‘Why didn’t they do something about it?’

I do not think the costs will be as great as many people believe, because I think there is a degree of ingenuity that we have not engaged in in respect of the research and technology of these particular issues. Irrespective of the costs it is something that we do need to address. We should be able to look back in 50 years time and say: ‘At least we got something right. We did try to address a particular issue.’

This legislation sets up a framework where, as the member for Corio said, greenhouse gases will be stored off the coast of Australia. Currently, we cannot do that. We do not have the technology to do that. I thought the member for Groom spelt out this morning some of the issues concerning the cost of initiating some of those programs. This is enabling legislation to ensure that, when we are able to sequester carbon or store carbon in some of the geological structures offshore, we have a process to do that properly. In my view, this is pioneering legislation. A number of people mentioned that. It is, essentially, a world first and there may well be problems.

I am pleased that the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, is here in the chamber. I know he listens to all the speeches. I congratulate him for being a pioneer in another way. Those in the gallery are probably not aware of this, and they probably think that the parliament, particularly in question time, is all about people arguing with one another and trying to pick holes in each other’s argument. But this minister actually brought some legislation into the parliament and then he referred it to a committee. The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industries and Resources is made up of members from the Liberals, Labor, the Nationals and me as an Independent. The minister asked the committee—in a sense, a microcosm of the parliament—to examine the legislation to see whether it could be improved, rather than what quite often occurs in this place whereby a bill is introduced, the arguments develop on how it could be improved and, if an amendment is accepted, it is then seen to be a failure on behalf of the minister, or the government may not accept it. So I congratulate the minister. It is the first time that that has happened since I have been in this parliament. I do not think it happens very often. If we do embrace climate change, perhaps the government would like to look at this process more often.

I know other members of the AFFA committee who have made comments in the Main Committee have alluded to the minister’s initiative of asking a committee of the parliament to consider legislation and hopefully improve it. The minister has accepted some of the recommendations that are in the report entitled Down under: greenhouse gas storage. I thank the committee chair for the great work that he has done on carbon sequestration.

I guess we all have a view on global warming and on how an emissions trading scheme will work. We all have a view on what should be in and what should be out. But one thing I would like to raise particularly is the role of agriculture as a potential solution to this issue. I know the Prime Minister, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and others in the parliament have raised it at times. But our soils—I am pleased the Prime Minister is here now—could well be part of the natural sequestration of carbon solution.

Mr Burke —Hear, hear!

Mr WINDSOR —The minister for agriculture says, ‘Hear, hear!’ as he goes past. I thank him for that endorsement. I would suggest to the minister that there is a lot more work that needs to be done on the potential role that agriculture has. Obviously agriculture is an emitter, and a lot of people are suggesting that, because of the Kyoto arrangements, agriculture should stay out of the debate. I would suggest it is important that agriculture does engage in the debate and that agriculture, given some further research et cetera, may well be part of the solution to the problem.

The SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 97. The debate may be resumed at a later hour and the member for New England will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.