Jun 14, 2006

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2006-7, Consideration in Detail, Environment and Heri

Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2006-2007

Consideration in Detail

14 June 2006

Environment and Heritage

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.12 p.m.)—The first issue I want to raise is climate change. Can the parliamentary secretary confirm that the Australian Greenhouse Office did have Australia on track to increase our greenhouse gas pollution by 23 per cent by 2020? Is that still the case? Can he confirm that, in the Australian Greenhouse Office report released last month into our emissions between 1990 and 2004, if you exclude land use changes, that indicates a 25.1 per cent increase in Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions over that period?

I also refer the parliamentary secretary to the issue of renewable energy. I refer him to the visit of Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao to Australia and the $300 million deal that was signed by Roaring 40s, a company based in Tasmania, to provide three wind farms in China. This is in a context of China aiming to have 15 per cent of its energy needs met by renewable energy by 2020. It is the case that Roaring 40s may well be the biggest foreign renewable energy company in China. I refer him to the Roaring 40s media statement of Thursday, 11 May 2006, entitled ‘Roaring 40s halts Australian developments’. They announced that they were withdrawing the development permit application that they had before the West Coast Council in Tasmania for the Heemskirk wind farm and also that they were withdrawing their application for the Waterloo wind farm in South Australia. Roaring 40s managing director Mark Kelleher stated:

“The MRET measure introduced by the Federal Government in 2001 successfully kick-started the renewable energy industry in Australia,” … “However, without an increase in the initial target level, electricity retailers are reluctant to commit to long-term REC deals which are crucial in financing renewable energy projects. Consequently, further substantial investment in the renewable energy industry is unlikely without an increase in the target.”

In what way is the government going to address the collapse in the renewable energy industry as a result of the government’s failure to increase or extend the MRET? How does the MRET of two per cent compare with international mandatory targets? What new and additional action will the government take to ensure that we do not increase our emissions by 23 per cent by 2020?

Mr HUNT (Flinders—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (5.15 p.m.)—I am delighted to answer the member for Grayndler’s questions in relation to climate change. In relation to the first two questions, each of which relates to emissions projections and emissions targets for Australia, the two items which he outlines are matters of record, so I do not seek to dispute those. They are on the public record. On both of those I do not seek to dispute that which he has already raised. But I do seek to dispute, with great respect, the context. I will come to the third item of renewable energy shortly.

In relation to the context, I respectfully suggest that what the member for Grayndler has failed to do is put into context the fact that there are a number of other activities which show that we are on track to meet our Kyoto projected goal of 108 per cent of 1990 emissions by 2012. Whatever the source which allows us to achieve that, I welcome that. I do not deny the fact that land clearing plays an important part in that. I think that is a welcome outcome. I welcome the source of that and I welcome the fact of it.

What that does, to put this in context, is put Australia amongst a very small number of annex 1 countries under the Kyoto protocol which are on track to meet our targets as they were set down. We are on track to meet 108 per cent of 1990 emissions despite more than a 50 per cent increase in our GDP over that period. Many other countries within the European Union as well as New Zealand, Japan and Canada are well and truly on track to blow out their projections and their commitments. So we have a very strong record relative to the international community, I say with great respect to the member for Grayndler, in relation to emissions.

The second point that I want to take up is in relation to his argument about renewables. We are aware of the position of Roaring 40s. It is a discussion I have been engaged in myself with the member for Braddon, who has raised it. The response is very simple. Minister Ian Campbell will himself be leading a renewable energy industry delegation to China. This is one of the issues we wish to take up.

But, again, there is an issue of context which is missing here. There are two key points in relation to renewable energy context which I wish to address. The first context point is that Australia actually has a renewable energy percentage of static energy which is approaching 11 per cent of our total energy generation. Two per cent is the additional component provided by the mandatory renewable energy target. The fact that we have a base which was far higher than the majority of countries which have some other form of mandatory renewable energy target in whatever form that it may take has been ignored. So, by comparison with international standards, for the most part we stand up extremely well in relation to total percentage of static energy derived from renewable energy sources. I think that is extremely important.

