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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE C
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES
Subprogram 1.1--Environment strategies
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE C
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Sub program
Subprogram 1.1--Environment strategies
- System Id
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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE C
(SENATE-Tuesday, 22 February 1994)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES
Senator IAN MACDONALD
- Subprogram 1.4--Australian Nature Conservation Agency
- Subprogram 1.1--Environment strategies
- Subprogram 1.3--Australian Heritage Commission
- Subprogram 1.4--Australian Nature Conservation Agency
- Subprogram 1.5--Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
- Program 5--Territories
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE C - 22/02/1994 - DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT, SPORT AND TERRITORIES - Program 1--Environment - Subprogram 1.1--Environment strategies
Senator CALVERT --You would know very well, Madam Chair, the area of Lune River--down the Huon, past Geeveston.
CHAIRMAN --Oh yes!
Senator CALVERT --That is what I want to ask a few questions about, if I may. Under the heading 1.1, there is an ex gratia payment to Benders Pty Ltd for closure of the Lune River quarry. The Lune River quarry supplied limestone for the apple orchards in the Huon. As the chairman would know, it is a very important part of growing apples to have limestone to make sure they are red. Today, in the applications for funds for the Advance to the Minister for Finance document, which I have a copy of here, in the explanation it says:
The matter needs to be finalised urgently as the amount of the ex-gratia payment to Benders Pty Ltd includes a component for interest foregone (which has been assessed to 31 December 1993).
Regarding the interest foregone, when did it commence?
Dr McCusker --The interest would have commenced from the time when the quarry was closed, which was 20 August 1992.
Senator CALVERT --Why do we all of a sudden have this statement today which says that it has to be finalised urgently? Why has it taken so long--18 months in fact--from the time the quarry was closed until we get the situation where the matter has been finalised on an ex gratia payment?
Mr Buckingham --I can answer that, Madam Chair. The first question that arose was whether or not Mr Bender was in fact going to transfer his operation to another site. The government, from the outset, indicated a willingness to make an ex gratia payment of some $476,000 to facilitate that transfer and to accommodate redundancies that would be associated with the closure.
It became apparent subsequently that that transfer was not an option that Mr Bender was able to pursue or wanted to pursue and, accordingly, the matter of the financial loss to Mr Bender associated with the closure, with no option of transfer, became the question for consideration. It was that that was the subject of an independent assessment and it was that that has become the basis of the enlarged ex gratia payment that has now been agreed.
Senator CALVERT --How come back in 1992 the department offered $476,000 and we ended up with something like $2.245 million?
Mr Buckingham --Because the situation was that the only costs that were seen as costs that at that point in time could actually be legitimately flowing from the decision to close, were costs associated with the transfer. The expectation was that if he were to transfer the function he would be able to operate at the new site, and the only cost to him would be involved in that transfer.
Senator CALVERT --So you are saying that the transfer from Lune River to Maydena would only cost $476,000?
Mr Buckingham --That was the estimate at the time.
Senator CALVERT --A pretty poor estimate. In hindsight, does the department believe it may have been more appropriate to enter into more meaningful discussions with Mr Bender at the time the quarry closed down, instead of waiting until now to come to some agreement? I think it is pretty obvious that the site at Maydena was not suitable some 12 months ago.
Mr Buckingham --I do not think that was immediately obvious to a number of players. Indeed, both the Tasmanian government and Mr Bender had quite a good deal of interest in the possibilities of the Maydena site. The question of it taking this amount of time was purely related to the question of what real cost, what real financial loss was going to be incurred by Mr Bender. The amount that has now been determined reflects that assessment. It could not have been made earlier.
Senator CALVERT --It could not have been made earlier?
Mr Buckingham --It could not have been made earlier, because, frankly, there was an option available to him, or seemingly available to him, that he may wish to have exercised and the financial loss would not have been of the kind that is now in fact the subject of this payment.
Senator CALVERT --The zinc company indicated that the limestone was not of sufficient quality over 12 months ago. That is one of his major suppliers and sources of sale.
Mr Buckingham --If I remember correctly, the actual testing of the Maydena site, and you might correct me here, Alison, if I am wrong, only commenced in November following the actual action at the quarry.
Senator CALVERT --1992?
Mr Buckingham --1992.
