Parliamentary record : Part I debates (27 February 1990)
Debates for 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 5th Assembly 1987 - 1990
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Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Tuesday 27 February 1990 available to assist in providing advice on the conservation and management of tropical forests. I will also be alerting the minister to the Territoryl s concern in relation to the prospect of blanket embargoes on imports of tropical timbers. Such embargoes are unnecessary and emotionally generated, particularly given the need for development in developing countries and given our ability to advise them on sustainable forest management. We should note that meranti i sone such tropical timber and it forms a major raw material component for the Territory1s building industry. There seemed to be general agreement at the conference that uncontrolled deforestation must stop and reafforestation must be introduced on a large scale to increase the world l s carbon dioxide sinks. At the same time, the right of the developing countries to achieve better standards through industriali sation must be respected. Thi s would probably mean assi stance from industrialised countries with technology transfer and finance for efficient, clean sources of energy. One of the implications of this was renewed interest in nuclear energy as a source of electricity. This was mentioned by several delegates in papers delivered to the conference. While renewable resources of energy such as wind and solar power might be ecologically preferable, the fact is that, at their present level of development, they are capable of accounting for only a very small part of total energy demands and this situation will remain unless technological breakthroughs occur. Questions of safety, waste disposal, fuel availability and the role of breeder reactors would have to be resolved, but it would seem advisable to resume and expand research into these areas. With more advanced technology, nuclear energy which does not result in carbon dioxide emissions could well emerge as a safer source of power than fossil fuels. Australia is the world1s largest exporter of coal, which is a very significant source of carbon dioxide and other pollutants, and Australian industry and domestic consumers rely heavi ly on coal as a cheap source of energy. This raises concern about the future of the Australian coal mining industry if alternative sources of mass energy are introduced worldwide. At the same time, Austral ia has strict 1 imits on the export of uranium. Thi s creates a moral dilemma which will have to be addressed at some time in the future. It may be considered environmentally irresponsible to oppose the mining and export of uranium if it presents an alternative source of cheap energy to coal. This is the time to renew and increase nuclear ene'rgy research. Australia is well advanced in this area and the synroc process developed in Australia shows considerable promise as a safe means of nuclear waste disposal. The federa 1 government is taking a very shorts i ghted approach in thi s issue by strangling uranium mining and nuclear research. If the Greenhouse Effect is confirmed as the most dangerous threat facing the world environment, and there is every indication that this is the case, how can this federal government justify massive exports of coal, a product which is one of the most polluting sources of energy now in use, while denying additional exports of uranium? There are several developing countries which are locations of the world1s largest carbon dioxide sinks, notably the tropical forests, and efforts by the world community to induce those countries to control the harvesting of timber and limit the clearing of their forests for agricultural purposes will have to be backed by massive financial incentives. In fact, it is the opinion of the Director of the Environment Department of the World Bank, Mr Ken Piddington, that the Greenhouse Effect provi des an I unprecedented opportun ity to bri ng the env i ronmenta 1 agenda to 8764
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