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Tuesday, 15 June 2010
Page: 3265

Senator MILNE (5:04 PM) —I rise to make a few brief comments on the sustainable cities index and the need for government to consider it in a good deal of detail. The problem we have here is the interface between state and federal legislation and responsibilities and local government responsibilities and the interface between the imperatives of the 21st century for sustainability and resilience and the old-fashioned ways of thinking about infrastructure and development. If you approach this in an old-fashioned way and just talk about wanting more people, cities growing, therefore putting in more infrastructure, doing things the way we have always done them—with roads, with petrol engine vehicles, with private versus public transport—you are going to end up with completely unsustainable cities.

Let us assume for a moment that petrol and oil were $200 a barrel tomorrow. Are our cities resilient? Are they sustainable? The answer is no. The Rudd government continue to apply pressure to free up cheap land, supposedly, at the edge of cities, without putting in place the public transport infrastructure to service it. In places like Western Sydney there is still no public transport.

What about climate change? When there are extreme heat conditions, as we have experienced in summers of recent years—and this year could well be the hottest on record—public transport goes out because of, in some cases, buckling of railway tracks. There are also power outages. Equally, cities rush to put in place temporary morgues. In Adelaide they had to put in place a temporary morgue, as they did in Victoria. That was because of the heatwave conditions and the extreme stress it put particularly on the elderly and vulnerable in our communities. So we are not prepared for this.

In Tasmania we do not have a planning system that is adequate to integrate all the different areas, for example, in the south of the state. Whilst there is now a move to have a southern integrated transport plan and a southern regional planning initiative, they are still in draft form. We still do not have the shape of the city in the future. If you do not have that shape then you cannot plan the transport infrastructure or the water infrastructure you need.

In Tasmania one of the biggest problems is a lack of energy efficiency in terms of our built environment. This is a major problem and it was identified in the assessment of Hobart. Green building was very low on the list because of it. That has been the case because the Housing Industry Association and the Master Builders Association have resisted higher standards. Tasmania is one of the states holding back the whole nation when it comes to standards for new housing and new commercial buildings in terms of energy efficiency. What we need is a much greater commitment to recognising the challenges of climate change and peak oil, recognising that planning has to be integrated between local, state and federal government and recognising that the infrastructure of the future has to address those imperatives, not some imperative that economists have declared as being the ones we need to look at in terms of growth. We need to look at sustainability in terms of the environment.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Barnett)—Order! The time for the consideration of the matter of public importance has expired.