Senator CALVERT --I remember reading comments from the EZ company which said that, because it was not of sufficient quality, they had to import it from Flowery Gulley or somewhere in the north of the state. You disagree with what I am saying, but I believe there has been an inordinate waste of time on this particular matter and I believe most of it has been hedging around the fact that there were no meaningful discussions--well, there were plenty of discussions but I think Mr Bender wanted a lot more than what the government was going to pay. When did you bring an independent assessor in?
Mr Buckingham --An independent assessor reported in December 1993. It was in fact several months before that that he was brought in. But I might say that the whole pattern of consultation with Mr Bender, both preceding the closure and following the closure, was one that was conducted with a real appreciation of what was involved, what the particular implications were for Mr Bender, and his own approach to that whole consultation was throughout a very constructive and helpful one. I think it is significant that the outcome is one that he has accepted, and I think it represents a fair and appropriate outcome, all factors considered.
Senator CALVERT --It did cause a lot of disquiet in the area because of the loss of a resource, a cheap resource for a primary industry. Has the department ever ascertained the detrimental economic effect the closing of this particular quarry has had on the area?
Mr Buckingham --Support was provided to Mr Bender in the transitional period to actually ship limestone from elsewhere in Tasmania to meet the transitional situation. Throughout, the bottom line from this portfolio's perspective was that World Heritage values were being impacted adversely and action had to be taken to address that situation.
Senator CALVERT --I am not going to argue about the decision. I think the decision was based upon political expediency, particularly when trying to counter the Democrats' arguments in the area. Have you got any figures on how much the government spent on subsidising those particular limestone deliveries that came from the north? How long did they go on for and when did they cease?
Dr McCusker --I do not believe we have that information exactly.
Mr Buckingham --We can certainly get that information provided on notice, Senator.
Senator CALVERT --Have any efforts been made to find alternative areas of limestone close to the area for horticulture and agriculture? Has your department been involved in the--
Mr Buckingham --I believe that was the original interest in the Maydena site; it was relatively proximate to the area. There are other sources elsewhere in Tasmania and I understand that they are now being utilised for this purpose.
Senator CALVERT --There were more in Tasmania but there were some queries about opening another quarry reasonably close to the--
Mr Buckingham --Yes, I understand there were, but I also understand there was a good deal of difference of opinion about the actual quality of the limestone available from that quarry.
Senator CALVERT --When you were assessing the compensation payout, did anybody give you any indication of what the increase in cost would be for the local farmers to receive the same amount of limestone as they were before from the local quarry? I know you have said you were going to give me figures about what the subsidies were but--
Dr McCusker --The decision was Mr Bender's. It was that his business would not be viable if he could not provide limestone of the quality demanded by his major client, which was Pasminco EZ. It wanted limestone that was very low in magnesium because it was being used in the zinc smelting process for which a low magnesium limestone is required. He decided that he could not reasonably stay in business by providing agricultural limestone. I do not believe we looked at any other options for farmers getting agricultural limestone. That was not part of the exercise which was to assess the effect on Benders Pty Ltd of the closure of the limestone quarry at Lune River.
Senator CALVERT --What stage is the rehabilitation process of the quarry at?
Dr McCusker --It is almost completed now except I understand the crusher was very recently removed and there is some rehabilitation work associated with that. A member of my staff inspected the rehabilitation work about six weeks ago.
Senator CALVERT --During this whole process, the state government was involved, of course.
Dr McCusker --Yes.
Senator CALVERT --Do you believe it received adequate compensation for the costs that it incurred in the operation?
Mr Buckingham --There has been no payment made to the Tasmanian government.
Senator CALVERT --Will there be?
Mr Buckingham --No.
Senator CALVERT --There has been no claim?
Mr Buckingham --No.
Senator CALVERT --So they have not sought any funds at all for compensation for the amount of time and work they have put into it.
Mr Buckingham --Quite frankly, I am not even clear what the basis for a claim would be.
Senator CALVERT --I was led to believe that most of the discussions were going on between Mrs Kelly's office and Mr Cleary's office. There was a fair amount of work and time involved. Was not the state government responsible for setting up the rehabilitation work?
Mr Buckingham --The rehabilitation work did involve a number of Tasmanian government officers, and I understand that that was actually picked up as part of, if I remember correctly, the World Heritage funding arrangements within Tasmania.
Senator CALVERT --So did they take the money out of the Helsham money?
Mr Buckingham --No, not out of Helsham money, but out of the Commonwealth World Heritage funding that is paid to Tasmania. The relevant staff were actually provided for under that program.
