Wednesday, 7 February 2007
Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee; Report
I will speak for a short time on the report by the Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport on Australia’s future oil supply; my colleague Senator Milne will speak more extensively. I feel this report is extremely important. It is quite obvious from evidence to the committee that peak oil is a reality. There is a slight disagreement over the timing, but there is no doubt that peak oil is real and that Australia needs to be dealing with oil vulnerability. One of the key learnings, of course, is that we need to start to plan for that. In fact, we should have been planning for it a while ago, but it is urgent that we start planning for it now. Because of the issues around climate change, we need to be adopting strategies to deal with peak oil that also address climate change. It is absolutely senseless if we do not meet these two challenges.
What also became obvious during the hearings is that no planning is going on within government agencies; that our most important economics agency, ABARE, has not been addressing the issue of peak oil, and that it needs to be. More importantly, agencies are not being asked the important questions by government, and that needs to be urgently addressed.
What also became clear during the hearings is that there is no single answer to this issue; that we need to be adopting a multipronged approach with a variety of options, including issues around energy efficiency, alternative fuels and, very importantly, public transport. I am disappointed that we did not really address public transport as significantly in the report as I thought we should have. It has also become obvious that some cities around Australia are doing better than others with their public transport, but basically that all cities need to be addressing that issue more significantly.
Many industries are going to be affected by issues around peak oil, but agriculture is going to be significantly affected. Agriculture is going to be affected, but I think it is also going to provide some of the answers, a great many of them in biofuels. But there is no one magic bullet to fix this. We need to be planning carefully for it and adopting a multipronged approach. I will leave the rest of the comments on this report to my colleague Senator Milne.