Senate debates

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Guarantee of State and Territory Borrowing Appropriation Bill 2009

In Committee

12:19 pm

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the government and the opposition for their comments. This is an extremely serious amendment. It is put forward very seriously. The absence of strictures in it is because we would expect it to be administered by the minister, who would take responsibility. I think that is at the heart of what we do here. We expect governments to take responsibility when handling vast amounts of public money—as is inherently the case with this bill, which is about guaranteeing state and territory borrowings of, potentially, billions of dollars. The responsibility for ensuring that there are no feasible or prudent alternatives to a greatly polluting project would rest with the state governments. If they wanted the guarantee they would have to provide that, and any minister worth their salt would say: ‘Well here is amendment (1)7 in this legislation. You fulfil the requirements if you want a guarantee for those borrowings.’

The term ‘prudent and feasible’ comes out of the previous national environment legislation. The impact of proposals requirements until 2000 or 1999 were that every matter that involved the Commonwealth had to be subject to an environmental impact assessment, if it was a significant matter, to see if there were prudent and feasible alternatives. So, far from being radical, this is established wording and relates to a very reasonable requirement being put back to the states if they want to borrow. Indeed, I wonder if this legislation would be before the chamber at all if it were not that seven out of the eight jurisdictions to benefit from it are Labor governments. I think there is a huge responsibility on government to be ensuring, where massive public guarantees are involved, that the projects are reasonable, in an age of climate change and enormous public concern about the environment. This is an important amendment to the degree that the Greens will not support this legislation without it.

Question negatived.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.