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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1220

Senator IAN MACDONALD (9:51 AM) —Minister, Infrastructure Australia has the power to provide advice on infrastructure policy arising from climate change, which to me would seem to be a fairly important role for this board, this committee, this unit, but it can only do that upon instruction from the minister. If this board, this entity, is to have the qualified people on it that we all assume and indeed hope that it will have, why would it be constrained in looking at infrastructure requirements in relation to climate change only in the event of it being directed to do so by the minister? It would seem to me that that is a very restrictive approach to what we hope will be a competent and intelligent board. With climate change the great concern that it is—not only to Australians but right around the world—it would seem to me that this body of expertise should be free to make its own decisions on climate change issues and not simply have to wait for the minister to do so.

I wonder which minister will make those decisions in relation to climate change. Will it be the minister responsible for Infrastructure Australia or will it be the climate change minister? How are those decisions likely to evolve through the government process? Will they be cabinet decisions? Will they be decisions of the climate change minister and the relevant minister? How is that going to work out? It seems to me to be unduly restrictive on the authority to have to wait for a direction from the minister on climate change issues. I emphasise that your government minister has made a great deal about climate change—convinced the electorate that signing a bit of paper would cure all of our ills. It is an important issue, but it seems to be that under this bill your government is relegating it to a very unimportant issue in that it can only be dealt with should the minister choose to give the direction.