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Thursday, 18 November 2004
Page: 35


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (12:02 PM) —It is a true pleasure to be speaking on the address-in-reply. When I heard you open the debate, Madam Acting Deputy President Knowles, you said it had been some time since you had spoken on one. Not only is it a privilege to speak on an address-in-reply to a speech delivered by the Governor-General but also it is a true honour to speak in a debate on which you have opened the batting, so to speak. It is well known in the Senate that you will be retiring at midnight—Western Standard Time, I would hope—on 30 June 2005 and it is entirely appropriate that you opened with a most eloquent contribution to this debate.


Senator Ellison —Hear, hear!


Senator IAN CAMPBELL —I wish to make a contribution in relation to the amendment moved to your motion by Senator Bartlett, which relates to the government's performance in relation to Kyoto. The government has had a world-leading policy on issues relating to climate change. It is very important that all Australians understand that the government's record of action on climate change stands in stark contrast to other political parties such as the Greens, the Australian Labor Party and the Democrats who tend to have a one-line policy on climate change—that is, to squawk like a well-trained parrot that we should ratify the Kyoto protocol. They tend to get away with it with much of the Australian media who tend to think that the only way Australia can address climate change in this world is to have the government ratify this protocol. People need to understand that the Kyoto protocol is an important agreement. The Kyoto conference, at which Senator Robert Hill, the then Minister for the Environment, represented Australia, was very important. It has achieved an enormous amount, focusing the governments of the world, industry and the community on the enormous challenge of climate change.

Unfortunately—and it is well recognised by nations which have ratified the protocol and by others which have not, such as Australia—the Kyoto protocol by itself simply will not be sufficient to address climate change. There is, I accept, a consensus among expert scientists who say that to ameliorate climate change—to stop global temperatures increasing and impacts such as increased storm intensities, melting of the polar icecaps, more cyclones, the impacts on biodiversity, on forests and on flora and fauna around the globe and on agriculture—reductions of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere of around 50 to 60 per cent are needed. That is very much the consensus, which I accept. Regardless of whether or not you accept that consensus, it is important that we all understand that climate change is now not something that can be left open to debate. It has occurred and is occurring and, as a government, we accept that it will continue to occur and that there is an enormous responsibility on governments to do something about it.

I say to the Australian Democrats, who have moved an amendment to the address-in-reply motion, that simply ratifying the Kyoto protocol and having the debate focus on that one issue—whether or not you tick it—creates a huge moral hazard for our nation because it means that people think that you can solve the problem by ratifying this protocol. The protocol—and all experts agree on this; the Prime Minister of Great Britain agrees on this—will deliver about a one per cent reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions and what is required is a 50 to 60 per cent reduction. What is required is a steadfast focus by governments, industry and the community on how we move to a new global paradigm, how we move to a whole set of new energy paradigms, how we move the transport sector, the stationary energy production sector, the household sector, heavy industry and industry across the world to a carbon constrained future.

How do we ensure that we have expanding living standards? How do we ensure that we have the increasing energy needs of the world met yet put less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere? Therein lies the challenge. That challenge is not solved by people who do not put the hard work, the energy or the policy work into this but just say, `Let's just ratify this protocol.' If you ratify the protocol, you get a one per cent reduction and the climate keeps changing, agriculture goes out backwards and the icecaps keep melting but the Australian Democrats, the Greens and the Australian Labor Party would feel that they have salved their leafy suburbs guilt over climate change.

There is a huge dilemma. I want to see—and the Governor-General mentioned this in his address—us address these key environmental issues in a way that ensures that Australians in particular but also people around the world can aspire to better living standards. I have absolutely no doubt—and Australia has proved it—that you can have an expanding economy, that you can have a world-leading energy sector, that you can have increasing numbers of industries in Australia attracted from other parts of the world and that you can achieve good greenhouse outcomes. You can have an expansion of the economy with a reduced environmental footprint. Why am I so confident about that? I am confident because Australia is already achieving it.

One of the things that frustrate me enormously is that, for all of the great achievements of governments around Australia, including state governments and many local governments, in terms of reducing greenhouse gases in industry in particular, we continue to have people who pour scorn on their countrymen who are working so hard to achieve these important environmental outcomes by saying that we have failed somehow because we have not signed this protocol, we have not ratified this protocol. They make Australians feel bad about themselves when in fact we are in the top three or four countries in terms of performance on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We will be one of the few nations of the world that will meet their Kyoto target by domestic action. Some countries will meet their target through emissions trading and other offsets. We are on track to meet the target that was agreed to at Kyoto by the Australian government and negotiated by Robert Hill. I will put that into context.

I remind honourable senators that Kyoto asks nations to commit to a greenhouse gas emissions target based on the 1990 base year, that Australia's agreed emissions target is 108 per cent of 1990 emissions and that the target period is between 2008 and 2012. In about 2011 the Australian economy will be a $1,000 billion economy. My Treasury friends tell me that is a $1 trillion economy—I will have to check whether that is right. In 1990 we were a $500 billion economy. In that Kyoto period the Australian economy will go from $500 billion to $1,000 billion, based on current estimates of economic growth. Based on the sort of growth that we have been getting over the last five years and based on the forward estimates of the midyear economic review and I think the pre-election economic review, Australia is on track to double the size of its economy from 1990 to 2011. We are also on track as we speak to achieve our 108 per cent target. We hope in the next few days through the Australian Greenhouse Office to release greenhouse figures on where we are at.

