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Australia must confront critical environmental issues now - Democrats.



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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats

Senator Andrew Bartlett Australian Democrats’ Environment Spokesperson

30th October 2001 MEDIA RELEASE 01/679

Australia must confront critical environmental issues now - Democrats The Australian Democrats today launched their Environment policy in Brisbane with a focus on two of the most critical environmental issues in Australia - invasive species and water quality.

Leader of the Australian Democrats, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja, said the Democrats’ environment platform covered the full range of environmental issues facing Australia and is a package that will halt the decline in the quality of our land, water and air.

“The Democrats will end the age of broad scale landclearing, the wood chipping of native forests, the trade in the deadly nuclear industry. We will ratify Kyoto and go well beyond in reducing our emissions,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“The Democrats will actively promote alternative energy technologies that are being developed in Australia and will continue to legislate for tax reform and incorporating environmental ethics into our economic structures.

“Protecting the environment requires a commitment to the triple bottom line - integrating environmental protection, social justice and economic responsibility,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

Democrats’ Environment spokesperson, Senator Andrew Bartlett, said the Democrats are focusing on two initiatives in the areas of invasive species and water.

Invasive Species As part of the Environment policy the Democrats are releasing draft invasive species legislation for public comment, as promised prior to the election. This legislation acts in three broad areas: 1. It prohibits the import of most non-indigenous species not currently found in Australia;

2. It sets out a comprehensive structure for eradicating and managing invasive species in Australia; 3. It sets out a registration requirement for traders and breeders of non-indigenous species and a labelling requirement for those non-indigenous species.

“The Democrats are also committing $20 million to providing incentives to the nursery industry to promote and sell local native plants,” said Senator Bartlett.

“Invasive species cost Australia over $4 billion dollars annually in control costs and lost production. It is the second largest cause of biodiversity loss in Australia.

“Weeds choke, smother and out-compete native species. Feral animals destroy habitat and kill both native competitors and native prey.

“As we have seen with the Fire Ant, eradication is expensive and difficult. The large majority of the most damaging introduced species in Australia were introduced intentionally.

“Prevention is the most critical step in fighting this invasion,” said Senator Bartlett.

Water “As the Murray Darling Basin debacle has made clear, water issues are politically contentious, expensive and frequently paralysed because the various parties are incapable of resolving differences,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

“The most urgent step in addressing these and other problems associated with river health, water quality and irrigation is to create a National Catchment Management Authority (NCMA) that has management of the various issues.

“The NCMA will be responsible for preparing, coordinating or adopting catchment plans, setting national standards and local targets, recommending regulatory changes and initiatives and overseeing the broad implementation of the programs in conjunction with states, communities and local councils.

“If we get water right - that means assuring environmental flows in our rivers, capping extraction, moving away from large infrastructure projects to large efficiency projects, and protecting river health by protecting and restoring native vegetation - a number of broad environmental benefits follow.

“Salinity, land clearing and the quality of water in our rivers and oceans will all improve.

“There isn’t life without water, and Australia, as a result of climate change is facing the prospect of becoming an even drier continent.

“If we don’t act now to protect our rivers, we will be confronted in the future with ecological, economic and community costs we will not be able to meet,” concluded Senator Stott Despoja.

For further information contact: Alison Rogers on 0419 867 649 or Senator Andrew Bartlett on 0418 743 789 or Brenda Kemp on 0411 019 742