Senator CALVERT --That would have meant that that program would have missed out by the amount of funds that have been paid into this particular exercise.
Mr Buckingham --It was in fact reflecting their particular interest that this exercise proceed as smoothly and as effectively as possible. There were, as you said earlier, discussions between ministers and there were discussions between officials. I think it was in the interests of all parties that, firstly, there be effective rehabilitation of the site. A number of Tasmania government personnel were qualified to assist in that process, and accordingly were drawn on.
Senator CALVERT --But the decision to close the quarry was a political one, was it not?
Mr Buckingham --The decision was a decision by the minister reflecting her obligations under the relevant World Heritage Act.
Dr McCusker --The management of the World Heritage area in Tasmania is a joint Commonwealth-State responsibility, and priorities for managing the World Heritage area are determined by ministerial council and carried out on the ground by Tasmanian officers, with a financial contribution from the Commonwealth. The Lune River Quarry is in the World Heritage area so the rehabilitation of the quarry site was properly, I believe, carried out within that joint Commonwealth-State program. That meant Commonwealth and State funds being provided and State officers doing the job on the ground.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I have 12 short questions. Could I say to the officers that if they can give me the answers straight away I would appreciate them straight away, but if there is any need for consultation or investigation, please indicate that you will take the question on notice and give me the answer later. In relation to the Willandra Lakes World Heritage project, has there been any further allocation of funding for possible compensation for pastoralists for any acts that the minister may declare to be unlawful in order to protect the World Heritage area?
Mr Buckingham --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you anticipate that there might be funds needed in the upcoming budget? Is it something that you will be looking at in the forward bids?
Mr Buckingham --Not on the basis you have just described.
Mr Hamilton --Going back to the first question, the premise has not arisen that an act has been declared unlawful but, with that understanding, there has been no money allocated.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Anticipating that there might be some acts, is there any forward bid being made?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you anticipate that you will require any additional funding to assist the Western Australian government to implement effective management of the Shark Bay World Heritage property?
Dr McCusker --Yes. An amount of $950,000 was made available to assist with that work. We believe the Western Australians have spent the first half of that money--$475,000 was made available to them. We are expecting very shortly to receive a request for the next $475,000, which then will be made available. It is available in this year's budget.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Will you be requiring further allocation for funding of the desk study to determine whether sections of Lake Eyre in South Australia have natural values that meet World Heritage listing?
Mr Hamilton --We already had funding for that in last year's budget.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You will not be requiring any more?
Mr Hamilton --No.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --When will the study be completed?
Mr Buckingham --At the moment we are in the process of exploring the engagement of consultants to undertake that study. We expect it will take some six months from the time of commencement.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I understand that the Prime Minister announced, in relation to Lake Eyre, that he was confident that a World Heritage nomination would proceed in that year. Why was the Lake Eyre study not done before that announcement was made? On what basis did the Prime Minister say that, if the Lake Eyre study had not been obviously started?
Mr Buckingham --I am not aware of that particular statement that you are quoting, Senator.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You are not aware that in March 1992 the Prime Minister said that he was confident that a World Heritage nomination would proceed this year?
Mr Buckingham --As I say, I am not aware of it, and I am not sure of the context in which the reported statement might have been made. The situation is that, as of the moment, we are looking at the engagement of consultants to undertake the assessment of the World Heritage values of that site.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I wonder if you could check for me, just to confirm my information that the Prime Minister did make that statement; and then this might be a matter for Mrs Kelly. Perhaps you could then indicate to me on what basis the Prime Minister made that statement--if, in fact, it turns out he did--before the Lake Eyre study was apparently even started, let alone completed.
Senator Richardson --Could you just provide me with a copy of what he is supposed to have said, and I will get you a response.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --He was supposed to have said that he was `confident a World Heritage nomination would proceed this year'. I do not have the reference as to where that came from, but I can get it for you if that is not sufficient.
Dr McCusker --It was March 1993.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --March 1993, was it? That rings a bell.
Mr Buckingham --It is important to see what he actually said. He said, `Once the necessary survey work is complete, I am confident that a World Heritage nomination will proceed this year'. At that time, there were discussions proceeding with South Australia about the way in which an assessment might proceed. There has been a good deal of water pass under the bridge since then, and I think that the circumstances are certainly different.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How could the Prime Minister be confident in March 1993 if the study had not even been started by then?
