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Tuesday, 3 March 1998
Page: 180

Mr EOIN CAMERON —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, who represents the Minister for the Environment. Does the government have a record of addressing environmental problems on their merits? How does this compare with previous approaches to environment policy?

Mr TIM FISCHER (Trade; Deputy Prime Minister) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I would ask that you convey my commendation to the outgoing Speaker. I wish him well.

In respect of the question by the member for Stirling, I want to say Australia is the second driest continent in the world. That is paralleled by the environmental problems which exist the length and breadth of this land. The coalition government is committed to doing something about it in a very pragmatic and very practical way to help turn the tide.

In that regard, I want to bring to the attention of the House a particular example. The asset test—the nub of the arguments which are being pushed by Labor comes from hanging onto the coat-tails of a distinguished publication of this country rather than doing their own homework, but they have come on the trail—is to examine what happened in Tasmania. I refer to Tasmania because Tasmania is the one state where Labor has, in terms of area, the majority of representation. In the rest of Australia, the coalition, the Liberal and National parties, is well in front. The asset test with regard to all of this saga is whether the seat of Lyons, the majority of land mass of Tasmania, received more than the average or less than the coalition-held electorates in Tasmania, such as the seat of Bass.

That question deserves a thorough answer at this point in this debate. It is a very interesting answer because of the outcome in respect of Tasmania—that one part of the country where one member of the opposition does have some area coverage. What was the outcome? The outcome was that the seat of Lyons received 42 of the 64 electorate specific projects, as opposed to state wide projects. In fact, under the Natural Heritage Trust funding the seat of Lyons received $1.2 million, or around 60 per cent of the allocation for the state of Tasmania. So our bona fides stack up.

There is no whiteboard. There is a proper process, and it is vindicated by this example from Tasmania. Your problem is the rest of Australia. The problem is simple enough: the National Party members—the country Liberal members—represent over 90 per cent of the land mass of Australia. My own electorate of Farrer is larger than the entire area represented by the parliamentary Labor Party in this House. That is something you ought to think about. It would help if you did your homework for yourself in relation to these matters. I am even happy to table the breakdown in respect of Tasmania as a gesture of goodwill on this matter.

It was at the shadow cabinet meeting in Blackstone, ably chaired by the Prime Minister, that the foundations were laid for the very correct decision to privatise Telstra and provide for Natural Heritage Trust funding. It was a very significant meeting. It has enriched many thousands of Australians and it has gone on to allow us to tackle the environmental problems which exist over the length and breadth of this land. The Prime Minister has carried that policy right through. It is a successful policy, and that is why you do not like it.

We will continue with the Natural Heritage Trust funding. It is doing the job. It is starting to do the job a whole lot more in turning the tide. It will include a land and water resources audit of over $30 million. I challenge the member for Lyons to stand up and say whether he has made representations in relation to those projects, 42 of which were approved by Senator Robert Hill and Minister John Anderson. I table the document.