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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 32


Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (11:49 AM) —I have already answered that question in a very deliberate and responsible way. I think Senator Brown's problem is that he will not recognise the fact that the government have, through a very successful political process with the states and the territories, very much addressed the issue of the big irrigators. He would like to ignore that. It is hard to cut through in the suburbs and towns of Australia on the importance of that process and on how hard it is to get reform, but the government have taken it on. It would have been easier for us not to have done it, but we have done it. We have gone through this process with the states and we have delivered on that. Senator Brown wants to ignore that. He wants to say that all of the work that goes on by the volunteers and in the urban areas is what he calls a `greenwash'. It annoys him because the Liberal government have been successful in making environmental issues mainstream so that people in the suburbs, people in the towns and people on the farms have taken them on and taken ownership of them.

He is upset about that because for his political support base he relies on creating this issue and on saying that he is the only one who cares about the environment. He gets the bundle of votes that get him in here based on that. It really disturbs him that a government has made these issues mainstream and has invested more than any other government in the history of Australia in solving them. It disturbs him because it cuts away at his little niche market. I can see why Senator Brown is so disturbed, but he should not misrepresent the efforts of state Labor governments and the federal coalition government—with the support, by and large, of the federal opposition and the Australian Democrats—in not only taking on the problem of overallocation to the large irrigators but also saying, `We have to have work all the way up and down the process.' We have to say to urban users of water that they can use water more wisely and encourage them to do that. We have just launched national water efficiency labelling. That is a tremendous result for a federation like Australia. But Senator Brown does not like that because it destroys his little niche market. We think it is really good for Australia.

I think the fact that the environment is a mainstream issue and Australians across the country are buying into it is absolutely fantastic for the environment. Senator Brown is so frustrated—it just annoys him—that a coalition government can do so much good for the environment and that we can actually deliver historic protection for the Great Barrier Reef, historic protection for forests and historic investments in the Murray through the Living Murray process. We now have huge levels of investment to solve our water problem and a framework developed with Labor governments, to their great credit. It would have been really easy for them to say: `We're not going to help the coalition. We're not going to sit down with John Howard and bring about this historic reform.' But to the great credit of the Australian Labor Party in government in the states, they have helped us do that. They will mark their place in history. That must be incredibly frustrating for Senator Brown. I understand the frustration, but let us deliver for the environment.

We know that delivering for the environment is not in essence his main task, even though he professes it is. If you go to the Greens' web site you see all the stuff about their social policies—how they want to make amphetamines more readily available for young people and how they want to close down industry and transport. We have seen this today. Senator Brown has said, `Diesels are no good.' You have the motor industry trying to develop cleaner fuels, better motors, more efficient transport systems and lighter-weight trucks—doing good stuff for the environment—but Senator Brown says: `Diesels are no good. Let's get rid of them.' What would that do to the price of goods around Australia? How would that impact on poor people through grocery prices? He could not care less about that. He wants to put up taxes and capital gains tax. We know what his policy agenda is. I can see why he is frustrated by governments across Australia reaching historic agreements to deliver historic environmental outcomes. He is not concerned about the environment; he is concerned about his little niche market in the political landscape. That is his true concern.