The second context point that I wish to make is that renewables form part of the package as to how we diminish Australia’s 560 million tonnes of CO or CO equivalent a year. We try to reduce that target through a combination of factors, of which renewables are part, but the low emissions technology development fund—a $500 million fund—is also a key contributor to the long-term actions that we will take and the long-term ability for us to beat existing projections. We believe that we will be able to beat existing projections. They take a very conservative view, and I think that that is extremely important.

The other thing which we do at the international level is the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. Australia has brought together the United States, Japan, China, Korea and India, and all-up projections by ABARE show that we are looking between now and 2050 to have a total gain, over and above what would have occurred from the project and that initiative, of up to 90 billion tonnes cumulatively of CO saved. I think no other country in the world can boast that it has contributed to such an international saving of CO over the coming five decades.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.20 p.m.)—I will start with some comments on the parliamentary secretary’s rather extraordinary response. I note that when he spoke about the context he accepted with good grace, I must say, land clearing as being the reason why that has occurred. I might note that the only reason we will get anywhere close to meeting our Kyoto target is because of decisions made by the New South Wales and Queensland Labor governments. And when the government says that we are going to meet the target of 108 per cent, we should bear in mind that we had an extremely generous target. We had the second most generous target in the world, only beaten by Iceland in the industrialised world of annex 1 nations. Iceland had 110 per cent, and Australia was on 108 per cent. A last-minute concession to the Australian delegation was land use changes being included. I give credit to former senator Robert Hill on that delegation for achieving that outcome for Australia. Given that we achieved that generous outcome, for us to then not ratify Kyoto and to withdraw I think serves to rub salt into the wounds of the fact that we are an international pariah, along with the United States, when it comes to industrialised nations taking leadership on climate change.

With regard to our renewables, the parliamentary secretary is certainly right that our base was higher than the rest of the world’s, but, then again, we should have been the Silicon Valley of solar energy. We were extremely well positioned a decade ago to take advantage of our position in renewables. The rest of the world—places like China, working off a base of almost zero—is just storming straight past us. That is a tragedy. I draw his attention to Mr Zhengrong Shi. He was educated in Australia at the University of New South Wales and ANU and is now the fourth richest Australian in the world. He is a dual citizen. His company is called Suntech, and he is worth $3 billion. That gives you some idea of the opportunity that is there in this industry.

I ask the minister: given that a number of ministers in the government have said that they support a price signal for carbon emissions and that it is an important component, why is it that that price signal will not be introduced immediately? Surely the parliamentary secretary agrees that price signals are there to drive technology. You do not wait for the technology to be developed before you put the price signal in place. It seems to me to be fundamental economics that that is the case. If the government will not support a national emissions trading scheme, when it speaks about a price signal, is it speaking about a carbon tax? Because that is the other form of price signal that you can have. The Labor Party has made its position quite clear—it supports a national emissions trading scheme.

Ministers have also spoken about the need for reduction targets, and I note that the ABARE figures have been proudly quoted. They show Australia completely overshooting the mark and achieving nothing like the 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050 that I have heard the parliamentary secretary and certainly the minister repeatedly say is necessary. So isn’t that an up-front concession of defeat? With regard to the climate change pact, isn’t it the case that the United States has rejected funding of the climate pact through the congress and, in fact, that Australia is the only country that is currently funding the climate pact?

Mr HUNT (Flinders—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (5.25 p.m.)—The member for Grayndler on behalf of the opposition raised six points which require a response. The member for Grayndler said that it was unusual or inappropriate that in some way the Commonwealth should acknowledge that land clearing is part of the total package of emissions reductions for Australia. He said that land clearing is a responsibility of the states and that it is a state decision.

One of the reasons why there has been an increase in industrial emissions is because of precisely the same source as the reduction in emissions from land clearing—that is, the activities of the states. There are matters which we regulate and control, and there are matters which we do not regulate and do not control. I would remind the member for Grayndler that the generation of power is an activity of the states and, whilst in many states it has been deregulated either fully or partially, when you look at Victoria you find that arguably one of the world’s most greenhouse inefficient power stations is Hazelwood. It was the Victorian government which recently issued a new 30-year approval for Hazelwood.

