Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 3972..
DR FOSKEY: My question is to the Treasurer. Given that the Stern report has called global warning the greatest market failure the world has ever seen and that many governments at all levels are investigating and initiating strong action to protect the planet from catastrophic outcomes, does the Treasurer understand what is broadly meant by ethical and/or sustainable investment and would he agree that to continue to invest funds without regard to social and environmental consequences is irresponsible and ignorant?
MR STANHOPE: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. I note that Dr Foskey is following up on questions on the issue of ethical investment which she has been pursuing through committee hearings on annual reports. Yes, I do understand ethical investments—the nature of them and the context of the capacity which governments have, to a greater or lesser degree, to invest in different programs, projects, funds or investments generally. But it is not necessarily cut and dried that an ACT government or an Australian government which has capacity through its accumulated funds, particularly superannuation funds or investments, should choose at the expense of its employees to invest in a certain line on the basis of a philosophical position around the ethics or otherwise of a particular investment chain.
Dr Foskey, in her pursuit of her interest in this particular issue, is focusing on the capacity which governments might have to invest in industries that might have an impact on our capacity to address issues around climate change. Dr Foskey, in her analysis of ethical investments, would not support, for instance, investments in certain industries that she would consider potentially contribute to climate change.
There is a capacity for us to make value judgments around whether or not we move from a secure, lower risk investment, through an investment fund, in a range of industries that might perhaps, through the portfolio, have shares or investments in, for instance, an energy provider such as somebody that produces coal or somebody that produces energy through the use of coal or, heaven forbid, uranium, as opposed to the capacity which a government might have to invest in some of the new solar technologies—in an industry that is more ethically sound in the view of Dr Foskey but that perhaps has a significantly higher risk in terms of its return or its capacity to meet the superannuation and retirement needs of an investor's work force. Such is the situation which we face here in the territory.
Governments have traditionally adopted a view or an attitude in relation to investment, particularly of superannuation funds—funds which are invested on behalf of a government's work force—to seek on behalf of their employees to obtain the highest possible return. There is a very valid and reasonable subject for debate, and it is reasonable and appropriate that the Assembly does debate issues around ethical investment. We do have a significant portfolio. We are a small jurisdiction, but we nevertheless invest significant amounts of funds.
I am very comfortable with the debate. But the position which this government has taken, and the position which every other government since self-government—and I believe every other government in Australia—has taken, is that underpinning its