Peter Rae AO - Tribute
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I speak about a man who has spent his life proving you can change the world from Tasmania. Peter Rae is well known for his parliamentary career as Liberal Senator for Tasmania from 1968 to 1986 and as former Minister for Education and Technology in the Tasmanian Parliament from 1986 to 1989. In 1999, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for service to business and commerce, to the federal and Tasmanian parliaments, and to the Aboriginal community of Flinders Island.
This speech pays tribute to his contribution as a cherished Tasmanian and global ambassador for renewable energy.
Peter has had numerous national and international leadership roles and has received many awards including President of the World Wind Energy Association since 2015 and the Honorary Chairman of the International Renewable Energy Alliance - REN Alliance - since it was formed in 2004. He was an adviser to the World Bank on hydropower; a member of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Expert Group; founding Chairman of Renewable Energy Generators Australia; and Chairman of the Tasmanian Renewable Energy Industry Development Board from 2009 to 2011.
Honours include University of Tasmania Distinguished Alumni of the Year 2005 for achievement in renewable energy and education; a member of the five-person international jury, and founding member, for the Energy Globe Awards for sustainable development; and for five years Vice Chairman of REN21, the international renewable energy network which publishes the annual global status report. Peter is also a former long-serving chairman of Hydro Tasmania.
Peter was born in Launceston in 1932 and says his interest in nature and sustainability goes back to growing up on the family farm in Longford with his parents, Elliot and Nina, his brother, Michael and his sister, Lesley. He says that experience taught him from an early age about how climate seasons and forward planning are important for choosing sustainability.
For most of his life he had a farm and the tasks of clearing paddocks and working out how many trees to leave in, as well as the best types of trees, are some of the things that have helped him to understand nature. He says, 'I finished up leaving more trees than I thought I would'. The knowledge acquired on the farm also helped him greatly later in life when trying to resolve challenges to sustainability.
Peter recalls becoming particularly concerned about pollution from the 1960s onwards and he channelled those concerns into his parliamentary work. In a speech to the Senate on 11 September 1968, then Senator Rae, said -
Let me say how delighted I am to be given the opportunity to be a member of the Select Committee on Water Pollution. I believe that possibly this Committee has in its hands the future of our great nation. If we continue to despoil that with which God and nature have endowed us, I believe that our future will be severely limited. We must work out a way, commensurate with the needs of our development and industry, to preserve our natural waters and the life which they provide and sustain. We must stop turning our natural waterways into vast sewers filled with life destroying bacteria and chemicals.
The committee held hearings across Australia, making numerous recommendations. While it did not go as far or as fast as he would have liked, it did create action and Peter was part of successive Australian delegations to the European Parliament.
The rise of the environmental movement was a major narrative in Tasmania's history, particularly from the 1960s through to the 1980s. The public protest over the flooding of Lake Pedder and the Franklin Dam debate was paid national and worldwide attention.
Peter Rae says he was opposed to the flooding of Lake Pedder but was also against a later campaign to drain Lake Pedder to return it to its original size. He opposed the proposed draining due to expert advice received on damaging impacts on the lakes and environment. Peter also felt it was important at the time to balance the economic benefits that could come from the Gordon Power Station. Getting the balance right is a view he still holds today. He says it is important to balance having a sustainable economy to enable us to afford a sustainable environment. A moderate and balanced approach to both is essential.
In 1992 Peter joined the board of the Hydro-Electric Corporation. His hope for Hydro was to see it become a global leader in sustainability and this has been achieved. He became chairman in 1993, serving in that role until 2004.
Peter Rae is immensely proud of Hydro Tasmania's work with renewable energy which has been recognised internationally with awards such as the 2001 Blue Planet prize for excellence in hydro electric development. He adds, 'Hydro Tasmania's sustainability guidelines and protocols are being adopted by hydro schemes all around the world'.
On a personal level, he is proud of his role in facilitating the development of wind energy to combine with hydro in his home state of Tasmania. Peter says he is proud to have brought together the major international renewable energy associations in 2004 - hydro, wind, solar, geothermal and bioenergy - to form the REN Alliance, thereby creating the world peak body of renewable energy associations.
The man who has been referred to as the father of renewables in Tasmania, said it is an exciting time. He says the cost of renewables has fallen sharply and there is plenty of technological innovation happening that will see people the world over use this energy more in their everyday lives. He is immensely respected worldwide for the incredible contribution he has made. Perhaps the best thing anyone said to him was, 'Do not think you can change the world from little old Tasmania'. At the time his inner voice told him, 'We can if we try'.
Mr President, Peter Rae has changed the world for the better. I express enormous gratitude for the contribution he has made over many years to the renewable sector, both in Tasmania and worldwide. Our community, and Launceston in particular, is extremely grateful for the work he has done in this area and we are incredibly proud of him.