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Friday, 18 September 1987
Page: 343

Mr CHYNOWETH —My question is addressed to the Minister for Science and Small Business. In the last few days there have been numerous media reports about the Commission for the Future, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the greenhouse effect. I ask: Why is the Commission for the Future involved in these activities and, specifically, what have these activities been?

Mr BARRY JONES —The CSIRO approached the Commission for the Future as the appropriate body to draw together major sectors in the community so that they could be briefed on scientific evidence about the greenhouse effect. I urge all honourable members who happen to have electoral seats with a coastal border, especially those honourable members from Tasmania, to listen very carefully. The CSIRO recognised the Commission's expertise in this area and, as a result of the collaboration, the Greenhouse Project: Planning for Climate Change emerged. What they are attempting to do is to develop a better understanding of climate change at a local and regional level to assess the likely impacts of the changes, to plan for the minimisation of adverse effects and maximisation of any likely benefits and to identify policy changes to avert the adverse long term effects of the greenhouse effect. There will be a series of workshops organised, both in 1987 and in 1988, with the involvement and support of a number of groups such as primary industry, manufacturing and construction, service industries, public works and services, water industry, resources and energy, government policy and law, conservation and environment and education and the media.

At the first meeting this week the major issue that emerged was a call for more research on climatic change at a local and regional level, so that the various sectors could plan in detail for those climatic changes. For example, the manufacturing group commented on the likely change of population distribution following climate changes and the impact this would have on domestic and overseas markets and the established distribution systems for products. There was discussion also on the need for the insurance industry to focus, for example, on preventive actions to reduce the risks to buildings resulting from climate changes. Concern about the coasts, in particular coastal erosion, and associated drainage and sewerage plants was common to a number of groups.

It is very important that we get the concept of the greenhouse effect in context. It is a classic illustration of how if we are only prepared to plan five years, 10 years, 15 years or 20 years down the track all the dangers that are feared can be avoided. Of course, we have to take both a national responsibility and an individual responsibility because it is the pattern of energy usage of all of us as individuals, members of families and groups and so on, that will determine the outcome, not just in this country alone, of course. I think this is a matter on which we need to have a much higher degree of international interaction.

The fundamental question is whether this is another factor that we can just leave to the market to work out or whether we need to take some preventive measures to ensure that there is a much higher level of public understanding of what can, potentially, be the greatest environment disaster of all time.