Mr Buckingham --I think that there is a general perception that there are important conservation values attaching to parts of the Lake Eyre basin. It is the purpose of the assessment that we are looking at to establish whether those values would, in fact, constitute World Heritage values and that we would proceed accordingly if they were.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --The Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency has nominated, as I understand it, the state of the environment initiative as one of its priority activities. Is that correct?
Mr Buckingham --The state of environment report.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Yes.
Mr Buckingham --The situation is that, with the restructuring of the department in September last year, that function has been transferred from the Commonwealth Environment Protection Agency to the environment strategies directorate. And, yes, it is an important priority for the directorate--indeed, for the portfolio as a whole.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --There seems to be some delay in the completion of consultancies and arrangements for scientific reference committees. Is that consistent with it being one of the priorities of the department?
Mr Buckingham --I do not think there is a contradiction there, Senator. The situation we have is one in which we are wanting to work very closely with the interested parties to see that the technical basis of that report is sound. We are working with the states in that regard. We are working with specialist scientific opinion in that regard. We are just about at the point of actually establishing a national advisory council.
Progress on this, we believe, has been satisfactory; but the delay that you refer to is simply an exercise in being sure that we get it right. We are not going to rush into expensive consultancy work ahead of knowing that the basic terms of reference and issues to be addressed through those consultancies have been properly identified.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Will the state of the environment reporting system be used to give information to organisations such as the OECD? I understand we have been ranked rather poorly in a study using environmental indicators. Will this reporting system be used to try to improve our position in that ranking?
Mr Buckingham --There are two things. One is that the data that is gathered in the context of state of the environment reporting will obviously assist in the provision of information to the OECD, and we would certainly be looking to use it in that way. The second point I would make, though, is that the ranking you refer to is, I believe, reflected in the document The Green League of Nations. That is not an OECD document. It is a document that is seriously methodologically flawed. There are a lot of problems with that particular document and, indeed, the OECD secretariat itself is highly critical of the way that document has been put together.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Who did that ranking, did you say?
Mr Buckingham --The Green League of Nations is the publication, and the ranking is done by the New Economics Foundation, which I am informed is a London based foundation. They were doing it in fact, I understand, for a newspaper.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are they an environmental foundation, or an economics foundation?
Dr Fleming --They are an economics foundation, but they also do analyses which relate to environmental economics. They do a lot of work in that area, I understand. The point that Mr Buckingham made is very relevant: the analysis was not undertaken by the OECD, and the OECD have been, in fact, quite critical of the way it was undertaken.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is this foundation recognised in environmental circles? Or is it just--
Dr Fleming --It was not known to me, and I do not think it is widely known in Australia. I have not inquired as to how widely it is regarded within the United Kingdom.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So you are not aware of its ranking? If it is possible, could you get me some information on who they are? You have indicated that the OECD places no faith in their rankings or their methodology.
Dr Fleming --That was the advice the secretariat gave us. They said that they were very concerned about the methodology used and about the way OECD data was interpreted for the purposes of the report.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you have any independent view on that? Do you agree with OECD?
Dr Fleming --Within the department, we have had a look at the report and we would also certainly question the methodology used, particularly the validity of comparing and aggregating the environmental data which the OECD has compiled. The data are not always in fact environmental indicators.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Fine. I understand that Australia has been criticised for lagging behind in its efforts to meet its goals under the agenda 21 program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Do you agree that Australia is lagging behind?
Mr Buckingham --Firstly, I wonder where that particular criticism has been made.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Have you heard it before?
Mr Buckingham --There have been a whole variety of viewpoints offered on where Australia and many other countries stand in respect of those goals.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Do you accept that we are lagging behind?
Mr Buckingham --The situation is one in which Australia's position is in fact, by comparison with many countries, well advanced. We have a national greenhouse response strategy established, in place, and being implemented. As to our actual relative progress in delivering on the targets, it is a complex issue which, at this very early stage, I think it would be very hard to make a definitive judgment on.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So you are not prepared to say whether you believe we are lagging behind.
Mr Buckingham --When we talk about seeing greenhouse gas emissions reduced to 1988 levels by the year 2000--a commitment made some 18 months ago, if I remember correctly--it is far too early to make any definitive judgment about comparative progress between countries.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What specific things are being done to advance our standing or our goals?