Around Victoria and many other states, it is state licensed power stations which are the principal source of greenhouse emissions within Australia. Static electricity comprises about 50 per cent of Australia’s 560 million tonnes of CO emissions every year. The principal contributor to that is state licensed power stations, the vast majority of which have received long-term renewals of their licences over recent years from the state governments. If they do make a contribution through prohibitions on land clearance, I welcome that, but it is absolutely critical that we acknowledge that the principal cause of the emissions is the activities of the states themselves in licensing precisely the largest sources of greenhouse emissions in Australia.

The second point that was made to which I have to respond is that Australia is a pariah because of our position on Kyoto. With great respect, I profoundly, absolutely and utterly reject that proposition, and I do that because it is Australia, along with South Africa, which has been chosen as one of the two countries in the world to lead the international post-Kyoto discussions. If we were a pariah, there would have been precisely the opposite effect to what has been indicated by this decision to nominate Australia as one of the two global-leading countries in brokering a system to bring together the Kyoto and the non-Kyoto world, which comprises 70 per cent of the world’s countries. That, I think, is a very clear position, and it is a tribute both to the minister, Senator Ian Campbell, and to Howard Bamsey, the head of the Australian Greenhouse Office, that Australia and Howard Bamsey in particular have been chosen to co-lead those discussions.

The third point made was that we have a lost opportunity in relation to renewables. In fact, what we found is that the MRET target has led to a very dramatic increase in wind energy production in Australia. Almost a gigawatt of static energy capacity through wind generation has been planned or agreed to, and almost 500 million watts or 500 megawatts of installed capacity is already in place directly as a result of the mandatory renewable energy targets. So we set a target and we are achieving it.

The fourth point is that the question remains in relation to a pricing signal. It is a matter of record that the government has talked about ‘no in principle opposition’ to a pricing signal, as long as it is inclusive internationally and it does not disadvantage Australia—and we make no apology for taking that position. In addition, we are leading the post-2012 discussions. Let us see how they pan out. I think that is extremely important. On that front—and this relates to the fifth and sixth points in relation to 2050 and the Asia-Pacific partnership—we have taken forward the most significant global initiative on climate change in the last five years. We think that nothing other than the Asia-Pacific partnership will help meet the 2050 targets. We will do our part and we urge others to do theirs.

Ms GEORGE (Throsby) (5.30 p.m.)—I want to raise some issues on coastal policy and ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage: when is it likely that we will receive the 30-year plan to save the coastline that the minister raised in public comment in July last year? For example, on the Jon Faine program, the minister said:

Let’s put a plan down so developers know where they can develop, where Government know where their future hospitals and schools need to go, but ultimately a plan that sees the coast in very good shape in 30 years’ time.

I would like to know when we can expect to have access to this plan much touted a year ago. In May this year the minister recycled a previous framework approach to integrated coastal zone management under the heading of ‘A new coastal protection plan’. A couple of issues in that plan seemed to me to indicate a total lack of urgency on the part of the minister to coastal issues. Firstly, on the very important issue of the impact of climate change on coastal zones and coastal communities, I do not think the parliamentary secretary will take issue with the government’s own report entitled Climate change: risk and vulnerability, which outlines the major threats to our marine environment and coastal communities, including increased cyclone activity, storm surges and rising sea levels.

In the light of all that evidence, could the minister please explain to me why in this so-called new coastal protection plan it is indicated that in order to build a national picture of coastal zone areas that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts to better understand the risks and interactions with other stresses in the coastal zones he is projecting a time frame for an interim report in five years time, a more detailed report in 10 years time, and a five-year time frame to undertake modelling in line with state and territory priorities at the regional scale to inform coastal zone management? It seems to me that, in the face of those obvious risks, 10 years is an appalling time frame before this government gets moving on serious coastal protection and the impacts of climate change.

Secondly, as you would know, Parliamentary Secretary, in the State of the environment report2001 particular comment was made about the unsatisfactory performance in coastal protection based on a number of indicators. That report also indicated that development pressure is a major issue confronting sustainable management of the coastal zone. That was back in 2001. Since then, numerous bodies, among them in particular the National Sea Change Task Force, has drawn attention to the impact of the sea change phenomenon, the demographic changes that are occurring and the pressure that is putting not just on infrastructure but also on habitat, loss of amenity and a loss of many environmental features that have marked Australia’s coastline in the past.

