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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3013

Senator SANDY MACDONALD —My question is directed to the Minister for Resources and Energy, who recently chaired the inaugural meeting of APEC energy ministers. What is the importance to Australia and to the Asia-Pacific region of this meeting's outcomes?

Senator PARER —I wish to thank Senator Sandy Macdonald for that question, which is very important to Australia. It is pretty obvious from the noises made by those opposite that these people are just not interested in the advancement of Australia as an economy. It was my great privilege to actually host and chair the inaugural meeting of APEC ministers in Sydney on 28 and 29 August. All APEC economies were represented at that meeting.

The importance of the meeting was that it took place at a critical time in Asia's energy future. The meeting provided a major impetus to Australia's goal of reforming energy policies across the region and advancing regional free trade in energy. As the Prime Minister said in his address to delegates, energy is the source of growth. The APEC economies are forecast to grow at about a third faster than the OECD economies over the next 20 years, so the region's demand for energy will grow dramatically.

The expected investment in APEC regions between now and the year 2010 in energy related infrastructure is in the order of $A2 trillion. There are potentially valuable mutual benefits for strong cooperative action to address the three fundamental energy issues facing the region, commonly known as the three Es; that is, economic growth, energy security and the environmental impact of these energy measures.

Ministers around the table readily recognised the benefits of working together to address those challenges and agreed on outcomes which will be important in the future energy policies of all member economies. These outcomes included the endorsement of 14 principles to guide members' energy policies. These include pursuing enhanced efficiency in energy production; distribution and consumption; pursuing open energy markets; and better transfer between the economies of environmentally sound technologies.

Another outcome was that of reforms to mobilise private sector investment in the region's energy infrastructure, responding to detailed recommendations generated by businessmen from across the region. The sheer size of investment will require private sector involvement in the investments in energy infrastructure.

There was agreement on action to reduce the environmental impact of energy production, distribution and use. This involves making sure environmental considerations are integrated into energy policies; a program to accelerate the uptake of environmentally sound technologies; and pursuing opportunities for joint projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Other outcomes were: launching the new Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre in Tokyo to improve understanding of the economies' energy needs and their implications for energy policy; and instructing officials to develop proposals to reduce impedi ments to trade arising from different standards for energy appliances and equipment.

These outcomes will be directly reported to APEC economic leaders when they meet in the Philippines in November. The scale of meeting the region's energy challenges is vast. To the year 2010, as I mentioned earlier, some $A2 trillion will be needed.

For Australia, as a net exporter of energy, the opportunities arising from the region's strong growth in energy demand are enormous, not just for increased exports of commodities such as coal, LNG and uranium but also for the export of our sophisticated technology and equipment, including in the renewable energy area, and project management skills.

The three Es to which I referred earlier are issues with which Australia must come to grips in domestic policy. Energy policy must take a long view and not be formulated with a short-term perspective. (Time expired)