Mr Buckingham --These are fully set out in the national greenhouse response strategy that was adopted by heads of government. I would be quite happy to make that available to you, if you wish to see it. At the moment we are in what is called the no regrets phase. That is basically a situation where you can achieve those reductions without, at the same time, incurring penalties in terms of economic or other interests involved.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I would appreciate a copy of that. I understand your goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels. Is that achievable at the current level of funding?
Mr Buckingham --I believe it is to 1988 levels by the year 2000. The strategy that we have outlined is directed to that type of outcome.
Mr Hamilton --The strategy does not just include funding methods. It also includes a whole range of regulatory, educative and other measures. The level of funding is not the only matter we look at when assessing whether we are likely to achieve the outcome.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are you confident that at current levels of funding you will meet that goal?
Mr Hamilton --As Mr Buckingham indicated, it is too early to tell. We would be foolish to be confident, but it would be alarmist to believe that we will not do it.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Will you continue to make those assessments in your budget bids between now and the year 2000?
Mr Hamilton --Yes. As I indicated, it is not just a budgetary matter--it is our overall policy stance. We keep it under review to see what more might be done or what might be done differently.
Mr Buckingham --It is not simply a budgetary matter within this portfolio. Other departments, such as the Department of Primary Industries and Energy, have a very important role in this regard as well.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --An answer given by the department to Mrs Gallus, the Shadow minister for the environment, indicates that $4,961,000 was allocated to greenhouse research. If the information is readily available--if it is not, you could take it on notice--could you explain how that $4.961 million is broken up and what it comprises?
Mr Buckingham --I would need to take the break up of it on notice. However, the process is one that is the subject of advice by the National Greenhouse Advisory Committee, a technical, scientifically based committee. We would be able to give you the precise details of the allocations. In fact, I have a copy here of the major allocations. I would be quite happy to make that available to you.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Thank you. There was an amount of $2.282 million allocated to climate change. What activities are being carried out under this heading?
Ms Bromley --The climate change program funds a number of activities, mainly those of a quite catalytic nature. It also supports a Commonwealth secretariat to the National Greenhouse Advisory Panel. Some of the activities that have been funded in the last financial year, and are being funded this year, include the diesohol trials with the Action bus system, and a series of impact studies and vulnerability assessments, particularly in the coastal area. The program also contributes to contributions Australia makes to studies being undertaken by the OECD, for example, on methodologies for national communications under the convention, and similar sorts of activities.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Thank you. Dr Fleming indicated a moment ago that the people doing the ranking were not well regarded. I understand that--according to OECD data on the 21 countries surveyed--Australia was rated worst per capita for municipal waste, second worst per capita for greenhouse gas emissions, and third worst on sulphur oxide emissions per capita. Is that so?
Dr Fleming --It is probably best that Mr Carbon address the particulars, as Director of the EPA. I will just clarify a point you made. The point I made was not that the organisation was necessarily disreputable, but that this particular report lacked credibility in our eyes.
Mr Carbon --I will address in generalities each of those specific concerns and also several of the criteria used in that report. If you were a large country with a small population, the methodology that was used by this group tended to go against you, whereas if you were a small country with a larger population, you scored very well.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is this not OECD data?
Mr Carbon --Most of the data that was used is OECD data--raw data. It has been analysed by a methodology that I will describe in generalities. In generality, they have taken the total of something and divided it by the number of people. For example, if you divided the total amount of sulphur dioxide emitted in Australia by the number of people here, you would rank Australia badly. Sulphur dioxide emission is mainly associated with our mining industry, and I will mention here that the sulphur dioxide levels in Australia are so low that there has never been any measured incidence of acid rain anywhere.
Likewise, if you divided the total amount of waste by the number of people in Australia, which is a different denominator from that was used for the more populated countries, you would come up with a result that holds very little credibility when subjected to scientific analysis. I would venture the belief that most Australians, when they look at an analysis which says that their environment is significantly worse in almost every parameter than that of the most densely populated areas of Europe, would find that it lacks credibility.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You mention sulphur dioxide, but you make the same comparison for greenhouse gas and municipal waste.
Mr Carbon --Yes, and I am quite confident about making the same analysis. The amount of waste that is reported by Australia is the total amount of waste divided by the number of Australians. In fact, much of the OECD data is not on that same basis. It refers to the amount of domestic waste. That is probably one of the areas where the comparison is not particularly valid. In terms of carbon dioxide produced, yes, we have a large number of industries which use significant amounts of energy and, on a per capita basis, we do generate a larger amount of carbon dioxide compared with other areas. In terms of environmental impact, we are very small on the scale of environmental impact.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What was your point about municipal waste?
