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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 716

Senator COULTER (5.31 p.m.) —One of the most interesting things I find about the International Air Services Commission Amendment Bill 1994—and about many other pieces of legislation—is the way in which the government, the opposition and the whole bureaucracy keep various aspects of policy and direction for this country in totally separate pigeonholes and never allow the left hand to know what the right hand is doing.

  In her second reading speech, the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) speaks of this bill in terms of an anticipated great expansion of international air travel, and seeing that expansion as a good and/or inevitable thing. Indeed, this is part of the press for building an enormous industry in Australia around tourism, especially international tourism. For instance, in the minister's second reading speech, she said:

The purpose of this bill is to build on the good work that has already been done by the IASC—

that is the International Air Services Commission—

. . . in helping to re-shape Australia's international aviation sector.

She went on to say:

This bill proposes a number of amendments to the IASC act of an essentially technical nature, designed to refine and streamline the Commission's processes in recognition of the commercial imperatives under which our airlines operate. The changes proposed will lead to more efficient delivery of the Government's reforms and will benefit the airline industry . . .

The minister talked about an agreement between Taiwan and Australia. She said:

Taiwan-Australia traffic, particularly inbound tourist traffic, is growing strongly and Taiwan is forecast to be one of Australia's major markets over the course of the next five years.

In question time today, Senator Margetts asked Senator Gareth Evans a question in relation to greenhouse targets. Senator Evans said, among other things, that the government still has a commitment to the greenhouse targets, but he went on to point out that those targets—which include stabilisation by the year 2000, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 20 per cent by the year 2005 compared with 1988—will not stabilise carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, something which I think every honourable senator knows.

  Every honourable senator would also know, and Senator Evans alluded to this, that the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—a panel composed of many hundreds of scientists drawn from a large number of countries—is firming to the view that the consequences of increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be horrific. We also know of the IPCC's recommendations that the 60 to 80 per cent reduction needs to be made as rapidly as possible. That indeed is receiving a great deal more attention.

  So we have this desire to increase international tourism based on air travel in one little pigeonhole and, in another pigeonhole, we have many of the world's leading climate scientists saying, `Hang on. We are very concerned about what is happening to the atmosphere. We need to change our practices with respect to the use of fossil fuel—which, of course, would include air travel—and we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 60 to 80 per cent as rapidly as possible.' This does not mean that we need to bring the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere back to where it was in pre-industrial times, but indeed to allow it to asymptote—to level off—at a point twice as high as it was in the pre-industrial age. If one allows that Australia is indeed a very profligate user of fossil fuel—and if we are going to equitably share the ability of the environment to absorb greenhouse gases—our reduction, as a proportion of the 60 to 80 per cent of fuel use, would have to be considerably greater.

  I have been looking at this in recent days because I was part of a parliamentary delegation that went to four southern African countries during the winter recess. We travelled by air in 747s from Perth to Harare and from Johannesburg back to Perth. For the other journeys inside Africa and Australia, we travelled in 737s. I was interested to work out exactly how much fossil fuel use we were responsible for in that international air travel—just dealing with the air travel and leaving aside entirely the costs in terms of energy use of the construction of those very expensive aircraft, the ground travel that we were engaged in, the energy capital costs of the construction of the vehicles for that ground travel and all of the other things that we were responsible for. That is why I mention it in the context of this legislation.

  I would like to put before the Senate a few figures. In 1991, Australians used 3,722 petajoules—10(15) joules. A joule is a unit of energy; it is one watt second. To put that into context, there are roughly 4.2 joules per calorie, and human beings need about 1,500 calories per day simply to maintain their physiological processes. That translates to about 6,000 kilojoules per day as the requirement for human metabolic energy. This use of energy by Australians of 3,722 times 10(15) joules would equate, if you divide the Australian population into that number, to an annual use by Australians of 213 gigajoules—213 times 10(9) joules per person per year.

  I will put these two pigeonholes together. Let us assume that the IPCC demands to operate in Australia and see where that leads us. Let us assume that Australians continue to use relatively more energy proportionately than most other people in the world; that is, we cut down only by that 60 to 80 per cent in line with everybody else in the world. If we are going to cut down our use by an average figure of 75 per cent, we would derive an amount of personal energy which would meet that IPCC target. If we divide that 213 gigajoules by a figure of four, we would roughly get 50 gigajoules per person per year—which would meet the greenhouse targets.

  As I mentioned briefly earlier today, the drought which we are now suffering may be—no scientist is prepared to say that it is—due to the greenhouse effect. We may already be suffering enormous economic losses as a consequence of the greenhouse effect. We should be, in a precautionary sense, observing these figures very closely.

  If we follow the recommendations of the IPPC, we have 50 gigajoules for use each year. Currently, aircraft use energy at the rate of 3.6 megajoules per kilometre per person. In travelling from Australia to four southern African countries—the same would apply to tourists flying from Japan or Taiwan to Australia and back again or to tourists visiting Australia from Europe—we travelled 16,000 kilometres by air. So in only three weeks we used 58 gigajoules in air travel alone. As I pointed out earlier, that calculation totally ignores the capital cost of constructing these very expensive 747s and 737s, the energy used on the ground, and the capital energy cost of the construction of the ground transport. So in only three weeks of travel we exceeded our annual allocation under the IPPC recommendations. Of course, that assumes that Australians continue to have available to them relatively more energy than the rest of the world on a per capita basis.

  The bill before us is predicated on the idea that tourism is good and that therefore we will be encouraging more tourists to come to Australia. However, I am stressing the point that that view does not fit in with a greenhouse world. If we take this concern about the greenhouse effect and fit it together with what we will do in relation to tourism, large-scale international tourism does not become part of the solution to our economic problem.

  I suppose that we could maintain a world in which people belonging to a small elite had available to them a relatively large amount of energy. If they spent that energy on tourism, that might bring some people to Australia and we might benefit as a consequence—but that depends on the maintenance of an inequity which the Democrats would not support. It is the energy equivalent of trickledown. Instead of dollars trickling down, energy would be trickling down from the energy rich to the energy poor. I do not think we should go down that road.

  If we look at the figures closely it becomes quite clear that mass tourism is a non-starter. It is about time that the government, the opposition and the bureaucracy, which recommends these pieces of legislation, start allowing the left hand to talk to the right hand. It is time that they started to look at what is in the greenhouse and tourism pigeonholes and brought the two together. If they do, they will realise that we must rethink our whole strategy on transport, particularly air transport.

  Tourism will take on a very different face over the next 20 to 30 years. It is not the face which this government and this opposition have been presenting to the Australian people for the last 10 or 15 years. I believe that it is urgent that we start thinking in those terms. It is urgent that we start bringing our greenhouse gas emissions into line with the IPPC recommendations at an absolute minimum. I believe that we can do it but I also believe that we must seriously change the view that we take of tourism, particularly large-scale international air tourism.