SPEECH OF THE PRIME MINISTER
THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP
OPENING OF WORLD ENERGY CONGRESS
Thank you very much Mr Philip Aiken, Mr del Rosario, Ian MacFarlane the Federal Minister for Energy, Mr Frank Sartor, members of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen. May I welcome all of you who have come to Australia to the city of Sydney and to the Commonwealth of Australia. And might I start particularly in addressing our friends who have come from the Russian Federation to this gathering and I now express on behalf of all present our sense of horror and revulsion at the terrible terrorist event which overtook the Russian people and the Russian nation over the past few days. It is a terrible reminder of the challenge of terrorism around the world and of the very uncertain environment in which the world operates. And it is a challenge to all decent nations to work together to overcome the challenge and the evil of terrorism.
In welcoming all of you to Australia I join in particularly welcoming you to the city of Sydney. As a native of this city I never cease to extol its virtues. It is a lovely city, I hope you partake of its many benefits and delights and enjoy yourself in the time that you are with us.
You come to a nation of 20 million people, a nation strong economically and strongly engaged not only with our region but engaged around the world. The Australian economy is enjoying its best conditions since the end of World War II. We have an enviable growth rate for a developed country of four per cent, we have low levels of unemployment, low levels of inflation and we have a very low level of national debt. We are also a nation which has been blessed by providence with very large reserves of energy. And I want to say something about the role that Australia has in mind and has executed over the years in relation to those reserves of energy. Australia is a strong and reliable supplier of energy. Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and it is a large exporter of LNG. We are very proud of the partnerships in energy that we have developed over the years with our friends and close partners in the Asian Pacific region. And I take this opportunity of paying tribute to a number of those partnerships, in particularly I acknowledge to the many delegates that have come from Japan the very long energy partnership between Australia and Japan. It's meant a great deal to us and I know it has meant a great deal to the utilities and the people of Japan. It's a partnership and a relationship that we value very dearly. Likewise our very close relationship and partnership with Korea is of equal value and importance to Australia. And in more recent years of course we have developed a very close energy partnership with China and we look forward to supplying the energy needs of China and of the other nations of our region years into the future.
We bring to that partnership, or those partnerships, a commitment both as a Government and also as Australian companies. We are a nation that welcomes foreign investment, we are a nation that believes in the reliability and the constancy of supply. We are a nation and we have companies that understand that timely delivery on the right price and without industrial interruption is absolutely essential to the maintenance of a close and enduring energy partnership.
I recognise as Prime Minister and as somebody who was very directly involved in the negotiations, along with the Australian companies and the Western Australian Government of the contract concludes with the Guangdong province of the importance of governments working in close partnership with companies in order to see through successfully negotiations with other nations and the utilities of those other nations. We are a Government that believes of course very strongly in the market sector, but we also believe in the facilitating role of government consistent with the right of companies to make their own commercial deals. There are of course great global opportunities for reliable energy suppliers. There are also great global challenges and the bouncing price of oil which is imposing a great deal of uncertainty around the world is a stark illustration of that.
In recent times my Government has turned its attention to a long term energy policy and we recently released an energy white paper which was designed to build on the natural advantages that Australia has in certain energy areas. Australia as I mentioned earlier is the world largest exporter of coal. We have very great natural advantages in what you might call the traditional sources of energy and we committed ourselves in that white paper to invest large amounts of money in bringing forward the study of technologies to reduce the greenhouse emission effect of traditional sources of energy. We do not see the energy debate as being a choice between traditional sources of energy and renewable sources of energy, we believe in both. We see the debate as being a debate between low emission uses of energy and high emission uses of energy. We are all believers in low emissions and we see one of our roles at a national level to work in partnership with industry to explore new technologies in order to reduce the effect of greenhouse gas emissions. And as a result of the energy white paper we've committed ourselves in partnership with industry, industry contributing $1 billion and the Federal Government contributing $500 million to a technology fund to find comprehensive ways of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That white paper also addressed many of the infrastructure challenges that were mentioned earlier and we're going to spend some $50 million to protect critical infrastructure from interruption. We are committed to maintaining our status around the world, our very high status, across a range of risk factors.
We understand the importance of stable markets, we understand the importance of a reliable economic framework. We know that the thing that is most attractive not only to companies but also to overseas customers is strong economic growth, a stable legal framework and the constancy of government policy. We have an attitude on the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol which I know is at variance with the attitude of many countries around the world. Although we are committed and we will achieve I believe the emission target set for Australia by the Kyoto Protocol, we are unwilling to sign the Kyoto Protocol in its present form because it will impose obligations on Australia which will not be imposed on other large emitters around the world and if we were to sign in those circumstances that would distinctly disadvantage Australian industry and cost Australia jobs. We will work to achieve an alternative outcome, we will fulfil our obligations in relation to the greenhouse emission targets of Kyoto, but we are unwilling to sign a protocol which will work distinctly to the disadvantage of Australian companies and the disadvantage of Australian employees.
In welcoming all of you to Australia, let me say that we are very proud of what we have achieved as a nation, as a great energy supplier. We intend to use our energy resources intelligently, we intend to bring forth as best we can alternative sources of energy. Part of our energy white paper was to invest some $75 million in a solar cities trial which is likely to involve areas of Sydney and Adelaide. We believe in a partnership between the various sources of energy, we do not see them competing one against the other. And we see the role of government to find policies and outcomes that overall reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is not a choice as I said earlier one against the other, but rather a choice between energy uses that involve lower greenhouse gas emissions as opposed to those that involve higher greenhouse gas emissions.
So in welcoming all of you to Australia and to Sydney and in declaring this conference open can I say again that you come to an economically strong united nation, a nation committed to playing its role, not only in the region but around the world as a strong contributor, not only in the energy sector but to the solution of so many of the rest of the world's problems. Welcome to Australia, I have great pleasure in declaring this conference open. I hope you find it rewarding and I hope you go from our country with fond memories, not only of the city of Sydney but also of the friendliness and the welcome of the Australian people.
Sydney Opening Speech - John Howard ( PDF File, 17KB)