Mr Carbon --The descriptor used--`waste per capita'--is not particularly accurate in this case because the term `waste' is defined in some cases as domestic waste but in other cases, in the case of Australia for example, it is defined as the total amount of waste produced in the country divided by the number of people.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Not just domestic waste.
Mr Carbon --Yes. So, it is not comparing apples with apples. But equally there are other--
Senator IAN MACDONALD --That is in OECD data you are saying--
Mr Carbon --There are other figures which were not available in terms of the OECD data such as waste water treatment, which Australia ranked fairly badly in. And again it is a function of extensive size and large areas where water is in fact an important resource which is used and re-used in our inland areas. Likewise, we faired badly on the basis of driving a long way in motor cars, which is hardly surprising in a large country.
Mr Hamilton --On a general point on OECD inter-country comparisons, it bedevils all inter-country comparisons, including the OECD ones, that the basis on which individual countries collect that data is different. You cannot necessary rely on the comparability, and it is not just in environmental areas. It is in health. It is in wealth distribution.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --You would feel confident in assuring the Australian public that we are not as badly off in those areas as some European countries, despite the fact that the OECD says we are rated worst or second worst?
Mr Carbon --I think I could simply say that we could change our ranking on my estimation from 17th to about seventh just by doubling our population. It is not a valid comparison.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How are we going to do that?
Mr Carbon --I do not believe it is appropriate to measure environmental quality by dividing the quality by the number of people.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --What is the purpose of the OECD data if it is as irrelevant as you are suggesting?
Mr Carbon --I do not believe the OECD data is irrelevant. I think the thing that is irrelevant is this analysis which was done by this particular economic group on contract to a UK newspaper for the specific purpose of comparing the performance of the UK to other European countries. And I believe that if they again were asked to look at the specific reference to Australia they would do it differently.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Okay.
Mr Carbon --Australia hardly gets mentioned in this report. It is a very small bit that has caught the attention of the public.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It is a pity it did on those figures. Thank you for that. Perhaps we could pursue that later. There is an increase of $4.285 million allocated for the government's lead abatement program. Could you indicate what specific initiatives will be acquired with that money?
Mr Hurst --The amount of money that you are talking about is essentially aimed at getting people to change the way that they deal with the most common occurrences of lead. In particular, this relates to getting them to switch from using leaded petrol to using unleaded petrol wherever they can. We have been cooperating very closely with industry, states, other Commonwealth departments, and a whole range of organisations to ensure the widest possible acceptance of this message, and our understanding is that the success of this campaign will be reflected in any monitoring that comes through or any general change in the behaviour from the public in terms of using unleaded petrol.
In addition to the unleaded petrol issue, there are also initiatives in relation to lead in paint, and also in getting information to health professionals and people in the health industry. So, overall, it is a very comprehensive campaign which includes elements of mass media as well as very closely targeted educational material for industry.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --That $4.285 million is simply an allocation from the general coffers, is it?
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I guess it is not relevant to ask you where that money is coming from.
Mr Hamilton --That was an additional figure granted in the budget. It was not offset within the portfolio, if that is what you mean.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I guess where the government is getting that money from is a matter for the Department of Treasury. Is that from the increase in the sales tax on leaded fuel?
Mr Hamilton --To use the jargon, there is no hypothecation of the revenue for that particular expense.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --As far as you department goes?
Mr Hamilton --There is no linkage.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --How much of that $4.285 million is being spent on promotional programs? Answer specifically, if you have got that; if not, approximately.
Mr Hurst --Essentially, $2.5 million is going towards media activities, if you like: advertising and production for print and outdoor advertising, and a couple of targeted initiatives and television. That covers $2.5 million. In addition to that, approximately $200,000 has gone to the printing of the various components of the education kits which have gone out. There are other miscellaneous figures attached to that: the use of contract staff, for example, for manning the 008 number, which has taken a record number of calls, and so on. But that is essentially where the money has gone.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Who is directing that promotional campaign? Do you have consultants doing that, or is someone in the department responsible?
Mr Hurst --I am actually doing most of the hands-on direction of that.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --The next question was going to be how many photos of ministers will appear in it all, and I assume that Senator Crowley getting up to say, `Me, me!'
