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Wednesday, 28 October 2009
Page: 11253

Mr OAKESHOTT (3:09 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, how many of the 47 recommendations will the government adopt from the seminal report on coastal erosion from the members for Throsby and Moore and the Standing Committee on Climate Change, Water, Environment and the Arts which was presented to parliament this week? In particular, Prime Minister, when can we expect a reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission to start the process of organising legal liability questions that currently remain outstanding on private title for residents and public lands for councils throughout coastal areas in Australia?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for Lyne for his question. He is right to reflect on the importance of that particular report and its recommendations concerning the impact of climate change on coastal inundation. I also note that he is concerned, obviously, about his own constituents, given the beautiful part of the Australian coastline which he is privileged to represent in this parliament.

The Australian government commends the members of the House of Representatives inquiry, whose report Managing our coastal zone in a changing climate was tabled in parliament on Monday of this week. One of the government’s first steps in advancing a national approach to coastal policy will be to investigate this House of Representatives inquiry. Government departments, including the Department of Climate Change and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, provided submissions to and appeared before the committee. The government will now carefully consider the findings of the inquiry.

We have also worked closely with state and territory governments, coastal councils, natural resource management bodies and experts in developing a response to the inquiry. As part of this, I will be seeking the views of the Minister for Climate Change and Water about whether an inquiry into legal issues and climate change impacts on the coastal zone is appropriate and, if so, what would be the best way to take this forward. I will advise the member for Lyne further on the response of those consultations with the minister for climate change and of course with the Attorney-General.

The Australian government is aware that there are considerable risks to assets in the coastal zone as a result of climate change and is currently undertaking a first pass national coastal vulnerability assessment. This assessment will be the first national mapping of the risks facing coastal communities around Australia. It will focus on residential housing at risk at both a state and local government level. The national coastal vulnerability assessment report is due for release later this year. This will be an important document to inform local communities. The government is also committed to holding a forum to develop a national coastal adaptation agenda after the release of the national coastal vulnerability assessment.

Just last night I addressed the BCA about climate change and what it means for our planning systems. I announced that, in partnership with the state and territory governments and with the ALGA, we will now propose the development of national criteria for the future strategic planning of our major cities. I said that one of those criteria will focus on adapting to the risks of climate change, such as coastal inundation and more extreme weather events. Planning and management of coastal areas primarily rests with state governments, with many aspects of day-to-day planning decisions devolved to local governments as well. However, given the magnitude and spread of risk around the whole coastline, the Australian government will now actively work with states and territories through COAG to progress a national approach to adaptation to climate change.

The release of the report of the House inquiry into climate change and the environmental impact on coastal communities reminds us of the significant impact that climate change will have on Australia if we fail to act. As an island continent, Australia is highly vulnerable to sea level rises resulting from climate change, with significant coastal erosion and damage to infrastructure anticipated. The fact is that Australia has more to lose through continued inaction on climate change than do our competitor economies. That is why the government is exerting every effort to pass the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme—to set Australia up for a low-carbon future and to ensure that we reduce our own carbon pollution. That is why we must act nationally and why we must act globally.

In summary, in response to the honourable member’s question, we will come back to him once we have reached conclusions on the question of a further legal reference. Secondly, as far as adaptation measures are concerned, we are now actively working through the two mechanisms which I outlined in my response to the House just now. Thirdly, all of these are by way of adaptation measures; they are not about effective long-term mitigation measures to reduce actual greenhouse gas emissions. That is why a carbon pollution reduction scheme is necessary. It is also necessary for parallel action to be taken globally—hence the equal importance of what occurs in Copenhagen in December of this year. I thank the member for his question.