Could you explain to me why, in light of all this evidence about the sea change phenomenon—and much has been written about it—in your so-called new coastal protection plan your intended time frame is two years to coordinate and share national research and information available about population change and long-term demographics in transient coastal areas? They are but two examples in this so-called new coastal protection plan which indicate that this government is asleep on the watch. There is no national coastal protection policy, just as there is no national cities policy. In that regard, why is it that almost a year after the tabling of the bipartisan Sustainable cities report we still have no response from government?

Mr HUNT (Flinders—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (5.35 p.m.)—I wish to address the comments of the member for Throsby, and I hope I will do them justice in five stages. The first of them was in relation to coastal policy. The member for Throsby asked about the progress of the development of a national coastal policy. I note from the outset that one of the challenges of doing business in this area is that we work on a cooperative basis. For the most part we do not have the constitutional or the legislative authority to act unilaterally; therefore, we are reliant on working cooperatively with the state bodies and the Northern Territory. So we seek to do that as cooperatively as possible. Without casting aspersions, sometimes our interlocutors can be a little slow. From my own dealings with the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust, dealing with some of the most coastally sensitive land in the country, I know that it can be incredibly slow.

Exactly on the question of leadership, despite the fact that it is not our constitutional or legal responsibility, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, has set out on a task of bringing together the disparate state divisions and the disparate views within the states to try to have a consistent approach. In practice what has that meant? As the member for Throsby said, in May we produced a framework agreement as a draft for a basis of consideration with the states. We are now awaiting responses from them. We are working as quickly as we can to encourage responses from the states and territories. If the member for Throsby and the member for Grayndler could work with their partisan colleagues to assist them to produce as fast a response as possible, I would be delighted if that were to be a positive and constructive outcome of today.

The second question related to climate change and coastal zones. I note that Professor Will Steffen, from the ANU, in conjunction with the government recently produced a report which, amongst other things, addressed some of the difficult questions in relation to climate change in coastal zones. We are operating here not just on a long-term term time frame but also on short- and medium-term time frames. So, with great respect, when the member for Throsby said that there will be nothing for five or 10 years, that is false. We have already delivered part 1 on the short term. We are working on a three-phase horizon here. So we are looking at an immediate report delivered, done and on the table.

Secondly, we are looking at this in terms of figures, facts and models over the medium and longer terms. I know myself, as I have responsibility for the Bureau of Meteorology and Parks Australia, the federal parks service, that I have recently commissioned work from the federal parks service to look at the impact of climate change over the coming 10 and 30 years. I want that report in one year; I want it by 1 July 2007. So you are right to ask for short-term timetables, and we are also right to say that, in addition to the short term, we are working to the longer term. I know that in relation to the Bureau of Meteorology we recently met with both the Secretary-General and the President of the World Meteorological Organisation, again to talk about working cooperatively towards international analysis of coastal zones and the effects there. So I hope that will deal with the question of five to 10 years.

In relation to the State of the environment report and Sustainable cities report, the fourth and fifth items, we are very close to a response to the Sustainable cities report. I make no apology for the fact that we have been absolutely thorough in our response to that report. It is a good report, and I commend all those who worked on it. There are some items in it that I would personally like to see picked up, but there are couple with which we significant difficulties. This is not an area of formal constitutional or legal responsibility for the Australian government but we are willing to take steps on this. Only last week I was discussing with the minister the report and our willingness to take a direct role in helping to work on the states to bring this forward. The last thing that I want to mention in relation to coastal zones is that I would be delighted if my two colleagues on the opposite side of the House would work with the New South Wales government to help them agree to some of the propositions we have for the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. It is critical coastal zone land and I ask for their assistance.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.40 p.m.)—I turn now to nuclear issues and their relation to the environment. I note that the parliamentary secretary has attempted to rule out a nuclear reactor being in his electorate. However, he did it in a roundabout way and eventually got to that position, I think. I refer also to the nuclear issue task force, which has been announced by the government. The head of WWF, Mr Greg Bourne, was invited to be a member of that task force just two hours before it was to be announced. He said no, describing the inquiry as ‘rubbish’ when it came to environmental issues.

