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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4942


Senator O'Brien asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, upon notice, on 19 August 2002:

(1) What mechanism is in place for consultation with the community prior to the listing of threatened species and ecological communities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

(2) What changes have occurred to that mechanism for consultation in each of the following financial years: a) 2001-02; and b) 2002-03.

(3) (a) When did the `new arrangements' for consultation with the National Farmers' Federation, advised by the Minister in his speech to AgForce 2002, come into effect; and (b) what are these new arrangements.

(4) Do these arrangements include the provision of funding for a full-time position based at the National Farmers' Federation; if so: (a) what costs of employment, including related costs, are funded by the Commonwealth; and (b) for what period.

(5) (a) What arrangements are in place to consult with other rural groups and industry organisations prior to the listing of threatened species and ecological communities under the Act; and (b) if no arrangements are in place with other rural groups and industry organisations, why not.

(6) Will the Commonwealth fund employment positions at rural groups and industry organisations other than the National Farmers' Federation for the purpose of enhancing industry consultation relating to the Act.

(7) What arrangements are in place to consult with environmental groups prior to the listing of threatened species and ecological communities under the Act; if no arrangements are in place with environmental groups, why not.

(8) Will the Commonwealth fund employment positions at environmental organisations for the purpose of enhancing community consultation relating to the Act.


Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for the Environment and Heritage has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) to (3) In April 2002, the Department implemented a new process for the public notification of new nominations for listing threatened species, ecological communities and key threatening processes, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Prior to April 2002, the Register of Interested Parties was the mechanism for public consultation. Under this arrangement, organisations and individuals were invited, through the national press, to register their interest in receiving information on public nominations. Following this call, a Register of Interested Parties was established whereby only those people or organisations who had registered an interest were listed on the Register and received notification of new nominations.

The process implemented in April 2002 involves placing all new nominations on the Environment Australia website for two months so that all members of the public may gain access to relevant information and provide advice or comments to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) on listing nominations. Anyone wishing to comment on a nomination will be able to download the nomination directly from this website. In addition, letters from Environment Australia are sent to relevant state agencies, peak industry, and rural and conservation groups informing them of the nominations.

This comprehensive approach to consultation will enhance the transparency of the consultation process and will ensure that nominations are freely available to all interested individuals and organisations.

(4) (a) and (b) In addition to the arrangements relating to consultation on new listings, the Commonwealth has offered to fund a full-time position, including associated employment costs, for a period of 12 months based at the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) to ensure effective communication and information about the EPBC Act.

(5) (a) The consultation arrangements described in (1) (2) and (3) above are applicable to all interested individuals and organisations, and apply equally to all rural groups and industry organisations. (b) not applicable.

(6) Commonwealth funding has been offered to the NFF as a peak national organisation representing rural interests. It is expected that the NFF will liaise with other rural interest organisations to ensure effective communication and information about the EPBC Act to all rural landholders.

(7) The new consultation arrangements described in (1) (2) and (3) above are applicable to all interested individuals and organisations, and apply equally to environmental groups.

(8) The Commonwealth provides funding support to the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Humane Society International and the Tasmanian Conservation Trust to operate an EPBC Unit to raise community awareness about the EPBC Act.