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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1234

Senator ALLISON (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (10:57 AM) —The minister says that greenhouse will be dealt with under the law. I remind the minister that the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act does not include a trigger for greenhouse. An EIS might be done, but it will be about vulnerable species; it will be about a whole range of things within the act—but not greenhouse. I ask the minister, if he thinks the law will protect us from climate change due to our own emissions, will he indicate that sometime soon, hopefully in the next sitting week, we will deal with a bill in this place that puts a greenhouse trigger into place, as was promised by the previous government many years ago but never happened? My guess is that the states will not want it, so we will never see that trigger. I think 500 million tonnes was the original proposal. We would like to see it a bit lower than that, and I know the Greens would as well—100,000 tonnes has been suggested. If we are relying on the law, will this government fix the law so that greenhouse can be taken into account as a threat to the country and to all of those matters of national importance that are covered under the bill?

I see we have a change of ministers in the chamber. I hope the new minister, Senator McLucas, is able to get a grasp of this issue quickly and that the advisers are able to give us a date when we can expect to see that trigger inserted into the EPBC Act—because, if we do not have it here as a No. 1 priority, then at least the law has to be accessible for people so that a desalination plant which would generate a million tonnes of greenhouse a year is able to be challenged. It is not able to be challenged now. We know that because already, even though it is a controlled action, it is not a controlled action insofar as greenhouse is concerned, despite our best efforts to make sure that it is. Minister, are you in a position to tell us, if greenhouse is not going to be included as a high priority and mandated requirement for reporting, will there at least be the avenue for us to take projects to the federal government? When I say ‘us,’ I am talking about the broader community out there. Will they be able to take projects like the desal plant, like various road or other infrastructure projects, to the federal environment minister under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act?