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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 01 Hansard (Tuesday, 2 May 1995) . . Page.. 88 ..


It is looking at causes of violence in our society and resourcing preventative measures, not just focusing on punishment. Relevant to this issue is breaking down the adversarial approach in politics. This may, indeed, be quite a challenge, Mr Speaker. As you have advised me and reminded members several times tonight, I have to make the most of this 10 minutes as it may be the only chance to speak uninterrupted in the chamber over the next three years.

Environmental sustainability, perhaps better expressed as responsibility, is the most well known of our principles and it has become a greatly used phrase in Australia and throughout the world. Unfortunately, however, environmental concerns are often an added afterthought and therefore seen as a complication or a cost rather than as a basic component of decisions. They must be central to policy-making because at stake are the natural systems upon which all life depends. It is impossible to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society with an economic system that attempts to be value free.

The Greens are on common ground with a growing number of economists who are arguing for a new approach to economics that encompasses social and environmental values. I was interested to read recently about the work of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst as an advocate for health and social justice in the workplace in the early twentieth century. Her concern about workers’ exposure to lead and other toxic chemicals in the workplace, particularly the ceramics industry, was seen to be unrealistic and economically unviable by employers, government and media of the time. The only company that did remove lead was the well known and highly regarded Wedgwood. This was probably one of the first consumer campaigns to try to affect policy by consumer power.

Mr Speaker, we are still hearing the same old and misleading arguments that jobs and profits will be lost if we protect the environment. The mismanagement Sylvia Pankhurst challenged continues all around the world. Our accounting systems do not tell us about the full environmental and social costs and benefits of production or consumption. Our economic models are based on so many assumptions that they are greatly distorted from the real world. The market tells us that our food is inexpensive; yet the method of its production damages water and soil, and the full costs of transportation are not included. We are told that it is cheap to drive cars but very expensive to support a high-quality public transport system. But we are not told about the environmental and social costs of car-dependent cities and the hidden subsidies provided by government. We are told that there is no economic value in all the unpaid work done in our society, such as caring for children or the elderly and working for non-profit organisations.

Mr Speaker, our challenge in the ACT is to bring a new understanding of economics into our lives. If we integrate environmental and social considerations into our decisions, it is logical to promote green industries and community businesses. There are already hundreds of examples from around the world of successful industries that have grown out of environmental responsibility. Germany has developed multimillion dollar industries from the toughest packaging standards in the world. What is needed in the ACT is a comprehensive strategy for promoting industries that reduce resource use, minimise waste and pollution, and recycle products and components. The ACT is well placed to be at the centre of a thriving, sustainable regional economy.


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