Senator Crowley --I am sorry; I am waiting for some research gentlemen to arrive. I beg your pardon.
Mr Hurst --Volunteers are happily accepted! Basically, as I said, most of the money has gone into the major mass media buy, and various other amounts have gone into the range of educational materials that we have developed with industry.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Would the minister be likely to give any directions in relation to that promotional advertising?
Senator Crowley --You could hardly expect an official to answer a question about that. Could you frame your question more directly? That is actually asking the officials to have a stab at what the minister might do.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Are they given carte blanche to do the advertising? Or is it likely the minister will come in and say, `I want you to do it this way'?
Mr Hamilton --The minister approves the expenditure and approves the direction and particular features of the campaign.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So the style of the campaign will be explained to her and she will approve it.
Mr Hamilton --Yes.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --So if her photo appears in all the stuff, is she the one I should blame rather than you, Mr Hamilton?
Mr Hamilton --The overall presentation of it is, in the end, a decision for the minister; so if blame or credit attaches, it attaches to the minister.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --There will be no credit.
CHAIRMAN --Senator Macdonald, is it possible for your remaining questions to be put on notice?
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I am prepared to put some of these questions on notice and I am trying to be brief. There are a couple of others that I would like to briefly inquire about. I just want to have a discussion with Dr Kelleher before he goes back to Townsville.
CHAIRMAN --All other questions for this section will be put on notice.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --I would just like to finalise the matter of the lead abatement program. How much of the $4.285 million has been allocated to Broken Hill or the New South Wales government to assist that community--bearing in mind that 75 per cent of the children under five have unacceptable levels of lead in their blood?
Mr Carbon --To the best of my knowledge, there have been no specific allocations to Broken Hill.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --No specific ones; nor to the New South Wales government, for Broken Hill?
Mr Carbon --That is correct.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Is there any concern about the specific area of Broken Hill?
Mr Carbon --Yes. There are in fact three areas in Australia where there is specific concern. The decisions about what happened, as far as the lead campaign was concerned, were determined on the basis of a lead summit, which was a meeting of the environment ministers across Australia. There was at that stage expressed strong concern from the states that management of specific areas within the states was a states issue.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --It is a state responsibility?
Mr Carbon --A states issue.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --But has the New South Wales government sought additional funding because of that specific problem?
Mr Carbon --I am not aware of any specific requests from the New South Wales government.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Will there be any sort of intensification of the promotional programs in areas such as Broken Hill which have this specific problem?
Mr Carbon --No, there is not a specific intensification in those areas. However, as well as the general campaign across Australia, which is aimed at raising awareness of lead through the use of the lead in petrol campaign, there are specific pamphlets produced for different professionals--professional painters and professional medicos--and for those areas where lead in the soil is a contaminant of real concerns. Those pamphlets have been distributed to all those places with local programs where there is sensitivity.
Senator IAN MACDONALD --Thank you. Madam Chairman, in view of the hour, and in view of the patience of the committee earlier on, I will table some questions, numbered 8 through to 10 of this program, and 11 through to 12 under program 1.4, on the Australian Nature Conservation Agency. I do have a specific question on 1.4 myself, but other senators may have questions before getting to that.
CHAIRMAN --That is right. Senator Chamarette has a question or so on 1.1.
Senator CHAMARETTE --has already been asked, I apologise. It concerns the transfer of $258,000 from the National Network of Reserves--Protected Areas initiative, from the department to the Australian Nature Conservation Agency, and the entry refers to 1.4. Could you clarify exactly why the money has not been utilised, and what programs are not being acted on, in order for that money to be lost?
Mr Buckingham --The money has not been lost; it is actually a technicality that is involved. The situation following the restructuring of the department last August was that the responsibility for the national reserves program was made a responsibility of the Australian Nature Conservation Agency. There had been some moneys held by the department for aspects of that program previously. Those monies were transferred to the Nature Conservation Agency to enable them to proceed, in line with their having full responsibility with the program. No moneys have been lost.
Senator CHAMARETTE --So it was actually an addition, would you say?
Mr Buckingham --No, it is not an addition; it was for work that would have been done within the department that is now being done within the Nature Conservation Agency, the money is being provided to them to do it, at the same level.
