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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2351

Senator CHAMARETTE (7.29 p.m.) —For me there were two highlights of the state of the environment reporting policy that the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Senator Faulkner) presented yesterday: the stance on the moratorium clause and the well-deserved criticism of Western Australia for its lack of cooperation in regard to federal-state environmental issues. The Greens believe that Senator Faulkner's criticism of the Western Australian government's uncooperative approach to national environmental initiatives was timely, but far too mild.

  Many of my constituents are very unhappy about the attitude of the Western Australian government to federal-state cooperation. They are very aware that these attitudes are short-changing them and are also very likely short-changing the next generation of Western Australians. In fact, the short-sighted and obstructionist attitudes of the Western Australian government to federal-state cooperation on environmental matters is a heavy burden for all Australians, especially if the Court government damages the process—

Senator Panizza —Mr President, I raise a point of order. Senator Chamarette is reflecting on the parliament of Western Australia, and I think she needs bringing into line to stop her doing so.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Chamarette is reflecting on policies of the government. I do not see anything wrong with that.

Senator Panizza —If I could talk further on the point of order—

The PRESIDENT —Are you accepting my ruling or are you objecting to it?

Senator Panizza —I just want an explanation of why you believe Senator Chamarette is not reflecting on the parliament of Western Australia by what she has said up to date.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Chamarette is reflecting on the policies of the government in Western Australia.

Senator Margetts —Mr President, on the point of order, I think the reflection comes naturally. It is not as though Senator Chamarette has used bad language or has cast any aspersions.

The PRESIDENT —I have made my ruling.

Senator CHAMARETTE —I make it perfectly clear that I am not casting criticisms on the parliament or the government. But I am casting aspersions on their attitude in certain environment policy areas. That attitude puts a very heavy load not only on Western Australians but on all Australians, especially if it damages the process of setting international environmental standards and if Australia's standing in international forums is impaired.

  Unfortunately, within Western Australia we have not only a government but large numbers of people who hanker after the past, which they are entitled to do. If they want to be staunchly monarchist, if they do not accept that votes should have equal value or that Australia's original inhabitants have a right to their land, and if they do not fully accept federation—even some members of the Western Australian government—

Senator Kemp —How were you elected?

Senator Bolkus —Let her go.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Kemp.

Senator Kemp —She is very provocative.

Senator CHAMARETTE —I am glad that honourable senators want to stay here for so much longer than is necessary. I have a very short speech which I am entitled to make. I am quite happy to extend it, but I would rather give other people the opportunity to speak.

  The worst attribute of the Western Australian government is its slash and burn approach to the environment, which is consistent with some of the other attitudes that I have referred to. Nothing is further from such a mind-set than Australia's international obligations in a range of environmental areas.

  Western Australia has so far refused to join the National Environment Protection Council. It insists that it has a right to expose Western Australians to higher levels of ground, water and air pollution than Australians elsewhere. Apparently, Western Australia is also prepared to breach international wildlife protection conventions. I refer to the RAMSAR convention, which protects habitats vital for migratory birds. The Creery Wetlands near Mandurah in Western Australia is one such essential habitat which the Court government is intent on turning into a canal complex and a real estate bonanza.

  In March this year it was reported that Western Australia breached its obligations under the inter-governmental agreement on the environment by failing to provide details of its environment programs to the heads of government meeting. But is there anything to report? I will list some matters that do need reporting.

  Western Australia has opened its national parks to mining. To be fair, this trend began with the previous Labor state government and has simply continued. The Western Australian government has recently exempted Western Mining Corporation for two years from meeting the standards of a new environmental protection policy on sulphur dioxide. The environment minister, Mr Minson, said:

. . . the exemption would give the company the time it needed to develop a way of controlling emissions.

The Western Australian government rejected the Resource Assessment Council's findings in its final report on coastal zoning. The Western Australian minister for planning declared that he is strongly opposed to any overarching national coastal management legislation, any national coordinating agency or a national agency committee. The Western Australian government does not see the need for specific coastal management legislation at this stage. We may well ask when it will see it. There is only the slimmest chance that Western Australia will participate in a national pollutant inventory or recognise that its citizens have a right to know what toxic and polluting compounds are remitted into their environment.

  At the same time, this government will tell its citizens that they enjoy environmental protection standards amongst the highest in the world, as Mr Minson, Western Australia's environment minister, did in February this year. Such attitudes invite the response by the federal minister for the environment that we saw in his speech at the launch of the State of the environment reporting: framework for Australia. Western Australia has to be brought into the 20th century. The Western Australian environment has to be protected from the short-sightedness of its current rulers before it is too late.