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Monday, 22 October 1984
Page: 2121

Senator PETER BAUME(4.37) —The Senate is debating a matter of public importance in the following terms:

The failure of this Government to ensure the full protection of our environment for future generations, particularly from the ultimate threat of nuclear war.

My colleagues Senator Sir John Carrick and Senator Robert Hill have with power and eloquence already addressed the nuclear issue, which has occupied the speaking time of most of those who have contributed to the debate. However, it is also necessary to address the other part of the terms of the matter of public importance, the first part, which seeks to condemn this Government in quite specific terms for failing to ensure the full protection of our environment for future generations. It is necessary to examine whether that claim can be sustained by argument. If so, it is necessary to set out in what ways the Government has failed in its duty to protect Australia's environment. Like most political parties, the Australian Labor Party put out a manifesto before the last election which contained quite specific and explicit promises in relation to a policy on the Australian environment. It promised to do things and it offered that as bait to the Australian people, seeking to obtain their votes. In terms of the matter of public importance which has been put to the Senate this afternoon, it is worth examining the extent to which this Labor Government in the time available to it, the last 18 months, has moved towards honouring those promises.

It is desirable to identify the areas where this Labor Government has failed to honour its promises. It is the assertion of the Australian Democrats, although they have not really addressed it in their speeches, that the Government has failed to ensure the protection of the Australian environment. The Attorney- General, Senator Gareth Evans, in his response on behalf of the Government, addressed the Government's record on environmental issues. I take the Senate through a number of promises which were made and a number of responses from the Government. The Australian Labor Party promised in its 1982 national platform and its 1983 policy on the environment a national reafforestation program and rain forest protection. It has failed to deliver on that promise. It promised new employment opportunities in areas dependent upon rain forest timbers. There has been no action on that promise. It promised management of logging to phase out logging in rain forests. There has been no action on that promise. The Australian Labor Party made those promises when it was seeking to attract the votes of the electorate. The Labor Party promised to stop all programs designed to replace native hardwood with softwood. There has been no action on that promise. The Australian Labor Party promised to establish a national kangaroo monitoring study group to plan commercial exploitation of kangaroos and to ensure their conservation on both a national and regional basis. There has been no action on that promise. The Government promised to initiate programs with the States to obtain standards of management of national parks. There has been no action on that promise. There is a litany of promises, a whole series of promises, made before the election and conveniently not acted on since.

In November 1983, almost one year ago, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment (Mr Cohen) announced the extension of Stage 2 of Kakadu National Park and promised a package of $70m over six years for tourism facilities and park infrastructure. We should remember that-$70m over six years, or $12m a year. The 1984-85 Budget allocated a mere $1.7m for recurring expenditure on Kakadu National Park. It is fair to say that that explicit, specific promise, made by a Labor Prime Minister less than 12 months ago, was dishonoured in the first Budget that followed. In relation to environment assessment and conservation, the ALP promised in its 1982 national platform and 1983 policy to review and amend the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 to allow the Minister for Environment and Conservation to initiate action under the Act and provide means for individuals and groups to enforce the procedures of that Act. There has been no action on that promise either. It promised to introduce centralised machinery to integrate and co- ordinate individual departments in the assessment of the impact of development proposals. There has been no action on that policy either.

We have a long list of dishonoured promises for which the Labor Party must answer. They were specific and quite exact promises at least some of which should have been honoured before the Labor Party sought to go to another election.

What is so unfortunate is that the Liberal-National Party Government of Malcolm Fraser had a policy and the present coalition parties have a policy on the environment which is strong, definite, clear and committed. We have a record of achievement over seven years in government of which we are very proud and which we can put up to any group as a record of environmental protection better than that which Labor has effected-perhaps not as good as that which Labor promised but much better than Labor has done in office. It is a record of achievement by a series of Liberal and National Party Ministers over seven years.

Alongside ALP broken promises it is worth while remembering some of the achievements of the Liberal Party Government. Our record in government was second to none. It must be remembered that all world heritage listings to date were placed there by Liberal-National Party governments. Not a single listing came from the Australian Labor Party. It was the Liberal and National parties that moved to support the banning of the slaughter of whales and seals. That was done by the Fraser Government. We established the Kakadu National Park and the Uluru (Mount Olga-Ayers Rock) Park. We established them and got them under way during our terms of office. It was the Liberal and National Party governments which negotiated successfully with the Queensland Government and moved to establish the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. It was put in place during our period in government. We have given the nation a gift in the form of the Great Barrier Reef national park. It was the Fraser Government that stopped the sand mining on Fraser Island. It was the Fraser Government that established Lord Howe Island and the Willandra Lakes as national parks on the World Heritage List. Those who know some of these areas will know just how precious they are and will recognise the contribution which the Fraser Government and the Liberal-National parties made in terms of a very practical commitment to the environment.

