Senate debates

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Climate Change

3:28 pm

Photo of Kerry NettleKerry Nettle (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance and Administration (Senator Minchin) to a question without notice asked by Senator Nettle today relating to global warming.

On The 7.30 Report on Monday, Al Gore, the former Vice-President of the US, talked about the risks that climate change poses here in Australia. He talked about the low water availability that we have, which is most affected by global warming. He talked about growing water shortages in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Perth. He talked about an increase in fires and about the Great Barrier Reef being killed by the warming of the temperatures and the acidification of the oceans because of the 70 million tonnes of CO that are dumped there by all of us worldwide every day. He spoke of stronger storms occurring in Australia—the category 5 cyclones like we saw in March and April. He said:

All of these things are predicted to get worse still until we turn the earth’s thermostat down, which means reducing the pollution that’s causing it to go up.

Last week, in response to the latest figures from the Bureau of Meteorology about drought and rainfall, my colleague Senator Milne talked about climate change not being the only cause of the dry weather and the extended droughts in Australia but as exacerbating the problem, about Melbourne having its driest winter in 20 years, regional water storage levels being low, Perth having record low winter rainfall, much of New South Wales remaining in drought, Canberra’s water storage being low and the scarcity of water in south-east Queensland that we all saw being a feature of the state election campaign up there last weekend.

Senator Milne said that it is time for the Prime Minister to take climate change seriously. It is the greatest security threat of our time, and failing to act now with a sense of urgency will condemn Australia to economic and social dislocation along with environmental disaster. She said that farmers are already leaving the land because of climate change. Perhaps the Prime Minister should start talking to them.

While the latest figures for Sydney from the Bureau of Meteorology show that the winter that we have just had is the ninth consecutive winter with above-average temperatures, to the west of the Great Divide in New South Wales we have had a winter of extremes, with hot days and cold nights. It has been both the 10th warmest winter on record and the 12th coldest winter on record. Last month was a very dry month across the state to the west of the Great Divide, and much of New South Wales is still in drought.

What is going on in relation to climate change in New South Wales? Perhaps not just the Prime Minister but also the Labor Premier of New South Wales, Premier Morris Iemma, need to see Al Gore’s film, because the Labor government in New South Wales has proposed 15 new coalmines, 10 expansions of existing coalmines and a new coal loader in Newcastle. The coal lobby—that is, the New South Wales Minerals Council and the Minerals Council of Australia—predict that, by 2020, coal consumption will be 50 per cent higher than it is today.

The proposed mine at Anvil Hill in the Hunter Valley will produce up to 10.5 million tonnes of coal a year and, when burnt, this will produce greenhouse gas emissions greater than the emissions from the entire transport sector of New South Wales. The new coal loader proposed for Newcastle will increase the coal exports of New South Wales by 66 million tonnes a year, twice the amount used by New South Wales in a year. As a result of this and other expansions, the capacity of Newcastle, which is already the world’s largest coal export port, will grow by 80 million tonnes a year to 166 million tonnes a year.

Between 1996 and 2001, the number of coalmining jobs in the Lower Hunter Valley in New South Wales fell by 27 per cent, and in the rest of the Hunter the number fell by 18 per cent. Mining of all kinds, but mostly coalmining, makes up just two per cent of employment in the Lower Hunter and eight per cent in the rest of the Hunter. At the end of 2004, there were 99 mines producing black coal in Australia and 51 of them were in New South Wales. New South Wales and Queensland produce nearly 97 per cent of Australia’s saleable output of black coal as well as 100 per cent of Australia’s black coal exports.

Electricity generation produces one-third of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and 97 per cent of these emissions are produced by just 24 coal-fired power stations. The greenhouse pollution produced by these power stations is equivalent to the annual emissions of about 40 million cars—that is, four times Australia’s actual car fleet. Coal accounts for approximately 35 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia. So in New South Wales we need to see the proposal for 15 new coalmines set aside and we need to invest in renewable energy so that we can be part of a future for New South Wales. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.