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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 5291

Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

(Question No. 1839)


Senator Siewert asked the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, upon notice, on 10 May 2012:

With reference to the submissions to the South-west Marine Bioregional Plan public consultation process published online by the department:

(1)   Why were these submissions divided into the categories of 'individual and organisational submissions' and 'multiple submission templates'.

(2)   What criteria were used to determine in which category submissions would be placed.

(3)   Is the department aware that many of the submissions placed in the 'multiple submission templates' category are unique in their comments, either in part or in whole.

(4)   Is the department aware that all 1 439 submissions made through the organisation GetUp! commenting on the draft plan were unique in their entirety, and at least 20 per cent of the submissions made through the website of the Conservation Council of Western Australia contained unique comments; if so: (a) why were these submissions regarded as template submissions and why were none of them published under the 'individual and organisational submissions' category, and (b) how many submissions categorised as 'multiple submission templates' contained unique comments; if not, why not.

(5)   Is the department aware that creating two categories of submissions such as it has creates the perception that one category is more important or valuable than the other.

(6)   Does the department regard one category of submissions as more important or valuable than the other; if so, on what basis.

(7)   Why were all submissions that are unique, either in part or in whole, not published on the department's website as stated prior to the submissions being placed online in their current form.

(8)   For each different category of submission, what methodology is used to ensure that each comment in the submissions is recorded, and to outline how these comments impact on the design of the marine parks.

(9)   If the department has categorised submissions from members of the community made through the Save Our Marine Life website as 'conservation sector submissions', why did the department not categorise submissions made via the department's website as 'departmental submissions'.

Senator Conroy: The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Those categories are headings used for the purpose of grouping documents associated with the public submissions process. They do not represent categories into which submissions have been divided for the purposes of analysing the input received and reporting on the submissions.

(2) The categories used for submissions analaysis and reporting are outlined in the Overview of Public Submissions Report, available on the Department's website. Each submission was categorised in a number of ways, including by its origins (whether it was from an individual or from organisation; what interest it represented out of 11 categories of interest; whether it had been generated through a campaign or not; whether it had been submitted online or via email or by post; etc.) and the the feedback it contained (what broad theme(s) it covered; what specific comment(s) it made with respect to the marine reserves proposal).

(3) There are no submissions under the heading "multiple submissions templates". The heading groups campaign templates, for ease of access. The department is aware that many of the submissions sent as part of campaigns included unique comments alongside the campaign template text. All submissions - whether campaign or non-campaign - were read and considered.

(4) The department is aware of the contents of the submissions sent as part of the GetUp! campaign, as well as of the contents of submissions sent as part of the campaign coordinated by the Conservation Council of Western Australia.

   (a) submissions were not regarded as template submissions; they were categorised in the report as to whether they originated through a campaign or not. The department made the decision not to publish any of the many thousands of submissions sent through campaigns because of the logistical and technical difficulties associated with such an exercise

   (b) as indicated above, no submissions were categorised as " template " . In general, most of the campaigns had a proportion of submissions that included orginal comments alongside the campaign template text. All submissions were read and considered for the purpose of content analysis, and were allocated to one of the 63 comment categories listed in Appendix 1 of the Overview of Public Submissions Report

(5) The Overview of Public Submissions Report aims to report comprehensively, accurately and informatively on the range of submissions received. There is no priority put against any of the range of categories used for submission reporting purposes.

(6) The department does not make comparative judgements as to the importance or value of public submissions .

(7) There were logistical, technical and privacy issues associated with the online publication of the several thousands submissions provided through the campaigns and the department made the decision not to publish these. Only those submissions for which consent to publish was obtained are available on the department ' s website.

(8) All submissions were read and categorised under a number of broad themes. A report on the outcomes of this process has been published in the Overview of Public Submissions Report available on the department ' s website at http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/south-west/publications/pubs/sw-submissions-overview.pdf

(9) The Save our Marine Life campaign is coordinated by a coalition of conservation organisations and this is the reason why submissions received through that campaign (which included several different templates) were categorised as originating from the conservation sector.