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Thursday, 8 February 2007
Page: 8

Mr WAKELIN (2:34 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of potential threats to the future economic growth of South Australia and to jobs for the people in this important part of Australia?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Grey for that question. I am sure that he, along with many other residents of South Australia, would have been alarmed to read the front page of the Adelaide Advertiser this morning, which was emblazoned with this headline: ‘Labor split over mine’. It referred to what has been labelled by the Premier of South Australia as the bedrock of that state’s economic future, namely the further development of the Olympic Dam uranium mine. The article in the Advertiser was referring to the comments of the shadow minister for the environment, the member for Kingsford Smith, who expressed his grave concern about the possible expansion of the mine. He went on to say a few other things about the environment policies of the Labor Party that I will come to.

This represents the latest example of the great danger in this environment debate, and that is that ideology is going to be put ahead of jobs. In responding to the challenge of climate change, we need a measured, sensible approach. We need an approach that tackles the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, and that is why we need to keep the nuclear option on the table. As the Chief Scientist has said, it is part of the solution to the climate change problem. It is part of the way of tackling greenhouse gas emissions. In the process of dealing with climate change, we have got to do it in a way that does not threaten the job security of Australians. We do not want thousands of coalminers thrown out of work, and we do not want thousands of people denied an opportunity of employment in the development of the uranium mines of South Australia. That is one of the reasons why we have been aghast that it has taken the Labor Party so long to get around to considering a change in relation to the mining of uranium in this country.

What we heard from the shadow minister for the environment was a classic example of how many on the front bench of the Labor Party will put ideology in front of jobs. This government will never put ideology in front of jobs. We will embrace all solutions that go to strengthen the capacity of the Australian economy to continue to expand. I say to the people of South Australia: if you want a guaranteed expansion of the Olympic Dam mine and you want to preserve that great industry in your state, for heaven’s sake, don’t vote Labor, because it would be at real risk.

But that was only the half of it. In that same interview with the Adelaide Advertiser, the shadow minister called for a substantial increase in the mandatory renewable energy target. There is nothing new about that. The Labor Party have argued in favour of that for a long time. We do not necessarily share that view, but I acknowledge that it has been their policy for a long time. But it has also been their policy for a long time to have a national emissions trading system. You can argue for that, and many people in the community do argue that, but the shadow minister went out on his own on this occasion and apparently ignored the views of the member for Batman and the member for Hunter, both of whom have said that, if you have a national emissions trading system, you should close down renewable energy target programs. In other words, there is a real conflict.

The shadow minister wants to expand MRET—and there will be people who will consider that that is a good idea and many people who will think it puts an unreasonable cost burden on industry—but he also wants to have a national emissions trading system and to move ahead of anything that might be developed internationally. But his two frontbench colleagues, the member for Batman and the member for Hunter, say that, if you have a national emissions trading system, that is incompatible with the maintenance of both state trading systems in emissions and a renewable energy target. All of this is very interesting, and I continue to look forward with great anticipation to further interviews being given by the member for Kingsford Smith.