The major parties' "green" credentials were again put to the test on March 22 when Greens Senator Christine Milne introduced Australia's first climate change bill. Despite some high profile backing for the bill — which attempted to set legally binding targets for cuts to greenhouse gases — the major parties refused to support it, giving the lie to their concern about climate change.
The bill called for emission cuts of 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, with five-yearly progress reviews. The targets are in line with those being advocated for Australia by visiting British economist Nicholas Stern, author of last year's influential report on the economic cost of climate change.
The Greens' bill also called for the Kyoto Protocol to be ratified and for a "greenhouse trigger" to be inserted into the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which would penalise those emitting more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. The bill would also have required industry to undertake energy efficiency audits, and to implement energy savings measures. It also proposed a national energy savings target and required a minimum price to be paid for renewable energy. It would have increased the Mandatory Renewable Energy Target so that renewable electricity contributed at least 15% of national demand by 2012 and 25% by 2020. It would also have immediately ended logging in old-growth forests.
In her motivation of the bill, Milne said, "There is no greater challenge we face ... We cannot fail because of a lack of courage or imagination." Unfortunately neither the Labor Party nor the Coalition could muster much of either.