Jun 20, 2005

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2005-2006 – Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change


Consideration in Detail – Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol Ratification)

20 June 2005

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.56 p.m.)—Because of time constraints I am not able to raise all the issues I would like to raise. Certainly, I want to associate myself with the comments of the member for Kingsford Smith when it comes to the GVEHO program. It is symptomatic of a government that is prepared to silence civil society when the funds to voluntary environmental organisations that have served this nation so well are cut off.

In particular, I do not want to miss the opportunity to raise the most important issue when it comes to the environment—that is, climate change. The parliamentary secretary would be aware that today my private member’s bill, the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change (Kyoto Protocol Ratification) Bill 2005, had its second reading. Would the parliamentary secretary and the government agree to have a full debate and a vote on that bill in the parliament, now that it has had its second reading? It should be up to the parliament to vote on it. I noticed the parliamentary secretary did not participate in the debate today, because he knows the right thing to do is to join with other countries to be part of the international effort.

The member for Stirling and, most extraordinarily, the member for Tangney spoke today in the second reading debate on my private member’s bill today, and the parliament should be aware of their comments. The member for Tangney said essentially that climate change was not occurring. He said:

Glaciologists working at this glacier utterly reject global warming as the causes of this glacier’s retreat.

He joined with the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, who also said that climate change is not occurring. But the member for Tangney has gone one step further, because he is calling for nuclear energy. Today, he said:

Total radioactivity levels on earth are slightly less after the nuclear power process.

That is an extraordinary proposition from the member for Tangney, but not quite as extraordinary as last week, when in a doorstop the member for Tangney dismissed the after-effects of Chernobyl as a minor issue and said that the impact of Chernobyl was no greater than the impact at Three Mile Island.

Is it the government’s position that Chernobyl was a minor hiccup that should not be held against those who have concerns about nuclear energy? Where is the government going on this issue, given the Prime Minister and others have been openly calling for a debate on this issue and expressing support for nuclear energy? We want to hold the government accountable. If it is the case that the government wants nuclear energy, we want to know which member opposite will put up their hand and say, ‘I want a nuclear reactor in my electorate’—whether it is the member for Tangney, the member for Flinders or other members.

This is an important issue, because it is a distraction from the fact that the government is not prepared to take the issue of climate change seriously and take action. If you look at the massive increases in greenhouse gas emissions in every sector of the economy—except in land clearing, which, due to the decisions of the Beattie and Carr governments, is why Australia will meet its target of 108 per cent on 1990 levels—it is of great concern that current projections by the Australian Greenhouse Office show emissions of 123 per cent by the year 2020 on 1990 levels.

The final question which I would like addressed by the parliamentary secretary is: in an era of climate change, where such change is a dominant political and environmental issue, why was it confirmed that the Australian Greenhouse Office was abolished in the budget, following the announcement in October last year, and why is it that the National Oceans Office has also been abolished and taken back into the department? Isn’t it the case that, by doing that to the Australian Greenhouse Office and the National Oceans Office, their independence and ability to put forward positions will be stifled by a government which, when you go back to its attitude towards community organisations, is very clearly determined to stifle any dissent?