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Crisis of confidence in decision making

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


The Resource Assessment Commission draft report on Coronation Hill simply posed a new set of dilemmas, the Shadow Minister for the Environment, Fred Chaney, said today.

"It is illustrative of the very real problem we have in Australia in coming to grips with reality, in coming to grips with decision making," he said.

"What we have in the current spate of attempts to find dispute resolution mechanisms is the clearest possible indication of the breakdown of faith, the breakdown of confidence, that has occurred in the decision making process."

Mr Chaney was speaking at a National Science Forum meeting at the CSIRO in Canberra.

He said that the Resource Assessment Commission and the ecologically sustainable development process were part of the overlay that had developed in trying to produce something to make up for the lack of confidence, faith and trust in decision making by governments.

"This country is going down the drain because we play games, endless games about these matters instead of facing up to the fundamental reality that decisions have to be taken and by whom they have to be taken," he said.

"There is no excuse for any Australian politician not to have a sensible framework for this because I think that the report of the Brundtland Commission 'Our Common Future' sets out in a very clear way the great multiplicity of factors and concerns

that have to be taken into account and in promoting the concept of sustainable development it gives us at least a conceptual tool which enables us to look at our decision making in a very positive and sensible way."

Mr Chaney said there were some realities that had to be acknowledged and that were outside the negotiating process.

These included the fact that there would be continued population growth, that Australia would continue to be a resource producing country and economic growth was needed to pay off debts and meet the aspirations of the Australian people.

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"The government of the day should be approaching these issues on the basis that these are not matters for serious intrusion into the decision making process. They are legitimate matters for debate in the community but they are not legitimate parts of the decision making process in Australia in 1991.

"In exactly the same way the government of the day has an obligation to state in clear and categorical terms its fundamental bottom lines on the environment."

He said these involved positions on issues such as soil conservation and the maintenance of high quality water supplies, making a proper contribution to both the nation's and the world's biodiversity preservation and pursuing the marriage between those matters and the economic imperatives

facing the country.

"In environmental administration terms, it is vital we get enforceable national standards with respect to major areas of concern."

Asked whether a Coalition government would retain the Resource Assessment Commission, Mr Chaney said it would need to perform a lot better than it had so far.

"I think the jury is out on the RAC," he said.

"We opposed its establishment, we are not seeking to sabotage it, we hope it will work for Australia's interests, I just express my early disappointment."

CANBERRA 20 February 1991 Contact: Keith Kessell 06 277 4760