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Green Budget, land clearing curb, managing our natural resources: labor flags a better way on environment.

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The Hon. Duncan Kerr MP

Federal Member for Denison

Shadow Minister for the Environment


18 June 1998




The Federal Opposition today signalled that, in government, it would make the environment a factor of far greater significance in policy and decision-making.


Shadow Environment spokesperson Duncan Kerr said today that environmental progress depended not only on environmental policies themselves but also on the integration of environmental concerns in sectoral policies, as well as action taken by enterprises, households, community groups, and by all levels of government.


A Beazley Labor government would develop mechanisms to ensure that planning for sustainable development was part of core government business.


Mr Kerr said that the OECD Report “ Environmental Performance Reviews, Australia 1998" had been critical of Australia’s environmental planning, saying it was diminished because it had not generally been seen as integral to government decision-making.


The OECD report said that


“Australia is facing the challenge of translating the principles of sustainable development into economic decisions and practices.


In many cases, economic objectives tak e priority over environmental concerns, with most decision makers believing that the wealth created by economic activities will overcome environmental effects.


In addition, process-oriented approaches often dominate, at the expense of a [locus sic.] on en vironmental results...


... By and large, the role of economic analysis in environmental policy making often appears to be of secondary consideration.”


Mr Kerr said that the Report’s comments highlighted the need for decisive action at a federal level to integrate economic and environmental considerations.


A Beazley Labor Government would replace the current belief that the environment was a stand-alone extra in the whole-of-government process, and would develop a number of instruments to this end, including:


* Attaching an Environmental Impact Statement to all Budget initiatives (Green Budget); and


* Insisting on national land clearing controls and making funding of State and landholder projects contingent on States, Territories and local government com pliance.


* Facilitating better environmental outcomes through greater utilisation of economic measures rather than the simple reliance on command and control regulation. Mr Kerr said he was discussing with his State Labor Ministerial and Shadow Ministeria l counterparts a proposal that each State and Territory introduce common and comprehensive sets of environmental laws to regulate the management of natural resources across Australia (drawing on the work of Jeffrey Rae and Nicholas Gruen, published in A Full Repairing Lease: Inquiry into Ecologically Sustainable Land Management , Draft Report to the Industry Commission, September 1997);


Labor in government federally would end unregulated land clearing.


With an average 500,000 hectares cleared each year, th e environmental and bio-diversity destruction and greenhouse consequences were unacceptable.


The Green Budget initiative would see Labor setting a target for the progressive introduction of environmental accounting into all Budget processes.


As well as r equiring an assessment of environmental impacts to be part of all future Budget submissions, the Green Budget would require all Federal Government departments and agencies to report on direct environmental costs and expenditure on environmental programs, including the cost of the environmental impacts of ongoing activities.


Mr Kerr said these measures would build on the actions taken by Labor pre-1996, when it had started to introduce environmental accounting into the Budget process.


Mr Kerr said Australian governments had yet to put in place a comprehensive, integrated and visionary way of promoting the ecologically sustainable management of natural resources.


Mr Kerr said he saw advantages in replacing the complex mix of legislation regulating management of natural resources in States and Territories with a more national approach which would prevent a downgrading of environmental considerations in some jurisdictions which existed because of economic pressures.


Mr Kerr said the national government could facilitate the adoption of common and comprehensive State and Territory laws by drafting model legislation after extensive consultation.


Options which could be considered for inclusion in such model legislation were:


(i) Recasting the regulatory regime to ensure that resource owners and managers took into account the environmental impacts of their decisions;


(ii) Providing that natural resource owners and users assume a ‘duty of care’ for the environment; and


(iii) Allowing codes of practice to be developed by independent standard setting bodies with industry input so that a wide range of ‘no regrets’ measures could be promoted.


Mr Kerr said that the Federal Opposition believed the measures it had announced an d the options it was examining would provide a strong basis for better environmental outcomes.


“This contrasts with a Coalition Government which is intent through its environmental law review on hiving off much of the responsibility for environmental policy and administration to the States, which on the whole have had a lesser record in environmental protection.”


Media contact: George Haddad 0419 009 214.