Greens of 23 May 08.
Australian Greens climate change spokesperson, Senator Christine Milne, today rejected Prime Minister Rudd's extraordinary claim to have done all he can on fuel prices, highlighting five decisions his Government has made that have a negative impact and should be reversed.
Senator Milne said, “Prime Minister Rudd's claim to have done all he can on fuel prices is a blinkered view which completely ignores the need to plan urgently for peak oil and wean Australia off our oil addiction fast.
“In his first Budget, last week, Mr Rudd made absolutely no effort to put Australia on a path to prepare for peak oil, instead continuing the love affair Australian governments have had for too long with inefficient cars and bigger roads.
“The most glaring failure is that, of total spending on transport in the coming year, a full 80% of the $4.2 billion goes to more roads, while only 4% goes to rail infrastructure. Roads get $3.4 billion next to a measly $187 million for rail. What is worse, over the coming years, the proportion to roads is set to increase, while rail funding will dry up to almost nothing - only $6 million by 2011-12. These priorities should be reversed to give Australians an alternative to paying through the nose for fuel.
“The Government also failed to take the easy and obvious step of removing the Fringe Benefits tax concession for private car use, a subsidy which directly encourages people to drive more to get more off their tax. This nonsense policy should have been scrapped years ago and could be scrapped tomorrow, easing pressure on prices.
“The $78 million for metropolitan transport, only some of which is allocated to mass transit, is a drop in the ocean when we need to be re-designing and rebuilding our cities for mass transit, walkways, cycle paths and urban villages. This needs serious Commonwealth funding to make it happen.
“The decision to establish Infrastructure Australia and the Building Australia Fund without any obligation to consider climate change or peak oil is foolish and must be reversed. If the 12 eminent Australians who have been given carriage of this work are instructed to plan for peak oil and climate change, we may see some innovative thinking to help ease the pressure on Australians.
“Finally, what possible reason can there be for pushing the start of the much-vaunted Green Car Fund out to 2011, when the Government could today introduce stringent mandatory vehicle fuel efficiency standards? The Government could tie subsidies to car manufacturers to meeting fuel efficiency standards and get efficient cars on the road within months, instead of waiting until after the next election.
“This vital issue needs serious action. What we see from the Rudd Government is nothing more than spin.”
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Why no mention of increased immigration intake? Whilst Senator Christine Milne's media release shows a much better grasp than that displayed by the major parties of the grave implications that the end of cheap petroleum has for Australian society, it has a glaring omission, that is, that it completely disregards population and Immigration Minister Chris Evans' announced increase of Australia's net annual immigration intake to 300,000. No media release which obviously questions this decision is to be found on their . This single factor will surely compound the petrol more than any other. Even if the Greens' measures are adopted in full, which is unlikely, they could not negate the effects of 300,000 more people dependent upon oil imports each year. The Green's failure to address population, which is the major driver of the world's environmental claims seriously calls into question its claim to be pro-environment. Much has been written of this flaw shared by most of the world's Green Parties by Canadian in his article of 2 Feb 08.
Public Transport is not the complete solution either Even public transport consumes large amounts of energy. Whilst public transport is generally preferable to the private motor vehicle in large crowded cities, the real solution must lie in relocalisation, so that regular travel is not a necessity. Cities must be planned so that most people can either walk or cycle to work and to all of their essential amenities. Steps must be taken to locate more people closer to where they live. The Queensland Government Education Department's recently announced initiative to encourage teachers to work in schools closer to where they live is one example that should be emulated.