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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5476

Senator BOB BROWN (Leader of the Australian Greens) (7:01 PM) —Well, you can see why Senator Macdonald, whom I think is now leaving the chamber, had one of the shortest tenures as minister for forests, in Australian history. That was an appointment made by Mr Howard, which he did not—

Senator Ian Macdonald —Four years!

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Moore)—Senator Brown, I take you back to the amendment.

Senator Ian Macdonald —It was four years. I was one of the longest-serving forestry ministers.

Senator Abetz —I was shorter!

Senator BOB BROWN —Senator Abetz is bidding and saying that his term was shorter, which shows that Prime Minister Howard did have some judgment!

Senator Ian Macdonald —I think I was probably the longest-serving forestry minister ever.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Thank you, Senators.

Senator BOB BROWN —I did get confused between the longevity of the tenure and the ability. I was talking about the quality and the ability of the minister.

Senator Ian Macdonald —You might be right there but—

Senator BOB BROWN —At least he says that I am right there. We have agreement that his quality and ability was a spectacle at the time. I want to get back to the amendment. Senator Joyce has indicated that nuclear power would be a better alternative. Again, here is a National Party point of view which the Greens do not agree with. I was at a meeting of chief executives of entities which have big investment potential for Australia today and I was asked a question about nuclear power. I will only take a minute or two here to ask: what is it with the Rudd government that follows up on the Howard government in exporting our uranium to China, which has rockets that can reach Sydney and Melbourne, and which is simply using uranium from Australia to displace uranium going into its nuclear power stations to allow it—if you believe there is a division capable here—to increase its nuclear weapons stockpile?

Through you, Temporary Chair, Senate Joyce is wrong. The nuclear industry, even if it did exhaust the high-potential uranium stocks on the planet, could not meet the need for the world to get away from burning fossil fuels. But what can do that is renewable energy and energy efficiency. That is why this amendment is so important—because we are saying, ‘Let’s catch up with world’s best practice here.’ Let’s not, as Senator Macdonald suggested, wait for Columbia—or Russia, China or any of the other countries he mentioned—to take the first move. That was quite a remarkable statement from a senior coalition member. I hope that schools will reach for Hansard to read that statement because it shows the mindset that we are working against here.

There is a lot of anger, no doubt, on the more conservative side of the opposition benches, but the point I was making is that the government and coalition have got together today to make an unsatisfactory piece of legislation much more of a polluters’ handout, against the interests of the renewable energy industry. This amendment would increase by 50 per cent the aliquot of energy that is required to come from renewable, and therefore non-climate-change-enhancing, sources in this country by the year 2020. That is way below the target of many comparable countries elsewhere in the world, and yet the combined wherewithal of the government and big opposition party in here is against that. That sells out the best of Australia’s national interest into the future, including rural and regional Australia, and it is just not good enough.