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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2455


Dr JENKINS (Scullin) - It was rather amusing to hear the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) talk of the niggardly appropriation for the Department of the Environment and Conservation because, Mr Deputy Chairman, you are no doubt aware that in 1972-73 the appropriation for the Department was $778,700, the actual expenditure was $760,215 and yet the appropriation for this year is $1,729,000. I think that the honourable member for Darling Downs should read the Appropriation Bill and perhaps reflect on the years of neglect of this field when there was simply the Office of the Environment and Conservation; it had not been brought up to the rank of a full department. I think that the honourable member would be generous enough to admit that the Department of the Environment and Conservation is going through a building-up period and is steadily defining the functions it will serve as far as Australia is concerned. I think we all welcome this massive increase of almost $lm in expenditure.

Having said that, I wish to refer to several matters which I think come within the scope of the Department of the Environment and Conservation. A number of honourable members will have received a brochure on what is called the Botany Bay project. They will note that this has been issued under the authority of the Australian Minister for Science (Mr

Morrison), the Australian Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), the Australian Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass), and the New South Wales Minister for Environmental Control. According to the brochure the study is designed to examine the impacts of about two long lifetimes of human settlement on a wide range of typical Australian coastal environments and from this to predict the course which future impacts may take. It spells out in many ways what has already been done and the factors that are to be investigated. It is going to be rather important in the future that we should be clear on the functions of the Department of the Environment and Conservation because I note that the initial funding of this project was done through the Department of Science or through the Australian Minister for Science. We now have a committee of Ministers, State and Federal, in collaboration on the Botany Bay project. I hope that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation will sum up the present position of the Botany Bay project when he is making his closing remarks because it would seem that the results that will be obtained from that will have a great deal of application to many other areas in Australia.

In the Estimates for this Department there is also an allocation of $100,000 for the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. Too often, of course, the questions of environment and conservation are overshadowed by the question of wildlife conservation, or the term might even be 'preservation'. One welcomes the fact that the positive setting up of this Service has occurred because there is a need at the present time for us clearly to institute a national policy with regard to the provision of national parks and reserves to preserve or to ensure that all habitat types that we know of will be preserved. It is only through this sort of body that such a policy can be implemented. The National Parks and Wildlife Commission will be very restricted, of course, without the co-operation of the various State governments. One hopes that it will reach an eminence and an influence that will allow the preservation of these habitat types to an extent that has not occurred before. Once again the Commission must go along with the biological survey that has been conducted by the Department of Science. I hope that it will be used as an opportunity to bring about some central compilation and storage of information which is already available to scientists in this area.

Finally, the question of environmental pollution affects the electorates of honourable members in different ways. I represent a suburban area of Melbourne and probably the most important sources of environmental pollution there are either industrial pollution or pollution resulting from automobile emissions. I wonder when we are going to get down in the Australian context to a thoroughgoing examination of what we are to do about automobile emissions. As is known, for a number of years the Federal Government of the United States of America has concentrated quite firm legislation on this matter. However, it is having only varying degrees of success.

I refer to an article by Jacoby and Stein.bruner entitled 'Salvaging the Federal Attempt to Control Auto Pollution'. From this we can perhaps learn some lessons. The article points out that in the United States at the moment 3 basic options have gained enough support to define effectively the context of the debate. The first option is to persevere in the established policy in the expectation that the critical technical parameters will eventually yield to a steadfast public will. The second alternative is to relax the emission standards, accepting levels of pollution higher than those envisaged in the legislation but preserving the conventional automobile engine and realising substantial cost savings in that way. The third is to adjust the policy to ensure serious preparation of an alternative engine technology. We read of a number of instances of improved engine technology. I wonder whether the Department of the Environment and Conservation is giving any attention to this aspect, because if we are to think of this third alternative it is quite obvious that we must have a look at what regulatory devices we put into the system. It may even be necessary at Australian Government level to provide incentives for these developments. Only in this way will the most important source of urban environmental pollution in any case be satisfactorily tackled.

The honourable member for Darling Downs mentioned water resources research. I have time to touch on this subject only in passing. There is considerable experience overseas that suggests that in many areas there is excessive expenditure on treatment plants, for treatment of water and of sewage, and that these are draining money away from the areas where pollution of the water supply is worse. I think there is a lesson that we can learn from these overseas experiences. I know that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation has indicated in another paper his interest in this matter of water supply, water resources research and water resources determination. I trust that we will see in the next Appropriation Bill a large increase in the amount devoted to water resources. This is one of the problems that is predominant in Australia because of the relatively dry environment and the arid nature of a lot of the area. I will close with those remarks. There are many other environmental matters on which I would like to speak. I think that the Department of the Environment and Conservation has got off to a very good start in this year.







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