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Thursday, 20 June 1996
Page: 1945

The PRESIDENT —I call Senator Bell.

Senator BELL —Mr President, my question is—

Senator Faulkner —Do you want an Assistant Treasurer over there?

Senator Patterson —You are so rude.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Stop the clock again. We will wait for silence. I call Senator Bell.

Senator BELL —My question is addressed to the Minister for the Environment. Do you agree with former coalition environment spokesperson Senator Rod Kemp who, in March 1995, said that the coalition would look at tax breaks to promote environmentally sound performance by industry; that developing countries should be subjected to tougher greenhouse restrictions; and that there should be a conditional ban on woodchip exports? If you do agree with Senator Kemp, what sorts of tax breaks will you be introducing? Which tougher greenhouse restrictions will you be recommending, and for which countries? And when will you be banning woodchip exports? If you do not agree with Senator Kemp, when and why did you change coalition policy?

Senator HILL —I agree with everything Senator Kemp says. Yes, in relation to greenhouse gases, we do believe that developing countries should play their role. We are almost to the stage, in the international community, where greenhouse gases produced by developing countries will exceed those produced by developed countries. If you are interested in a better global outcome, then it logically follows that you would like to see developing countries included within the formula. It is one of the things on which I agreed with the former minister for the environment. I would have thought you ought to as well. You are an astonishing lot over there, you Australian Democrats, I must say. The most rapid increases in greenhouse gases are occurring in the developing world. You look at what is happening in China and India and say that it is irrelevant. When we say they should play their part as well, you say, `We're not interested in that.' You have become totally illogical.

Government senators —Always! Always!


Senator HILL —We are wanting to invest $300 million in natural vegetation.

Democrat senators —Oh! Oh! Ha, ha!

Senator HILL —You laugh at it. One way in which Australia can contribute to a better greenhouse outcome is to spend $300 million on native vegetation, on revegetation. You know that. But what happens? We bring you the chance to support it and you say, `No, we're not interested.' Now you come in here today and say that you are not interested in developing countries playing a role as well. You are totally ingenuous. You have no interest in the environment at all. In relation to woodchips—

Senator Schacht —This is the way you persuade them to vote for you, is it, Robert?

Senator HILL —I am trying to knock some sense into their heads, to be quite honest. In relation to woodchips, you heard from Senator Parer earlier that the issue of woodchip regulations is under consideration, and an announcement will be made in due course.

Senator BELL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that attempt, but I did not get an answer to the question. What I heard was the usual diatribe, which was an attack on our party, rather than answering the simple question: which tax breaks will you be recommending for those industries which promote environmentally sound performance? You ignored that one conveniently, probably because that meant some sort of budgetary commitment—a commitment to the environment from the budget—rather than an ex-budget thing, which is what you are promoting Telstra as. So why have you changed from this budgetary commitment, which was suggested by Senator Kemp, to this offside sort of arrangement for Telstra? We don't see, for example, Defence being funded ex-budget in the way that you are proposing for the environment.

Senator HILL —`Offside'? `Why did we change our policy?', he said. I would have thought we could not have made it clearer at the election that our intention was to sell one-third of Telstra and use $1 billion from the proceeds of that sale to reinvest in Australia's natural heritage.   Are you suggesting that we did not put that to the Australian people? Are you suggesting that we are not offering the people of Australia the chance of the largest re-investment in our natural capital in the history of this country? Why won't you be a party to it?

Senator Carr —Why isn't it in the budget?

Senator HILL —That is your answer, isn't it? Put up taxes or borrow more. That is the legacy we inherited from you: put up taxes or borrow more to fund all the national needs. That is why we have three-quarters of a million Australians out of work. That is not our preferred way. Our preferred way is to produce a capital fund which will be outside the budgetary process in the future. It is a great advantage for the environment.(Time expired)