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Wednesday, 2 February 1994
Page: 195

Senator KERNOT —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development. I draw the minister's attention to the page 1 article in today's Melbourne Age headlined `Our green image is rubbished by report'. Among other things, we are the most wasteful OECD nation in terms of garbage created per person, and we are the third worst nation for killer carbon dioxide emissions. Australia failed an international `green scorecard' test. I ask: firstly, does the minister consider environmental technologies—which can solve many of those problems and create real jobs—a priority sector for his industry statement? Secondly, will the minister be incorporating general environmental protection requirements for industry as part of the statement?

Senator COOK —I thank Senator Kernot for her considered question. It is fair to say that one of the boom areas of Australia's export industry is our environmental technologies. We have a good position in the market in Europe and North America, and increasingly with growing affluent Asian economies—I have in mind the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, parts of Taiwan and parts of China. There is an increasing demand for environmental technology, and Australia is well placed in terms of clean air, clean water and solid waste disposal to win a major part in that growth industry. But I have been asked whether environmental technology will be an issue—

Senator Kernot —A high priority.

Senator COOK —A priority in the forthcoming industry statement. Yesterday I answered a question from the government backbench about consultation. On Friday of this week I am having consultations with the Australian automotive industry and the Australian environmental industry. The only reason the environmental industry was not the first group—as, I can honestly say, I initially intended—was its availability at the time.  I intend to focus on what is a significant growth industry, an important industry for us domestically, as Senator Kernot said in her question, as well as being an industry which is winning us a reputation for excellence amongst the economies of the world.

  The second part of the question related to priority being given to environmental standards and issues. I will take on board all of the submissions made to me about that and, hopefully, to the extent that the industry statement is the right medium for discussing those issues, render an outcome consistent with the very fine record of our party in government on environmental protection.

Senator KERNOT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. When the minister is speaking to industry he might like to ask why, when we have this wonderful environmental technology, Australian industries spend less in the area of environmental protection than any other OECD country. As the industry minister, does that concern him, and does it concern the government?

Senator COOK —The environmental record of this government is without peer by comparison with any Commonwealth government since Federation and by comparison with the performance of the states. Some political pundits believe that our election in 1990 was due to a public perception of that performance. In a responsible and balanced way, when dealing with industry policy, I also wish to reflect those views. I should point out that one of the problems some of our environmental technology industries have is in getting recognition for their technology from state governments—not so much the private sector—in areas of responsibility such as water management, sewerage and issues of that nature.