Does that reflect a failure to give appropriate environmental consideration to nuclear issues? What are the credentials of any environmental representatives on the task force? Will the Department of the Environment and Heritage be working with the task force? If not, why not? I ask the parliamentary secretary: is the Department of the Environment and Heritage on the federal government’s Global Nuclear Energy Partnership interdepartmental inquiry, given that this could see Australia become the world’s nuclear waste dump? If it is not represented, why is it not represented? Given the government stopped a wind farm in Victoria because one parrot was threatened every 1,000 years, will it apply a similarly strong test for nuclear reactors? Does the parliamentary secretary agree that, with any economic cost of nuclear reactors, as a precondition you have to determine where the reactors will be and where the waste will go? Further, could the parliamentary secretary respond to the fact that when an accident occurred at Lucas Heights reactor on Thursday, 8 June, it took six days for the public to be informed of the accident and it was only due to the leaking of an email to staff from Dr Cameron that it has now been revealed that there were radiation leaks into the atmosphere around Lucas Heights? What is the government’s position with regard to the right of the community to know when radiation leaks occur in a local community?

Mr HUNT (Flinders—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (5.44 p.m.)—On the question of the possibility of nuclear power in Australia, I wish to respond to the member for Grayndler in four stages. Firstly, it is very important to put into context where nuclear energy sits within the global energy environment. To my best advice, there are about 441 operating nuclear power stations within the global environment. They cover approximately 31 countries and, significantly, they produce 16 per cent of the world’s static energy.

To put Australia’s contribution in context, my advice is that the uranium we export offsets a volume equivalent to approximately 75 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The uranium we export decreases world greenhouse emissions by about 400 million tonnes of CO or equivalent, out of Australia’s 560 million tonnes of CO or equivalent. But I respect the fact that there are people with different views.

That brings me to the second point raised by the member for Grayndler. In terms of specific questions, he refers to the Prime Minister’s task force that is to investigate the potential for Australia’s involvement in the nuclear fuel cycle. In particular, he asks about environmental qualifications. I think it was a good thing that Greg Bourne was invited. I am not aware of the particular circumstances under which he was invited, but I know Greg Bourne, I respect him as an individual and I am disappointed that he chose not to be a part of the task force. I would hope that he reconsiders. I regard him as a potentially very valuable contributor, which is why he was invited to participate. We went straight to the head of one of Australia’s leading environmental organisations. We cannot be responsible if he chooses not to participate. That is a matter for him.

There was also a question about whether or not the Department of the Environment and Heritage is involved in the assessment of these matters. I am delighted to inform the member for Grayndler that the Department of the Environment and Heritage has two staff members seconded directly to the task force. I think that that is a valuable contribution. We would be happy to make more staff available if more are needed, and I am very happy to be able to make that statement on behalf of the minister and the government. The two staff members seconded to the task force have the capacity and are expected to give frank and fearless advice. We want the highest standards of assessment, research and analysis to be conducted. It might be a surprise to the member for Grayndler that we have that contribution there.

Beyond the task force, the third matter raised was a question in relation to location. There are two points which I think are extremely important here. The first is in relation to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, and it is a very simple principle. Will the EPBC Act apply to any nuclear activities? The EPBC Act will apply fearlessly and appropriately to all developments that fall within its ambit. That is a very simple question. The terms of the EPBC Act are clear. The member for Grayndler is demanding that there be a particular outcome from the EPBC Act. The terms of the EPBC Act are clear, and they apply to such projects as fall within its ambit. If projects are likely to affect Commonwealth land, heritage land or other things then we have no problem with that.

There is also a very simple principle in relation to the question of location. We do not set a specific location as a precondition. The task force is looking at the principles. As for location my view has always been that it would have to be geologically stable, economically viable and socially acceptable to the community involved.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (5.49 p.m.)—With the IWC meeting in St Kitts and Nevis this Friday, I now go to the question of whales. Firstly, does the parliamentary secretary agree that at that meeting it is impossible for Japan to get a three-quarters majority to resume commercial whaling? That is the first point: that will not occur at that conference.

Secondly, does he agree that it is possible that Japan may receive a simple majority of delegates to that conference, thereby enabling it to change future procedures at IWC meetings and, thereby, undermine what conservation measures come out of the IWC meeting? Whether it receives a simple majority or not, Japan has made its intentions clear to expand its so-called scientific research, which I think we would all agree is a farce and an excuse to cover up its essentially de facto commercial whaling procedures. After the IWC meetings last year in Korea, the minister claimed a victory for Australia. But as a result of that IWC meeting there were more whales slaughtered in Australian waters this year than in previous years—indeed, more than for a decade. And regardless of the outcome in St Kitts and Nevis, there will be more whales slaughtered this season by Japan in Australian waters than last year, and Japan has made its intentions clear to hunt humpback whales this season.

