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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1242

Senator MILNE (11:35 AM) —I will not take the opportunity to respond to Senator Macdonald, except to say that after the parliament had risen last year I do not know where Senator Macdonald went or what he did, but I went to Bali to the UNFCCC conference. There I took up the issue of the Indonesian forests, particularly with the European Union. I took the opportunity to brief members of the European parliament on the conversion of tropical forests to palm oil and also the effect of draining tropical forests for palm oil on increased fires through Indonesia as a result of climate change.

Also, at the World Heritage meeting in Christchurch last year I took the lead on getting the World Heritage Committee to raise to the level of the African Union the devastation and potential devastation of further areas of the Congo forests. So, whilst Senator Macdonald might make whatever accusations he likes, the reality is I use many opportunities and international fora that I attend to raise the issue of the protection of forests. I do not just stand in this parliament and make pronouncements about them.

But before we put the question on the amendments I want to return to the issue that I think Senator McLucas raised—although there have been three or four ministers here, so I am just not sure which one; it may not have been Senator McLucas. A minister talked about the emissions-trading scheme that the government is introducing, and I acknowledge that. Under the Kyoto protocol, it is one of the financial mechanisms to reduce emissions. But that is the point here in terms of getting a consistent government approach. If you are going to have an emissions-trading scheme, are you going to include the transport sector in the emissions-trading scheme, and how will that work?

If you have an emissions-trading scheme or you tax embedded carbon in fuel by regulation—which in my view would be a better way of going—either way the price of fuel with the highest amount of carbon in it is going to increase in a carbon constrained world because governments are going to bring additional costs onto the price of fuel. So, whichever way you look at it, petrol prices are going to go up because of the underlying increase in the price of oil and because of either a carbon tax on embedded carbon or an emissions-trading system, which means that motorists are going to be paying more for their fuel. If you are looking at that, you are looking to plan infrastructure that reduces the number of cars on the road and maximises the opportunity for large numbers of people to access public transport so that your emissions are reduced but also your costs are reduced. One of the arguments I have always used in terms of building these new suburbs on the edges of cities is that they should not be given planning permission unless they are connected to a public transport route. That should be a requirement. Otherwise you have this issue that we currently have, particularly in Western Sydney, where the poorest people live furthest from the centre of the city, drive the oldest, least fuel-efficient vehicles, have no options for public transport because it is not provided and end up paying a disproportionate amount of their income in having to use the car to get to work because they do not have any other options.

That is why I am asking for consistency across government. We are going to be addressing climate change and reducing emissions through emissions trading or taxation or a combination of both. The price of oil is going up; the price of fuel to the motorist is going up. That must be taken into account when you are planning infrastructure in the future, and it also must be taken into account in terms of reducing emissions. So I would be interested to know from the minister how consistency of approach is going to be assured when we know that the price of fuel is going to go up. How is dealing with transport emissions going to be taken into account by Infrastructure Australia?