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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31530

Ms KING (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Is the minister aware of a front-page report in the Ararat Advertiser on 22 June stating that up to 750 jobs in the region could be at risk due to the government's refusal to increase the mandatory renewable energy target? Is the minister also aware that, according to the rural city of Ararat, the government's policy could cost the region $960 million? Minister, isn't this just another example of how the government has failed rural and regional Australia, and will the minister now adopt Labor's policy to increase the MRET to five per cent so that investment and jobs will not be lost to the region?

Dr KEMP (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I thank the honourable member for Ballarat for her question because it gives me the opportunity to once again remind the House of the enormous economic damage that the Labor Party's policy of a five per cent target for the mandatory renewable energy target scheme would bring. The cost to the economy in lost GDP of the five per cent target would be of the order of $11½ billion.

The SPEAKER —The member for Wills!

Dr KEMP —This would have an enormous effect on jobs throughout the economy. It would have an enormously discouraging effect on investment in jobs in regional Australia.

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Wills!

Dr KEMP —It would put up electricity prices, and it would have a very damaging effect. The fact that the Labor Party refuses to concede the impact of the extraordinary policy that it has, which of course it supplements with a policy for a national emissions trading scheme, shows that the Labor Party simply does not understand why the Australian economy has been so successful over the last eight years. It has been successful over the last eight years because this government has pursued policies which keep taxes down, which encourage business and which encourage people to invest and to produce the wealth that we need to invest in improving our environment. We do not believe in putting on an economic hairshirt and devastating the Australian economy for no real environmental gains by adopting policies which have very damaging effects right throughout regional Australia. I advise the member for Ballarat to stop this scare talk, to stop promulgating this scare talk and to recognise that the enormous encouragement given to renewable energy technologies in the energy and environment statement, particularly to wind and other key technologies for regional Australia, if taken up by the industry can only be beneficial to the commercial adoption of those technologies.