Given that the best outcome that can occur from this IWC meeting is a result on which I think the government and the opposition, indeed all Australians—except perhaps for the member for Leichhardt—would unite in expressing their complete opposition to whaling, when will the government recognise that it needs to take more than simply diplomatic action? When will it recognise that it needs to take legal action before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea? I draw the parliamentary secretary’s attention to strong legal advice provided by Professor Rothwell to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. I draw the parliamentary secretary’s attention to the fact that in 1999 the Howard government’s appeal to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea against Japan on fishing for southern bluefin tuna was led by the then Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, who flew to Europe to appear in that case.

If the Howard government is serious about stopping whaling, why did it intervene in the Federal Court to stop the Humane Society International enforcing the prohibition on whaling in Australian waters by arguing that it would create a diplomatic incident with Japan? Does the parliamentary secretary agree that Australia’s credibility in arguing for strong international environmental laws is undermined with our Pacific neighbours such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Solomons and other Pacific island states when they look at our rejection of the Kyoto protocol and at the environment minister’s statement, ‘Let’s just hope it never happens,’ in relation to rising sea levels in the Pacific? Does he agree that that has severely inhibited our prospects of securing the votes of those nations at IWC meetings?

Mr HUNT (Flinders—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage) (5.54 p.m.)—In response to the member for Grayndler’s questions on whaling, I would like to proceed on five fronts. The first is a point of agreement in relation to whaling as scientific research. We agree that the current Japanese practice of conducting scientific research is a de facto commercial whaling arrangement. We do not accept it. We do not think it is appropriate. We do not think it is a legitimate use of that terminology and we wish for it to stop. We will continue to do everything we can to ensure that that de facto commercial arrangement for whaling, under the guise of scientific research, stops. Our idea of scientific research in relation to whales is a tracking device, a film crew and a hug to send them on their way.

In relation to the outcome of the vote on commercial whaling, I do not want to make any predictions about an election process. Elections are unpredictable. We were told last year that there would be a certain outcome and that Australia would clearly be on the losing side, yet we were successful. I think it would be wrong for Australia to make any false predictions publicly—certainly wrong for me. I am not as close to this as the minister is. He has recently been campaigning in the South Pacific and doing everything he possibly could. While I do not want to pre-empt the vote on commercial whaling, it will be a difficult fight. We will see what happens. I am hopeful that we will be successful. The question of a simple majority will be an even tougher fight. We face a difficult opponent. As for us, we will operate within the bounds of domestic and international law and will do everything we can, subject to good governance, to act with as much force and effort so as to ensure that we get a simple majority.

Our capacity to influence the IWC was also raised. I suspect we would have more capacity by being there than by not being there. The advice that I have, however, is that there was never a ministerial level delegate sent to the International Whaling Commission during the life of the previous Labor government. It is a fascinating proposition that in all of those 13 years no ministerial level delegate was sent to the IWC. So let us make it absolutely clear that in the fight to stop scientific whaling, commercial whaling and the whaling of humpback whales, as was raised by the member for Grayndler, we are operating on every conceivable front.

Whether Australia would take legal action internationally was also raised. The position set down by the minister is very clear: even though our best legal advice is that it would be highly unlikely that we would succeed, we do not rule it out. That is our position and that is important. We reserve our right and our position on that front.

This leads us to the last question, which is about our international credentials. The member for Grayndler sought to draw a link between greenhouse policy internationally and whaling. Firstly, I reject the link but, secondly, of all the countries in the world Australia is one of only two that has been chosen, along with South Africa, to lead the post-Kyoto dialogue discussions. In relation to greenhouse gas credentials, we are the progenitor and co-founder of the Asia-Pacific partnership and we are one of two lead nations in the post-Kyoto framework. Our credentials on this issue are strong and I think that they strengthen our capacity to make the case on a prohibition on whaling. (Time expired)

Proposed expenditure agreed to.