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Thursday, 1 April 2004
Page: 22669

Senator LUNDY (5:06 PM) —I rise today on behalf of the opposition to once again call on the Howard government to finally fulfil its obligation to act as a responsible international environmental citizen and pass the Kyoto Protocol Ratification Bill 2003 [No. 2]. Climate change due to global warming is, without question, one of the most serious environmental issues that are currently facing the planet. A major contributing factor to global warming is greenhouse gas emissions. Both developed and developing countries have acknowledged the need to dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of a coordinated international response to limit global warming.

To their credit, many countries, including developing countries, have adopted the Kyoto protocol and are making significant headway in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This makes the Howard government's ongoing refusal to ratify, when we have secured such a good deal from the Kyoto negotiations and now have so much to lose, an international embarrassment. Why, when the Howard government have committed Australia to meeting its Kyoto target of an eight per cent increase, they still refuse to ratify Kyoto and bring into force a protocol that will benefit this country in so many ways defies logic. For too long the Howard government have rolled out the abysmal excuse that we do not need to ratify Kyoto because we have the Greenhouse Office and we are giving them millions of dollars to deliver emission reduction programs.

The problem for the government, as a recent Australian National Audit Office report showed, is that the Australian Greenhouse Office's emission reduction programs are totally ineffectual. The ANAO report levelled some sharp and very accurate criticisms at the performance of the Australian Greenhouse Office. In a key criticism, the ANAO questioned whether the greenhouse gas abatement claimed from the Greenhouse Challenge was an accurate reflection of what had been achieved as a direct result of Australian Greenhouse Office programs. In short, the Audit Office said, `We can't tell if the AGO's programs are really getting the emission reductions they claim they are or not.'

The Audit Office also showed that the government's claims about spending $1 billion on greenhouse programs are entirely misleading. The Australian National Audit Office showed that the original budget for the seven key programs it investigated was $873.7 million to 30 June 2003. But the actual amount spent since 30 June was just $204.4 million, less than a quarter of the original total. At this rate of spending—$200 million over four years—it will take 20 years to spend the $1 billion the Howard government talks about. By then it will be too late for the Great Barrier Reef, for our alpine ecosystems and for our farmlands. Enough time has already been wasted. While the Howard government has continued to shirk its international responsibilities, greenhouse gas emissions have continued to grow. It is time that Australia joined the world effort to tackle climate change and its damaging consequences; in fact, it is way past time.

Labor is committed to tackling global warming, an issue that is so serious it was recently described as a threat to global security in a Pentagon commissioned report. Labor has made the commitment to act as a responsible environmental citizen. Labor now calls once again on the Howard government to finally do what is right and ratify the Kyoto protocol, which it will be required to do upon the successful passage of this bill in both houses. We are on the brink of seeing this matter dealt with in this chamber, but I understand that its future will be contingent upon the Howard government's approach to this in the lower house. I commend the bill to you. It is the only way forward if Australia is going to be treated with any respect and credibility on the global stage when it comes to protecting our environment.