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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 8064

Senator O'BRIEN (1:47 AM) —I should put a couple of things on the record to round out our contribution to this debate. Senator Brown sought to downplay the CSIRO report. It is client report No. 1122, dated 31 May 2002. It is publicly available. So that there can be no doubt that what I was saying about its findings is correct, I will read from the executive summary. It says:

The effect of fuel wood harvest on greenhouse gas balance of all harvesting scenarios examined was highly positive and was dominated by the offset of fossil fuel emissions during the generation of electricity. There is likely to be only a small difference in the seed stock in the forest as a result of the fuel wood harvest over an 80- to 100-year forest rotation. Harvesting of fuel wood may also lower emissions of non-CO2 greenhouse gases.

I am not sure what study Senator Brown was referring to. I was referring to a particular report that I was aware of. It has been conducted in relation to the Southwood project. It was commissioned by Forestry Tasmania, National Power, and John Holland Development and Investment. It is contemporaneous and it deals with an actual circumstance. As I said, we prefer this matter to be resolved on the science. Senator Brown made some comments about commitments made during the last election campaign, but he conveniently omitted to refer to the fact that specified within the commitments given was that we would, upon attaining government, do certain things. I am sure it has not escaped Senator Brown's attention that that did not happen. I guess it is convenient for his argument today to suggest that we are bound to a commitment which could only be delivered in government: an immediate moratorium. We are now a little more than 12 months down the track.

I also pointed out in my contribution earlier that in the major states there is effectively a moratorium at the moment. Senator Brown has not conceded that, but that is the reality. I suspect that, until and unless the matter of the science of the greenhouse friendliness and biodiversity friendliness of the generation of power from native forest waste is accepted, it will not be very easy to sell the renewable energy certificates from native forest waste, whatever the legislation says. That is the reality and the Labor Party accepts that that is a reality of life. We would prefer that the matter be determined on the science and that is why we would prefer that there be a review. That is why we are proposing an amendment which would require that this matter be examined in the context of the review that is just around the corner and that we get a pronouncement on the science which, one would expect, would say that it certainly is possible for all of the concerns about greenhouse friendliness and biodiversity to be addressed, depending on the project. But we would prefer to wait on the appropriate review to find that, because we do not want it to be determined on a political outcome, which Senator Brown obviously does, but rather on a scientific outcome.

It is a bit galling to be lectured by the Greens in relation to election commitments and politics. One of my staff has drawn to my attention an article by Dr Hewson in the Financial Review of 6 December—a week ago—about the Greens' lack of success in the Victorian election. A passage in it, referring to what Dr Hewson described as an `inward-looking, insular, heavily regulated, poorly managed economy of the 1960s and early 70s', says:

When asked by Brian Toohey in a recent Meet the Press interview whether this was going to be realistic, as it would cost $30 billion in revenue, Brown—

thereby meaning Senator Brown—

responded: `No, it's not going to happen. We're realistic about that.'

To which Toohey responded, laughing loudly: `How many of your other policies are not going to happen?'

Brown replied: `Well, the Greens are not going to get into government next time. That's coming further down the line.'

In other words, you can make policies and you can make promises but you are never going to have to deliver them.

In this area, Labor made a promise. It said that if it were elected then it would deliver, and it would have delivered it because we wanted the scientific review. We have an opportunity in opposition. I wish that the minister had said, `We will mandate that,' because we believe that there needs to be on the public record a scientific determination of this issue. So we will not be supporting these amendments. We wish that the minister would, of his own volition, conduct the sort of review we are talking about, and we ask that the amendments not be carried.