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Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Page: 103

Mr HUNT (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (4:39 PM) —Let the words ‘the Wolffdene Dam’ hang like a talisman of shame around the neck of the Leader of the Opposition, because that is the dam that, the last time the Leader of the Opposition had his hands anywhere near power in Australia, he destroyed. He destroyed the potential for a new dam in south-east Queensland with a failure to plan for infrastructure, a failure to prepare for the environment. Let those words ‘the Wolffdene Dam’ start to make their way around Australia. If you want to know how the Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Rudd, will govern, look at what he did last time. The last time he had his hands anywhere near the resources and control of government in any Australian jurisdiction was as the chief of staff to Wayne Goss, the then Premier of Queensland. What he did was to put a knife through proposals for the Wolffdene Dam.

Who is paying for that action? It is the people of south-east Queensland right now, at this moment. They may talk on the opposition benches about preparing for the future, but we have the example of the Wolffdene Dam, as raised by my learned leader in this debate, my colleague, my friend and parliamentary secretary with responsibility for water, the member for Wentworth. The last time we saw the Leader of the Opposition with his hands on the tools and the levers of government in Australia he destroyed Queensland’s capacity to prepare for its own water future.

It is a serious business to protect the nation’s environment, it is a serious business to prepare for the future and it is a serious business to care about what happens to future generations of families. It is families, farmers and businesses in south-east Queensland that are suffering today from the failure of Kevin Rudd in the past to stand up for long-term planning. He took the soft option. He played to the crowd. The damage is real and palpable, and people today in south-east Queensland are suffering precisely because of that action. When we want to see what is going to occur with regard to infrastructure and preparation for the water needs of this country in future years if the putative Prime Minister, the would-be leader of this country, ever gets his hands on the authority, the roles and the levers of government in this country, we have to look at what he did in the past. He destroyed a dam. He destroyed the best chance that south-east Queensland has had in the last two decades to prepare for its own water future. That is real and that is a problem.

Let us compare the two approaches here on water and climate. What we hear from the opposition is total failure and silence on three fronts: firstly, on infrastructure; secondly, on pollution in relation to water; and, thirdly, on what their proposals will do to petrol and energy prices for ordinary Australian families. They talk about the poor, yet they want to impose a regressive approach which is going to strike at the heart of the ability of lower income families, farmers and pensioners to deal with their petrol and energy bills.

I turn first to the issue of urban waters, complementing the material brought forward by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with responsibility for rural water. We hear total silence, we hear nothing, from the opposition about the fact that 1,800 gigalitres, or 1,800 billion litres, of waste water is cast aside every year around the Australian states by state Labor governments. They talk about the waste of water, yet who is wasting that water? We see 1,800 billion litres of waste water every year. Four hundred billion litres of primary sewage is dumped just off, between 2,000 and 3,700 metres off, the coast of Sydney—less than 15 kilometres from the member for Grayndler’s own electorate. Four hundred billion litres a year of primary sewage is dumped off the coast. It is a risk to health, it does damage to the environment and it is a monumental waste of resources. But is there any pressure on the states about that? They mention blithely the 30 per cent target, but there are no proposals to achieve that and there is total silence about the fact that the states themselves have responsibility and are failing to deal with it.

There are 350 billion litres dumped every year. Off Gunnamatta, 150 billion litres are dumped every year. Off my own electorate of Flinders, 200 billion litres are dumped into Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, yet the Victorian government has allowed this to occur and to continue. There are 200 billion litres of waste water dumped in Brisbane at Luggage Point, on the Sunshine Coast, and off the Gold Coast and in the Brisbane River—200 billion litres of secondary treated sewage, dumped at sea, not reused or recycled. That is a problem. This is a debate about water resources: let us focus on the real waste. It is a monumental waste, an extraordinary waste. Yet there is total silence on what their state colleagues are doing. They think that federalism now is to blame the Commonwealth for everything, to be silent on what the states are doing and to be silent about the failures of infrastructure.

What have we done by comparison? What has the Prime Minister done on this? He took up this challenge of cooperative federalism but backed it with real dollars: $2 billion for the National Water Initiative, of which $1.6 billion was for infrastructure. That infrastructure is sponsoring real projects all around this country. Whether they are the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline or recycling schemes around the country, these are real things that are happening and would not have happened but for the Commonwealth’s intervention.

But I know from dealing with the member for Wentworth and others that there is resistance to the states making their contribution. We see that only yesterday the South Australian government refused to play its part in the drought-proofing the south proposal for the Onkaparinga shire. It is an absolute failure of responsibility. They ask others to pay for their mistake and will not even make the most minor contribution. So we are out there trying to do everything we can to make the states and to encourage and support the states to reuse their water and clean up their coasts. If you talk about environmental pollution and you talk about water resources, explain where you stand on this waste of 1,800 billion litres a year.

And then let me turn to the issue of climate change. There is a real difference here between the two approaches in the House. What I want to present is that there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with climate change. The wrong way, at the international level, is what has been presented by the new Leader of the Opposition, who wants to sign an agreement as if suddenly the reality of emissions will disappear. Well, this is the reality. The wrong way is an agreement which has allowed emissions to increase from 100 per cent to 140 per cent during the course of its life. It would have had one per cent impact. The reason is that the major emitters are excluded from it. Yet they hold this up as something that is going to be successful: the Kyoto protocol. I accept the intention, but I reject the mechanism. The reason we reject the mechanism is very simple: China, India, the United States—the major players—are out. And what about those countries that have actually ratified, the ones that have made the promises? As the Prime Minister said today, the only country that is on track to meet its targets that is not a nuclear country is Australia. That is very interesting.

Mr Bevis —What was our target?

Mr HUNT —I will tell you about that. We hear that Canada has gone from 94 per cent to 116 per cent: 22 per cent over. France is at nine per cent over. Japan is at 12 per cent over its target. Norway is at 22 per cent over. Spain is at 36 per cent over. Each one of those countries will be more than Australia’s target. And they are just examples.

So what the Labor Party says is: ‘We should support those people who promise but breach’—classic! Whereas we do not make the promise, but we deliver. Our approach—the right way—is to support a new agreement with everybody in, to work with the United States and make the most of our alliance with them and, above all else, to work on practical measures through the Asia-Pacific partnership to deliver real changes at a global level, where we are putting $100 million on the table to work with China and India to bring low emissions there. There is $2 billion on the table in Australia. I commend the Prime Minister for his work leading this debate towards real and practical responses that will cut emissions—not pretending that a few solar panels or a signature will solve it, but actually trying to take steps that will do two things: protect Australians against massively jacked-up energy and petrol prices while at the same time providing a guarantee for our future and making real cuts in emissions.