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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 818


Senator DEVEREUX —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology. One of the great challenges facing Australia is the need to ensure that economic development is compatible with our environmental responsibilities. What steps is the government taking to put in place an environmental management infrastructure in Australia that will ensure ecologically sustainable development?


Senator COOK —Prior to the white paper coming down, I recall, I was asked a question on this very subject by Senator Kernot of the Australian Democrats, but I am not surprised that I got a question on it from Senator Devereux because he has a long-standing interest in the environment and the growth of the environmental technology industry in Australia. Following the Working Nation white paper, which incorporated an industry statement, the Environmental Management Industry Association of Australia, the organisation of environmental technology companies, hailed the initiatives in the white paper in very glowing terms in a press statement by its chief executive, Dr John Cole. Without quoting all of it, let me quote the salient part. He said:

The raft of initiatives announced in the white paper and related industry statement will give impetus to growth of the Australian environment industry and will result in new jobs.

It is a matter of historic record that the Australian government has been pursuing the environmental and development issues on a sustainable development basis as a major theme. That has caused us to harmonise the working together of industry and environmental policies. That is a key thrust echoed in the Working Nation statement.

  We need to ensure, in our view, that there is a closer relationship between investment in environment and environment management and infrastructure. The environment industry in Australia, in terms of its commercial aspects, is a growing and sophisticated industry. It is presently calculated at being worth, in Australian dollars, between $2 billion and $3 billion per annum.

  Internationally, the market is estimated at being between $US200 billion and $US300 billion, and is anticipated to increase in value by about 50 per cent by the year 2000. Australia is in a position, because of its high environmental standards, to pick up a significant part of that growth. Our strengths are in clean water management, in waste water management and in general solid waste management as well as air and land management; the ability to provide expert environmental monitoring; and an ability to recover used mining sites, and site remediation in general.

  The industry's strengths are being further developed through practical links in our scientific and research base. The Cooperative Research Centre for Waste Management and Pollution Control, for instance, provides a major focus for integrating the research and development activities of major Australian research institutions and environmental management companies. New products and processes are being funded as well through the industry innovation program, and international research links and market access have been established through the international science and technology program.  A prime example of this was recently announced in the Australia-Germany water and waste water cooperative program.

  The Working Nation statement will enable our local industry to build on all the successes through a whole raft of initiatives set out in that statement, particularly some of those that go to finance accessibility for small to medium companies, the uptake of new technology, encouragement for the commercialisation of Australian technology, right the way through to the promotion of Australian infrastructure development and support services that we propose to undertake in the Asian region.