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Coonan comments August 2001

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Coonan Comments

Date: 1 August 2001


Any criticism of the Kyoto Protocol should not be seen as a move against environmental vigilance or a lack of concern about global warming.

Quite the contrary, with or without the protocol, Australia is committed to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Protocol established greenhouse gas emissions for different countries with a view to reducing overall global emissions by at least five per cent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012.

Since signing the Protocol in 1997 Australia has met its targets (Australia was one of a few countries permitted to increase its emissions by eight per cent during the commitment period).

Efforts to wrangle concessions from, in particular, European nations during the recent greenhouse discussions in Bonn should also not be seen as a move to cement Australia’s position as “deputy Sheriff” to the US.

There are legitimate concerns about the Kyoto Protocol and whether Australia would benefit from its ratification.

The Protocol does not yet require a truly global commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The exclusion of developing countries from the protocol is a flaw that must be fixed. Increases in emissions by China and India, the third and sixth largest polluters respectively, and other developing countries will more than offset the reductions committed to by industrialised nations.

A workable Kyoto Protocol also requires resolution of the likely social, economic and environmental impacts for Australia.

The agreement makes the developing world, with its lax pollution laws, more attractive for investors in heavy industry who can save on the cost of complying with strict environmental standards in countries such as Australia.

The Australian Aluminium Council claimed in a recent article that almost $4 billion in investments could be jeopardised - from just one industry.

A clearer statement of future global climate change strategies also needs to be made.

The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, of which I am a member, concluded in a discussion paper on the Kyoto Protocol that the sensitivity of the atmosphere to greenhouse gases is not yet reliably known.

The United Nations’ Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that possible future temperature increases might range from 1.4 degrees to 5.8 degrees. JSCOT concluded those figures are “hardly firm enough ground on which to build good policy”.

A Kyoto Protocol without America, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, would also undermine any environmental benefit.

As one commentator proclaimed: “An international treaty hoping to tackle this most international of problems must include the United States—the world’s biggest energy guzzler”.

Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill has predicted the US will bring a new greenhouse treaty to the table when talks resume in October this year.

He said Australia had accounted for US opinion in Bonn because without America we haven’t got an effective global response.

Climate change is a problem that knows no boundaries and one which demands a global solution.


The announcement of a National Royal Commission into the building industry is a timely response to the standover tactics and thuggery of the unions involved in the construction industry. The inquiry, to be headed by former Appeal Court Judge Terry Cole will examine fraud, corruption, violence and inappropriate payments or benefits (outlined in the Terms of Reference) in the building industry. Described as “the Royal Commission Australia had to have—to break a renewed code of silence and retribution on construction sites, and weed out rogue unions and shonky employers” (The Australian 27/07/01), it is a stark contrast to half-hearted attempts by the former Labor government, who rolled over to the unions by:

• Ignoring recommendations made in the Coalition’s similar 1992 Gyles Inquiry in NSW.

• Dismantling a similar taskforce in WA .

• Allowing union members in Victoria and NSW to rampage through offices, block MP’s access to the NSW Parliament and attack Defence Minister Peter Reith’s car.

“The ALP cannot claim to be a party of the working people, accept money from the unions, give them preferential treatment in party votes, then wash its hands of union misdeeds.” (27/07/01 The Australian.)

The Cole inquiry will address violence and fraud in the industry and put Labor on notice that industrial thuggery and unchecked union power will not be tolerated. Previously undertaken measures like the Employee Entitlements Support Scheme, which covers workers when companies fold, have already helped the Coalition secure an impressive record, where union

disruptions have dropped from 1,272 a year when Labor was in Government to 574 under the Coalition. Moreover union membership is in decline. They are losing 90,000 members a year and less than 28% of the workforce is currently a member of a union. However an interesting contrast is in the Senate where 20 out of 29 Labor Senators are former union officials— now enjoying the Senate as a reward for service.

Focus on….

Eden Monaro

Talk about perfect timing! Sitting Member Gary Nairn and I have been rallying support in the marginal seat of Eden-Monaro and recently held a ‘Liberal Party rally the troops meeting’ in Moruya - The result ? A new branch!

This is great news for Gary, particularly after Peter Cochran’s announcement that he will run as an Independent in the seat. Although Gary, who has won the seat twice, is working hard to retain it, it does remind us how crucial Liberal Party members will be in the upcoming Election.

To Gary’s credit, he has been campaigning strongly for his constituents, culminating in the announcement by Defence Minister Peter Reith that a $150 million Defence Operations Headquarters will be built in the Queanbeyan area - A huge boost for local industry and employment.

Keep up the good work Gary and team! I look forward to continuing to work closely with you in Eden-Monaro!

A Taxing Election

The Coalition has already reduced company tax rates to discourage cost shifting outside Australia, promised no increase to the GST and announced that further income tax cuts for ordinary Australians will be a priority if elected to Government for a third term. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley however is trying to win votes claiming that Labor will roll back the GST, increase spending and maintain a surplus—Impossible goals without increasing taxes. Kim Beazley’s admission that he thinks “Australians don’t pay too much tax” shows that Labor will increase taxes if elected. Analysts agree:

• “Tax is Kim Beazley’s Achilles heel. His approach is confusing, contradictory and against the spirit of innovation and incentive Australia needs.” (14-15/07/01, Weekend Australian, Editorial).

“..a year ago (under the Coalition) Australians got $12 billion worth of income tax cuts... and most people on incomes of between $50,000 and $100,000 came out well ahead despite the GST.” (27/07/01 Weekend Sydney Morning Herald.)