So we have virtually doubled the size of the Australian economy, massively increased the number of jobs, increased the number of exports, increased the size of our industries and yet virtually contained our greenhouse gas emissions to what they were back in 1990. There will be an eight per cent increase—so the target figure will be 108 per cent based on 1990—in a period where we will have doubled the size of the Australian economy. That is a fantastic achievement that people like the Australian Democrats should welcome. What a great achievement not only to have economic expansion, more jobs, higher productivity, better living standards, better health outcomes and better education outcomes but also to have constrained our environmental footprint and constrained our greenhouse gas footprint. It is a great achievement.

During the election, contrary to the impression that you would get from reading Senator Andrew Bartlett's amendment, the Liberal-National Party coalition put forward a series of new, practical, sensible, achievable and very expensive measures to address greenhouse gas emissions. What did we get from the Democrats? `We would ratify Kyoto.' What did we get from the Labor Party? `We would ratify Kyoto.' There are no practical measures and no plans as to how they would reach their targets or how they would take Australia past 2012. There is just this one-line policy. It was a bit like their policy on rivers. They said that they would find some extra gigalitres to put into the Murray. They did not say where they were going to get them from and how much that was going to cost. They had a policy for one river whereas the coalition had a policy for 1,750 projects on rivers right around Australia.

In relation to Kyoto, the government's policy was firmly focused on how we achieve what needs to be achieved on climate change. We need this 50 to 60 per cent reduction sometime during this century to ensure that climate change is addressed as an issue. As I said, the reality of climate change is now not something that can be debated. It has occurred. We have had global warming. We have had climate change. The extent of the Antarctic ice has diminished by around 20 to 25 per cent already in the last 50 years. In my home state of Western Australia, the rainfall has reduced over the past 50 years by around 20 to 25 per cent. That is a fact for the farmers in Western Australia. The rainfall has reduced and you cannot argue about it. The climate is changing. It is a reality.

The Larsen B iceshelf, which had been a feature on the Ross Sea in Antarctica for 10,000 years, recently broke off into the ocean. The impacts of climate change are a reality. The Kyoto protocol does not address it in a way that is substantial enough to achieve an attack on climate change and yet Labor and the Democrats say, `Let's sign the Kyoto protocol.' The coalition, you would be proud to know, Madam Acting Deputy President Knowles, has a range of policies to make a substantial difference in Australia and around the world. There is about $1.7 billion of domestic investment in our climate change strategy, including $700 million under our new energy white paper. There are investments in alternative fuels, low emission technology and storage of energy created by renewable energy. There is substantial investment in renewable energy. There is the world-leading mandatory renewable energy target to ensure that we move investment towards renewable energies. There is the historic $75 million solar cities program, which will see us build, first in Adelaide and subsequently in up to three other locations around Australia, world-leading demonstrations of solar cities using solar energy to replace fossil fuel energy, solar passive housing design and a range of other solar technology to create a world-leading technological edge in using renewable fuels to power entire suburbs, tertiary institutions, technical colleges and industry. That is one of the exciting programs.

Furthermore, we recognise that it is very important to engage with all the other nations, both Kyoto protocol ratifying nations and those which have not ratified, to ensure that we get a comprehensive outcome in what we have called the `beyond Kyoto' scenario. The Kyoto protocol aims at outcomes between 2008 and 2012; the reality is that we have to achieve this 50 to 60 per cent reduction in about 50 years time. What we do post the Kyoto target period is vital to the future of Australia. It is vital to Australian jobs, to the Australian economy, to the agricultural sector and, most importantly, to saving our very rare flora and fauna. We saw stories in the papers this morning about a very unique tree frog in the Daintree in the wet tropics region of North Queensland that has been confined to a very, very small part of this planet. If temperatures rise by another degree or so then this tree frog, for example, will have no habitat left. The case of that frog gives an example of what can happen to habitats around Australia.

In the interests of Australia's economy, jobs, environment and incredibly unique biodiversity we have to address climate change and we have to ensure that there is a comprehensive international agreement. We have to ensure that the United States of America is part of an agreement. We have to ensure that the developing countries are part of an agreement and that they do not feel threatened by the need to constrain their energy and industrial output or feel constrained in unfair ways about their carbon emissions. We have to address the fact that we have a couple of major challenges confronting the world at the moment. The leaders of the world got together at the millennium development conference and set the world some incredibly important and noble targets in relation to human development. They decided, for example, that we have to reduce poverty by 50 per cent and that we have to reduce starvation. We have to reduce the number of people living on less than one dollar a day by 50 per cent. We have to stop the hundreds of thousands of people around the world, many in sub-Saharan Africa, from dying every year of malnutrition—a condition which is caused when people do not have enough input into their bodies to match their output. They slowly starve and die. That is a condition that all of us would agree needs to be eradicated. We need development to achieve the reduction in malnutrition, poverty and starvation in our own region, in sub-Saharan Africa and in other parts of the world.

You do need development, you do need expansion of industry and you do need a developing world to develop more rapidly. On the other side of the ledger you need to ensure that you have less greenhouse gas emissions. We have this phenomenal historic problem to solve. And we do not do it by saying, `Let's sign up to the Kyoto protocol,' knowing full well that the protocol itself excludes huge sections of the world—most of the developing world, the United States of America and other major emitters. If we do not have a comprehensive international agreement to address the greenhouse gas emissions of the whole world—not just a part of it—and match that with a frank assessment of how we ensure that we get enough development in the developing world to ensure that starvation and poverty are reduced then we are not going to achieve what this generation can achieve.

That is why the coalition set down a series of international engagements: a ministerial conference to be hosted by Australia next year; engagement in the G8 conference chaired by Tony Blair next year; an APEC workshop to focus on practical measures within our region; and, of course, a very proactive and constructive engagement at the conference of the parties in Buenos Aires in Argentina, at which I will be representing Australia next month. That is in stark contrast to the one-line policy of the Democrats and the one-line policy of Labor. It is active engagement, it is constructive measures and it is a way forward. (Time expired)