We have been seeking environmental protection for all Australians. Certainly there is a role for governments; but we also see that families, individuals and corporations have to be involved if an environmental protection policy is to be effective and comprehensive. Our commitment is to see that kind of whole community involvement coming into place. Of course, our investment is to try to see that we leave to our children and grandchildren a land which they can use and enjoy.

Senator Sir John Carrick, and I think Senator Robert Hill, drew attention to the problems of acid rain and loss of forests in Europe. I refer to the fact that the Schwarzwald is disappearing and to the greenhouse effect with carbon dioxide, which is likely to lead to temperature rises and to the melting of the polar caps. These are all problems which are before us today. We see the need for reafforestation. I have already drawn attention to the fact that one of the Fraser Government's initiatives was to seek the reafforestation of Australia. But so much can be done and so much is under way.

For example, there is a project in which I am very interested at present. It is run by a group called Green Australia. A gentleman named Robert Vincin is hard at work trying to get not only government involvement but also community involvement across a number of levels. In connection with a group called the Water Research Foundation, he has undertaken a co-operative venture of massive proportions. The Liberals are keen to to support him. He wants to plant and grow trees right across Australia. He wants to enlist schools to set up shade houses to grow the trees from seedlings. He wants to enlist young people to plant the trees as a community service. He wants to enlist community groups; the Lions Clubs are interested. Large corporations are also already moving to help him to support the growing, the planting and the nurturing of trees.

Next week I hope to be in Yass, which is not very far from Canberra, with my colleague Wal Fife at a meeting to be held by Green Australia to advance its tree planting program. I hope that all those who are interested in the environment will join me in wishing the group every success in what it is trying to do. Three sites-one affected by erosion and one affected by defoliation-are being examined close to Yass to start the first tree planting experiment. This project will provide temporary employment. If it can be done in Israel, surely we can do it in Australia.

As I have said, the coalition parties are proud of their environment and conservation record. We pioneered the national conservation strategy for Australia when we were in government and we carried out all the other initiatives which I have mentioned. We have a policy on the environment; we have a policy for the protection of the environment. We cover matters such as Federal -State co-operation, which is so necessary in a federation. We cover the management of conservation areas. We have a policy on the international environment as it affects Australia. We have policies on coastal and marine management, environmental impact statements in Australia, an environmental databank, an Australian environmental corps, endangered species, animals, the national tree program and hazardous chemicals and toxic waste. This is what the Liberal and National parties have to offer. We have a policy on pollution and a policy on heritage protection. We are going to the Australian people with a comprehensive policy designed, as politicians should design their policies, to try to help with some of these issues set out by my colleagues and referred to by some of the speakers in the debate.

I remind honourable senators that I am deliberately concentrating my remarks on the first half of the motion put up by the Australian Democrats. Both halves of it are important. Both halves require some answers. It is possible to say that the Labor Government has failed in the duty which it undertook when it made promises to the Australian people. It is fair to say that we, the Liberal Party, have a proud record on our environmental achievements. We have a policy of which we are proud. This Government has failed to deliver on its promises. It has failed in so many areas. It has failed in the tax area, failed with the assets test, failed with the tax on superannuation, failed on employment, failed on science policy and failed on education policy. It has failed to deliver on promises which it made to the Australian people when it was seeking votes. That it should now fail to honour its promises on the environment is just another tragedy, just another unnecessary impost, upon the people. But it is a failure- this is raised by the Australian Democrats in their motion and is supported by us-that all Australians will bear to their detriment over the years. The issues are important ones.

We have a record of concern and achievement. We share the concern of every Australian for the environment in which we live and for the environment which we will leave to the next generation. We have a policy on the environment which promises effective, sensible, coherent and co-operative policies which will work and which will offer protection. These are policies which we shall begin to implement in government for the benefit of all Australians from 2 December when the Peacock Government takes office.