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Thursday, 25 August 1994
Page: 344


Senator COULTER (11.33 a.m.) —In reply to Senator Ian MacDonald, I am not suggesting that the government ignore this intergovernmental agreement in isolation. I am saying that this whole process was entered into as a way of establishing an escape hatch. That escape hatch has already been used by Western Australia. It has been used by every government in Australia with respect to the agreement, which I read out a moment ago, to greenhouse gas emissions. It is not worth the paper it is written on. The process might be that we go back and get some other agreement. But out of that agreement has to come the recognition that, given consultation with the states, ordinary people, interested parties, industry and everything else, nonetheless the federal government is the one that ultimately must be setting these standards and accepting the responsibility for them.

  The process is fundamentally flawed. We have gone into that process for reasons which are disreputable and nefarious. Clearly that process is not being adhered to by a number of the parties to the agreement. It is not going to be adhered to in this case. We are now debating a let-out clause in this bill. That provides a very good reason why that whole process should be reconsidered and simply not slavishly given effect to.

  One understands where the opposition is coming from. It wants this very much because it is quite sure that every part of this legislation—lock, stock and barrel—will fall over within the next 12 months. That is why the opposition wants it. It wants its mates in industry to have a free go without being fettered by these sorts of standards. That is where the opposition is coming from, and that is why it is supporting the legislation. The government should be aware, and I am sure it is aware, that that is the motive of the opposition. We are certainly not saying that there should not be consultation—there should be wide consultation—but, ultimately, the Commonwealth must accept this responsibility.

  Amendment agreed to.