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Wednesday, 23 October 2002
Page: 5731

Senator ALLISON (3:30 PM) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Defence (Senator Hill) to a question without notice asked by Senator Allison today relating to renewable energy.

The matter related to whether we are getting a two per cent increase in renewable energy as part of this measure. The short answer to that is, `No, we are not.' In fact, we are not even getting half as much as two per cent. Honourable senators who were here at the time may recall that the two per cent was converted into a figure for electricity of 9,500 gigawatt hours. During the debate, several people in this place—myself included—warned the minister that to do so was to ignore the likely increase in the consumption of electricity over that period of time and that, inevitably, 9,500 gigawatt hours would be reduced in percentage terms from two per cent to something much less. That has, indeed, happened. It is much worse than we anticipated at the time of that debate and for this reason it is my proposition that the government ought to seriously reconsider this question and not just increase renewable energy targets to the full two per cent but to look seriously at increasing them now to 10 per cent.

A study, commissioned by Origin Energy, has recently been done. It is available on a web site. I will take the opportunity of mentioning it here so that people can look it up— On that web site there is a report by McLennan Magasanik Associates. The report looks at whether Australia would be disadvantaged economically in terms of our industry by increasing our target from 0.9 per cent to a real 10 per cent. For some time, the renewable energy industry has been saying that that is possible and it is eminently doable and that Australia ought to do it. But now we have a report that categorically shows how we can do this and how it would have no effect whatever on our competitive relationship with countries with whom we do business.

I commend honourable senators' attention to this report because I think it is an important one. It does give rise to serious questions about the government's intention over Kyoto. We are likely to overshoot our commitment by some 14 million tonnes of CO2 a year; that is the gap between what we are committed to achieve under Kyoto—eight per cent of the 1990 levels by 2010. It overshoots that by a long way and that gap could be filled if we in this country were to commit ourselves to more renewable energy. So it is my contention that the minister, in fact, knew that this was going to be a problem at the time. He has not heeded warnings which have been given to him both in this chamber and subsequently. This report states categorically that it is possible for us to move to 10 per cent by 2010 and that it would fix our problem. It would stop Australia being a pariah to the rest of the world. It would stop us having the highest per capita emissions level of greenhouse gases and save us the huge embarrassment on the world stage of being a country which appears not to care about global warming.

In the last couple of weeks, I spent some time in the Pacific Islands, in Fiji, and talked with parliamentarians there who come from small island states in our immediate region and they are deeply worried about climate change. They are very, very critical of Australia's position because it appears that we do not care about their interests. It appears that we are not prepared to take the steps which would put us on the right path to a properly sustainable future in terms of our energy consumption and where we get energy from. As we all know, Australia is well resourced in wind and solar energy. There is no excuse for us to continue to not provide the incentives and the initiatives that would allow that industry to blossom and to provide us with clean, green energy.

I was disappointed by the minister's answer to my question. He was very well aware of the problem that I alluded to. To say that this is something to do with hydro schemes—(Time expired)

Question agreed to.