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Prime Minister defends greenhouse gas policies.

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Friday 13 October 2006

Prime Minister defends greenhouse gas policies


MARK COLVIN: An early bushfire season and seemingly endless drought have got more people than ever wondering whether th is is climate change in action, and that's starting to put new pressure on the Federal Government. 


The Prime Minister says the drought does emphasise the problem of climate change. But he's defended the Government's record in reducing greenhouse gases, and his decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. 


The Greens' leader, Bob Brown, says the Government's environmental policies have contributed to the severity of the drought Australia is now facing. 


And Labor says the Prime Minister can't attempt to tackle the nation's water problems until he takes further action on climate change. 


Lynn Bell reports from Canberra. 


LYNN BELL: The Prime Minister John Howard expects the current drought will leave a big impression on the Australian psyche, and he's described it as a hammer blow to the nation's farmers. 


JOHN HOWARD: The Government at a federal level will do all it reasonably should to help Australia's farmers through this drought. If they need more assistance, they will get it. 


LYNN BELL: The Opposition leader Kim Beazley supports the Government's plans to provide assistance to farmers, but he says the severity of the drought must be seen in the wider context of global warming. 


And on that issue, he's accused the Government of having its head in the sand. 


KIM BEAZLEY: Every farmer, and I think most Australians now understand, we have a much broader problem here. We've always had droughts, but it's the frequency and intensity now. 


We have a global warming issue on our hands. This is a long-term issue, and it's got to be a government with long-term solutions to it. You cannot fix the water crisis in this country, unless you fix the global warming issues. 


LYNN BELL: He says Labor would set up an emissions trading system if it wins government. It would also ratify the Kyoto Protocol. 


But the Prime Minister says Australia is already well on the way to meeting international targets for greenhouse gas reduction. 


JOHN HOWARD: I don't think it alters my outlook on Kyoto, but it certainly emphasises that the world does have a problem with climate change. 


And bear in mind that Australia's contribution is minuscule, and also bear in mind that unlike many countries that have signed up to Kyoto, Australia is likely to meet or go very close to meeting her obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. 


So in a sense, we have a clean bill of health on the Kyoto front. 


LYNN BELL: But the Greens' leader Bob Brown believes the Federal Government's policies over the past 10 years, have contributed to the extremely dry conditions. 


He says John Howard has been in the box seat to take a world lead against climate change.  


But instead, Bob Brown says the Prime Minister has starved the renewable energy sector, and accelerated the burning of fossil fuels and coal exports. 


BOB BROWN: The Howard Government has to take its share of responsibility for enhancing the climate change phenomenon, which is making the drought worse, which is making bushfires worse, which threatens us with greater storms along our coastlines, particularly in the north and floods and has huge economic consequences for this nation. 


LYNN BELL: He says the fact that Australia does not have a carbon tax, stronger environmental laws, or a signature on Kyoto is evidence of the problem. 


The Prime Minister John Howard. 


JOHN HOWARD: I think we do need to, as a nation, look at new ways of contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emission, but we shouldn't be so foolish as to imagine that if only we'd have signed a bit of paper a few years ago, we wouldn't have a drought. 


LYNN BELL: The Parliamentary Secretary to the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, says the Government is investing in the development of clean coal technology. 


And he's also defended the Government's record on addressing climate change. 


GREG HUNT: We were actually the first country in the world to set up a dedicated greenhouse office. We did that not long after coming in, and all up we've invested about $2 billion in the practical sense.  


Real ways of cutting emissions, incentives for corporations, assistance with solar panels for home, and then now we're really turning our mind to the big great changes in emissions from energy production. 


LYNN BELL: The Greens leader Bob Brown says many Australians are now genuinely worried about the predictions of a hotter and drier future and he expects next year's Federal Budget will have a large environmental component in line with the public's concern.