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ESD process should set environmental priorities



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FRED CHANEY MP MEDIA RELEASE Member for Pearce Shadow Minister for the Environment

ESP PROCESS SHOULD SET ENVTRONMBNTAT. PRIORTTTttS 24/91 Embargo: Mot for use before 7.00pm EST

"Australia needs to establish a set of environmental priorities to be met by the turn of the century," the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Fred Chaney, said today.

"Given the vast range of environmental issues that concern Australians there is a real risk of confusion of effort and inadequate results," he said.

Mr Chaney was speaking at an "Australia 2000" public meeting in Sydney organised by the Member for Dundas and Shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Philip Ruddock, MP.

"The failed former Treasurer was fond of talking about the 'big picture' in terms of economic policy.

"He was correct to the extent that unless you get the fundamentals right, which he clearly did not, then much of the other effort can be wasted.

"Recent discussions with environmental and industry representatives taking part in the government's Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESP) process have increased my concerns about what that process is likely to produce.

"There is a danger that, faced with such an enormous range of issues, the working groups will opt for one of two strategies in their reports to the Prime Minister.

"One would bemerely to canvas the options and not make recommendations. But I know those involved would rather not adopt such an inconclusive approach and I suspect this is the least likely outcome.

"That leaves us with the prospect of the groups coming-up with firm conclusions about the future direction of environmental and economic policy across the whole spectrum of Australian life.

"As the nine groups meet over the next few weeks to prepare their draft reports for presentation before the Budget, and if they adopt the second course of action I've just suggested, they must avoid the temptation of endless compromise producing a lowest common denominator result.

Another risk is a mass of detailed recommendations lacking any strategic coherence.

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"From what I've been told these groups have been valuable exercises in bringing together people who might not normally meet around a table for serious discussion.

"The challenge for them now, and particularly for their distinguished convenors, is to ensure that in attempting to achieve consensus they don't sacrifice the long term interests of the nation.

"Months ago I suggested that the government ought to have laid down much firmer bottom lines to guide this process.

"It hasn't so the onus is now on the groups themselves♦

"That means, in my view, their reports need to be written on the basis that priority targets should be established in areas such as recovery of degraded land and maximum preservation of biological diversity, without clear objectives we won't get the environmental outcomes our children deserve.

"Equally the reports should reflect clear economic objectives including that continued growth is essential and that value-adding to Australia's resources is vital and should occur despite the implications for increased energy use.

"Bringing these twin sets of objectives together in a practical operating framework is what the BSD process is, or should, be about".

Sydneyi 11 June, 1991 Contact: Keith Kessell (09) 250 2533