Transcript of Media Conference, Parliament House, Canberra
19 October 2006
Subject: Kyoto Protocol, jobs, Chinese wind farm, French nuclear power proposal
ANTHONY ALBANESE: When Robert Hill was the Environment Minister we actually had an Environment Minister for this nation who put a consistent environmental position, not one I completely agreed with him on, but one that understood the great challenge of climate change.
In the year 2000, Robert Hill said, ‘there are those who foolishly believe there is something to win by derailing the Kyoto Protocol’.
Well, this week we have seen our current Environment Minister, Ian Campbell exposed as a fraud and a fool. Ian Campbell travelled to China to open the Roaring 40s joint venture wind project there. That’s a project that’s worth some $300 million. It is totally funded by the clean development mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. That is made possible because it is a joint venture project, with a Chinese based company, 51% owned, and Roaring 40s, the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Company being 49%.
At the same time as the Howard Government day after day is prepared to trash the Kyoto Protocol, the Environment Minister is happy to smile for the cameras in China, opening a project funded through the Kyoto Protocol bringing economic return to an Australian based company. Were this a totally Australian based project it would not qualify under Kyoto because Australia hasn’t ratified the Kyoto Protocol and we would be missing out on this $300 million energy project.
Other renewable energy companies have travelled to China with the Minister. Australian companies are being forced to go off shore, plant their flag in New Zealand or Fiji or other countries that have ratified Kyoto in order to take advantage of the clean development mechanism.
Clean Development Mechanism projects that are already registered are worth some $133 billion by the year 2012 and yet we have continually in the Parliament of Australia, government ministers saying that Kyoto doesn’t apply to the developing world.
Of course it does apply. China, India and the other partners in the Asia Pacific Climate Pact are central to the Kyoto Protocol. I think it needs to be put in perspective, when the entire funding that has been allocated from the United States and Australia to the Asia Pacific Climate Pact is less than this single renewable energy project in China. I think it puts it in perspective.
It has also got to be said that we have an Environment Minister opening a wind farm in China and applauding that occurring at the same time that he has blocked the Bald Hills wind farm project in Victoria on spurious political grounds. He has failed to advance the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target beyond 2%, which has meant that projects by the Roaring 40s company in Tasmania, in South Australia, which were worth some $500 million, are not proceeding and in Tasmania the Vestas Nacelle wind turbine manufacturing plant is closing leading to a loss of a further one hundred jobs. This is just extraordinary.
Australia is the only country on earth in which renewable projects are shutting at the current time and that is a tragedy.
JOURNALIST: Senator Campbell has said that this Chinese wind farm project is a great example of technology between countries, the kind of thing that AP6 is promoting. So you are saying that this has nothing to do with AP6?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: It is being funded totally under the Kyoto Protocol, under the Clean Development Mechanism. You had the extraordinary situation whereby Ministers are prepared to dissemble and hide behind what can be quite complex detail with regard to these arrangements. The Minister admitted on Lateline on Friday night that Kyoto projects were involved with this visit, but it has only been this week that it has been made very clear that this project is being funded through the clean development mechanism of Kyoto. The Minister is not at all serious. I think the public will judge whether $133 billion worth of projects by the year 2012 are more significant that the very small amount of money that has been allocated to the Climate Pact. That is why Kyoto signatories, Japan, Korea, China and India see the global Kyoto agreement as the main game.
We support technology transfer. We support co-operation between countries to exchange that technology, but unless you have a market based mechanism, such as emissions trading on a national basis, and such as the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation market mechanism of Kyoto, you simply won’t have that transfer of technology and its application. It is a triumph of hope over experience to think that technology will just be applied without those economic incentives and market based mechanisms.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of the fact that a French company seems to be lining up to build us a nuclear power plant?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well I think with due respect to our friends from France, there would be a great deal of concern given the French Nuclear testing which occurred in the Pacific about any involvement particularly of France in the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia. But I think also it is the case that Australians don’t want any company building a nuclear reactor in Australia
I note that I had to raise with the Speaker this week, that in spite of the Parliamentary rules that state that Ministers must answer questions on notice within 60 days, it is now at least 100 days since I asked the Prime Minister to rule out nuclear reactors being built in each of the 150 electorates around Australia. The Prime Minister won’t rule out where the reactors will go or where the nuclear reactors will go because he is determined to impose his nuclear fantasy on Australia and that has been evidenced by the fact that he has pre-empted his inquiry of nuclear advocates that he established just some months ago before they have even had a chance to release a draft report. I think the Prime Minister’s activity this week has exposed this inquiry as an absolute farce.
JOURNALIST: What about the company’s statement that nuclear power could also ease water shortages in Australia?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Nuclear power plants use an enormous amount of water. The idea that we can put action on climate change on hold for 20 years while groups of nuclear reactors are built is simply absurd.
The truth is that nuclear energy is simply not a solution for climate change. It is interesting that nuclear advocates tend to be the very same people that are sceptical about climate change.
I think that says a fair bit.
JOURNALIST: What message do you think this company and others like it are getting from the government now?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think they know that the Prime Minister has his own particular ideological fantasies. He had one about the GST for decades, he had one about his extreme industrial relations legislation for decades and he has one about nuclear energy which he has held for decades.
When you have an inquiry established in which a precondition of being on that inquiry is a record of advocacy for an expansion of Australia into the nuclear fuel cycle, then I think that they have worked out that if John Howard is elected at the next election then he will be determined to impose his nuclear vision on communities around Australia.
He is also determined not to let those particular communities know where the reactors would go and where the nuclear waste dumps would go.
JOURNALIST: David Suzuki was very assertive about the Prime Minister yesterday. What did you think of his speech?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: I think David Suzuki is an outstanding environmentalist. What you have got to understand is that from a global perspective, Australia is an international pariah when it comes to climate change.
It is only the Howard Government following on from the Bush administration which has senior people in the government arguing essentially that the earth is flat.
The Prime Minister on 27 September, in response to water issues and the drought, made the extraordinary statement that, ‘he didn’t want to discuss events that might happen in 50 years time’.
Climate Change is here and it is here right now and it is having an impact. We need urgent action to address it and part of that is to stop, as Robert Hill called for some five years ago, the foolish idea that anyone has something to gain from a derailing of the Kyoto Protocol and a derailing of global action.
We are so far behind the game that it is just a joke and the statement of the Prime Minister and others are regarded as that by people in the international community, not just environmentalists but across the board. I met this morning with a delegation from the Danish government, a delegation right across the ideological spectrum; they have a conservative government there, absolutely committed to the Kyoto Protocol, absolutely committed to developing their renewable industry, now their third largest export, they have created 30,000 jobs in the sector, and they frankly, can’t understand Australia’s head in the sand position.