Several years ago the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee conducted an inquiry into Australia's future oil supply and alternative transport fuels, with the following terms of reference:
1. projections of oil production and demand in Australia and globally and the implications for availability and pricing of transport fuels in Australia;
2. potential of new sources of oil and alternative transport fuels to meet a significant share of Australia’s fuel demands, taking into account technological developments and environmental and economic costs;
3. flow-on economic and social impacts in Australia from continuing rises in the price of transport fuel and potential reductions in oil supply; and
4. options for reducing Australia’s transport fuel demands.
By any examination this was a very worthy inquiry. We spent a lot of time investigating all of those issues and we realised, cross-party, how very significant and important it was that the inquiry did investigate those issues. We put forward 10 recommendations in total. It was supported cross-party by the committee, and the committee appreciated the gravity of the issue and the serious nature of what we were inquiring into.
I rise today to make the point that, given we tabled this report in 2007, it has taken the Labor government nearly five years to respond. Admittedly, the coalition was still in government for the first few months after we tabled the report. But since that time the government has had these recommendations and it has done absolutely nothing to respond to the Senate committee and to the recommendations. For a government to take over four years to respond to recommendations from a Senate committee on an extremely important inquiry is completely unacceptable. We are standing here today receiving a response from the government.
It is, quite frankly, shameful that this government could not respond in a timely manner to the recommendations that were put forward by the Senate committee. It is indicative—and I know my colleague Senator Back will agree—of the shambolic nature of this government. They simply cannot apply proper process to the running of the nation and the government. I know that Senator Back and the rest of my colleagues would be interested to know the reasons that this government took over four years to respond to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee's recommendations on this very important issue.
The responses—having waited over four years to receive them—are flimsy at best and contain no real detail or any kind of substantive response from the government. The committee has been sent 4½ pages, after over four years—we basically have a page a year. The responses are flimsy, not substantive and show that the government clearly has not treated this inquiry or its recommendations, or the committee itself, with the respect they deserve. The committee deserves respect for the amount of work, cross-party work, that went into this inquiry. We find the length of time the government has taken to respond to be entirely unacceptable.
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