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Tuesday, 28 June 1994
Page: 2083


Senator COULTER (3.26 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology (Senator Cook), to a question without notice asked by Senator Carr this day, relating to the Altona car plant in Victoria.

Senator Cook indicated yet again his fascination with everything of an economic growth nature and totally ignored everything which is to do with the downside of that development. Senator Carr's question was particularly in relation to a further expansion of the Toyota works in Melbourne.

  Senator Cook did not mention that cars are the source of major air pollution, major health effects in our cities, major greenhouse gas emissions and a very considerable adverse balance of trade in Australia of some $4 billion per year. His speech contrasted very markedly with that made by Senator Faulkner when he launched his environment policy this morning. I think it is very significant that, on a number of occasions when the Australian Democrats have moved to try to internalise some of the externalities in relation to the use of motor vehicles, it has been very vigorously objected to specifically by Senator Cook.

  The most recent occasion was that on which the government sought to reduce the sales tax on private motor vehicles. The Democrats moved an amendment which would have had the effect of making that reduction dependent upon the fuel efficiency of motor vehicles in each class. That again was vigorously resisted by Senator Cook, indicating his total lack of concern for the environment.

  Senator Cook also mentioned the Button car plan and said that it was still in place. An objection which we have had ever since the Button car plan was put in place is that it makes no mention whatsoever of fuel efficiency. Fuel efficiency is one of the primary elements that should have been built into that plan right at the very beginning. Had it been built into that plan at the very beginning, we would have had a different and far more efficient fleet of motor vehicles in Australia.

  In relation to specific motor vehicle manufacturers, Senator Cook mentioned the Mitsubishi plant in South Australia. The Mitsubishi Colt, which happened to be the most fuel efficient car manufactured by Mitsubishi, went out of production precisely because it did not meet target production levels of the Button car plan.

  For Senator Cook to come in here and vaunt the Button car plan without in any way mentioning the downside of increased motor vehicle production in Australia is a reflection of his and his government's lack of concern about the environment. It contrasts markedly with the statement made by Minister Faulkner this morning, who was vigorous in his defence of the environment. Clearly he is attempting—and I hope he is successful—at great expense and with great difficulty to drag his reluctant colleagues along behind him and bring into place in this country a pattern of ecologically sustainable development.