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Wednesday, 16 June 2004
Page: 23923

Senator McLUCAS (3:24 PM) —I find Senator Eggleston's contribution somewhat ironic. I thought it was a strange decision for him to raise the Snowy Mountain scheme because one has to ask what might have happened to the Snowy scheme under the government's policy announced yesterday. We probably would not end up with a Snowy Mountain scheme, so it is an unusual choice for Senator Eggleston.

I also want to make the obvious point that Senator Scullion said quite clearly that the government was going to meet the Kyoto principles—obviously thinking that was a good thing to do—and yet Senator Eggleston said it was a flawed policy. I do not know what the message is, but you're not on it. Between Senator Scullion's and Senator Eggleston's commentary, there is a big gap, and Senator Eggleston should read those briefing notes again. The government is probably highly embarrassed at the commentary and the response to yesterday's very flawed environment and energy statement. To paraphrase the Australian Conservation Foundation—

Senator Hill —That's the one Garrett was a member of, isn't it?

Senator McLUCAS —Absolutely, and I am very proud to be a member of it as well—its singularly most spectacular feature is to handsomely reward the polluters and offers nothing in investment incentives to the renewable energy market. The Prime Minister is on the record saying that he is not racing to the polls before he rolls out a range of major policy initiatives. He knows that he has to reinvigorate his tired government to match Labor's new leadership and the appeal of our innovative policy positions across a whole raft of areas, notably in the environment. Labor have already announced that we will introduce a mandatory renewable energy target of at least five per cent, we have said that we are committed to signing the Kyoto protocol and we have further detailed policy to be announced in the lead-up to the election.

The bottom line is that this government just does not get it. It does not get the need for investment in the renewable energy industry—in wind, in solar or in hydrogen. Other countries—advanced European economies like those of the Netherlands, Iceland and the Scandinavian nations—are reaping the rewards of the renewable energy investments they have made over the years. These countries are exporting their technology, whether it be wind generation or hydrogen power, all over the world. We had the beginning of that clever industry in Tasmania, as Senator Mackay said, with the opportunity for the construction and development of wind generation in Tasmania, but that was trashed yesterday—gone. But here, when it comes to increasing the renewable aspects in our energy mix, the Howard government is living in the fifties. It is unsurprising that the papers have caned Minister Kemp and the Prime Minister and his energy statement. The headlines read like an eulogy for him: `Quick fix policy fuels MPs' anger' is from the Courier-Mail; `Farmers happy but Greenies fuming' from the Canberra Times; `Energy giant kills NW plan' from the Hobart Mercury; `Greens hit PM' from the Northern Territory News—maybe Senator Scullion did not actually read the paper this morning; `Coal remains king in solar age' from the Sydney Morning Herald; and `Tax break makes fossil fuels the energy of the future' from the Age. As I said, those headlines do sound like a eulogy for the minister for the environment but, sadly, also sound like a potential eulogy for the environment.

It is far too depressing to continue reading the headlines because where I come from there is a real sense of community ownership of our environmental treasures which also deliver great economic benefits for the whole region. We have to remember that an increase of one degree in the water temperature in the Great Barrier Reef will mean the end of what we know the Great Barrier Reef to be. Not only would there be the loss of environmental values that would occur from such an event but also let us remember the economy—the $5 billion tourism industry—that depends on that icon and the jobs that flow from it. This is a government that has lost its vision on the environment and environmental thinking. This is a government that needs to change. Labor are willing to deliver proper environmental and energy policy, and we stand prepared to do it.