Senator CHAMARETTE --I have difficulty understanding that but I will investigate it further later. I have a further question regarding the lead abatement program. If it has not already been asked, I would like to ask for an itemisation and elaboration of the components that will lead up to the $4 million expenditure. I think I may have heard that being asked for before. What consultations have taken place with regard to setting up that particular program in relation to various interested parties and community groups?
Mr Carbon --Senator, with your permission, I can table for you a detailed description of the components, but perhaps Mr Hurst can go through the consultation process.
Mr Hurst --In terms of consultation, I think it has been one of the leading examples of how industry, community groups, the states and the Commonwealth can work together towards a comprehensive policy result and, hopefully, a change in behaviour on such a specific issue. A consultative group was established which at last count numbered some 25 people including representatives of all the states, of the major industry groups such as the Australian Institute of Petroleum, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, the ACTU, the automobile clubs around Australia represented by the AAA and the Motor Trades Association of Australia. Basically, anyone who has a stake in this is on the consultative committee including community groups, the ACF, the lead abatement group and so on.
This group has had access to all the drafts of the various materials that have gone out. It has had briefings from the advertising agency on the content of the campaign. It has been involved at every step along the way. Also, I understand there is a technical group that has spun off that consultative committee to look at other issues. In addition to that, there has been one-on-one consultation between the Commonwealth and, in particular, the New South Wales and Victoria EPAs which have a stake in this. They are some of the leading agencies along with the Commonwealth in terms of lead abatement. By anyone's terms, I think the consultation on this program has been exhaustive.
Senator CHAMARETTE --What I want to ask for are the dates of meetings that occurred. Obviously, as you are saying it is such an extensive consultation I do not necessarily want individual consultations but I wonder if you could table for me a list of the meeting dates for the main committee or group that has been involved in this program in an ongoing way over the last year.
Mr Hurst --I can tell you briefly the last meeting date was 21 December. Since then, in January all materials as they became available from the printer were sent out to all the members of that group. Before that there was a preliminary meeting. I would have to check on the exact time but it was some months before that. Preceding that was the ANZECC consideration of lead. Before that, in July, from memory, was the lead summit at which all these groups were present and volunteered for service on the consultative committee.
Senator CHAMARETTE --I would like to request the specific dates, if that is okay.
Mr Hurst --Yes.
Senator CHAMARETTE --Can I just clarify, and I might need to ask it later, does the regional assessment program fit under 1.1 or 1.2?
Mr Hamilton --The overall policy for the regional assessment of forests fits within 1.1, but the detailed work that the Heritage Commission does fits within 1.3.
Senator CHAMARETTE --I will take your guidance. I can either leave it to 1.3 or ask it now.
CHAIRMAN --If you could, just wait.
Senator TAMBLING --With regard to any sort of flow-through of environmental areas, can I ask whether the department produces for its own or any other uses, a regional or state type of break-up of the funding as it affects the environment. Several other departments as part of their budgeting process produce, from my point of view in the Northern Territory, Northern Territory statements that identify that particular region and I am able to look at it very carefully. Can I ask whether the department and the agencies listed in here under the section on environment have readily available a summary on a regional, state or Northern Territory type basis?
Mr Hamilton --I am not aware of any such comprehensive statement in one place. Certainly, if it went to regional as against state and territory. I will see if there is anything that could be readily made available to you.
Senator TAMBLING --Are you able to identify under the environment programs the details of grants that you give to the environment centre to community-based organisations--the various community groups--as distinct from departmental activities or ANCA's activities. I think there is a project called ocean rescue 2000 and there are various other networks.
Mr Hamilton --The details of all our grants to community organisations are provided as appendixes to our annual report.
Senator TAMBLING --Also, I am specifically looking for details for the current financial year. Could a list be made available? I asking for details only in respect of the Northern Territory?
Mr Hamilton --Of grants to community-based organisations made so far this financial year?
Senator TAMBLING --Or any that are proposed.
Mr Hamilton --Well, not the latter because until the minister has examined the proposals and made a decision, there is nothing we could give you. It would be quite an effort to give you all those in the current year because we have not yet put those altogether in one place, certainly as far as the Northern Territory is concerned. I will undertake to see whether we do maintain records by state for either past grants or grants in the current year and, if we can provide those, I will give them to you. You are just talking about the environment area at this stage?
Senator TAMBLING --The environment areas, including agencies.
Mr Hamilton --Yes, I understand.
Senator TAMBLING --Thank you.