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Thursday, 1 April 2004
Page: 22671

Senator WONG (5:12 PM) —I rise to speak on the Kyoto Protocol Ratification Bill 2003 [No. 2] and to support this important piece of legislation. I note there are no government speakers on the speaking list. I am not sure why that is. Perhaps it is because of the time constraints upon the chamber, but I note that all the speakers are cutting their contributions short for the purpose of truncating this debate. Frankly, perhaps it is also indicative of the government's complete lack of interest in the pending environmental disaster of global warming.

It is an opportune time for this legislation to come again before the chamber. This week we have had some very important information, which received a fair bit of publicity in the Australian media, about the massive increase in greenhouse gas emissions over the last two years. CSIRO figures have been released which show that the rate of emissions contributing to global warming worsened in 2002, despite a myriad of programs attempting to curb them. CSIRO warned that a continued rise in these temperatures could devastate the Great Barrier Reef by 2030 and flood Kakadu National Park. Around 18.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere in 2002 and another 17.1 billion tonnes were released last year. The average over the last decade has been 13.3 billion tonnes, so we have seen a substantial increase, despite the Kyoto protocol and despite programs which were designed to curb emissions.

But what have this government done on this issue? Very little. They often trumpet the fact that they have allocated spending measures to greenhouse gas abatement programs. The Prime Minister has trumpeted his supposed billion-dollar commitment. But, as an Australian National Audit Office report which Senator Lundy referred to shows, there has been a massive underspend in those programs. As at the end of last financial year the actual amount spent was just over $204 million, which I think is only about 22 per cent—certainly less than a quarter—of the actual spending proposed. The Audit Office also found a number of problems, particularly with the Greenhouse Challenge program, where it was clear that abatement targets were not properly part of the framework for allocating funding. There was also a rather bizarre case study, where the Australian Greenhouse Office actually allocated funding to assist a company in purchasing a new fleet of buses and it was determined after the project finished that in fact it had delivered no greenhouse gas abatement. So this is the state of the government's agenda. Their programs are not delivering sufficiently.

It is extraordinary that the government are in the position of saying, `We will try and meet the Kyoto target but we won't ratify it.' The Kyoto protocol is the agreed international framework for proceeding on what is an extraordinarily important issue that will be important in the lifetimes of people in this place. This is not something just for future generations; this is something that will confront us in our lifetimes. Unless the government change their position I think we will look back on this period in history as a time when government failed to take up the challenge, failed to confront the task and failed to achieve any effective reform in this area.