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A yardstick for the Prime Minister's statement on the environment

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P A R L IA M E N T O F A U S T R A L I A · T H E S E N A T E



CANBERRA. A C T . 2600 Ί tL.; (06?) hi 3222 FAX: (062) Π 3239

191 FUNDERS STREET ADELAIDE. SA. S0Q0 TEL.: (06) 223 1666 FAX: (06) 223 3762

18 July 1989


"The Australian Democrats will not be taken in by tokenism and nor should the Australian community" Senator Haines said today.

"On 20 July Prime Minister Hawke will deliver a major statement on the environment. He will announce a package of measures of which many details leaked to the media in recent weeks. An early draft outline of issues to be covered in his address has also become

available, and Cabinet consideration of several environmental policy initiatives has been reported in the media,"

"Even though every detail of the Prime Minister's speech oannot be predicted, a reasonable picture is emerging and the Australian Democrats are concerned that a tokenistic approach has been adopted, which does not address the fundamental cause of Australia's environmental crisis, and that of the world at large."

"The attached list is a yadstick against which the Hawke statement should be measured. It spells out what should be included in the July 20 statement as a basis for a genuine environmental policy for Australia."

"while not purporting to be a comprehensive agenda, the Prime Minister must include these measures if his professed concern for the environment is to be taken seriously* in particular I am concerned that he provide evidence of his preparedness to implement

these measures by allocating adequate funds and by initiating appropriate legal and procedural steps."

"Unless he does so he will leave himself open to the charge of engaging in a blatant window dressing exercise with no commitment and no genuine concern for Australia's future. The Cabinet decision to draw back from a referendum on environmental powers increases our concern about the Government's sincerity.",

"Most importantly, Mr Hawke must integrate the environmental measures proposed with the government's social and economic objectives. So far there has been no evidence that he intends to even consider this approach which is essential if we are to achieve

a sustainable society" Senator Haines concluded today.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Tel. Senator Janine Haines (w)(08)223 1866 Richard Bolt (w) (03) 614 3792 (h) (03) 429 4060

PR No 89/331 Canberra



July 1989

The principles

Environment and the economy

It is widely accepted that humanity is degrading its environment and the resource base upon which survival depends, in pursuit of short-term economic gain. There is a growing understanding that we need to build sustainable societies, which allow our children and

the generations beyond them to enjoy a quality of life equivalent to our own.

The July 20 statement will contain fine words about sustainability, but the statement will be measured by the extent to which they are matched by action. The Hawke Government (and even more so the Coalition parties) is set to continue its indiscriminate pursuit of

economic growth, founded on the rapid exploitation of non-renewable resources, and the degradation of our natural and social

environments. There must be a fundamental challenge to consumerism, which degrades rather than enhances our quality of life*

Policy initiatives for a sustainable future are detailed below; they reflect the need to free economic policy-making from the influence of artificial short-term indicators of economic

performance, and instead to make it answerable to our real social and environmental needs«

National power

The Hawke Government has made much of its use of Commonwealth powers to override States in the case of the Franklin Dam and the Queensland rainforests; indeed, these were commendable decisions, in large part the result of campaigns initiated or supported by the Democrats.

But so far the Government has been unwilling to control most State activities which have national or global environmental

implicationst the construction of coal-fired power stations, logging in ecologically-rich National Estate forests, the pollution of coastal waters and major river catchments, to name but a few.

The environmental problems facing Australia are so grave, and public concern about them so intense, that this deference to State boundaries can and must be abandoned.

Public Accountability

However, protection of the environment cannot be left to

governments alone. The power of the Australian community to check the destructive actions of private interests and government bureaucracies must be boosted,


At present, the national system of environmental law is heavily weighted against the public interest. The views of local

communities and environmental groups are too often disregarded when decisions on major construction projects are made; yet tourist resorts, freeways, luxury housing estates, military bases, mines

and factories can do serious damage to the existing social and ecological fabric of local and regional communities.

The Federal Government is implicated in many such cases, past and present; it appears that the July 20 statement will not change this situation, even though there are obvious options for doing so, as described below.

A more active role for the public is also essential in converting to a sustainable economy, because this goal cannot be achieved without a substantial decentralisation of economic activity (such as energy production). Locally-based, locally-controlled and

ecologically sustainable development must be stimulated and should be included in the measures to be announced in the July 20


International responsibility

The Prime Minister's statement should also be founded on the principle of international responsibility, a responsibility which goes far beyond the Government's campaign for an Antarctic World Park and its proposed convention to limit Greenhouse gas emissions.

The Australian contribution to global environmental degradation is multi-faceted. The pollution of Australia's air and seas cannot be contained within our territorial boundaries; the goods we import are often the product of environments1ly. . damaging practices (e.g,

natural rainforest timbers); the goods we export can result in environmental degradation (e.g. uranium and fossil fuels); so too can the overseas activities of Australian corporations and aid agencies (e.g. the Bougainville copper mine).

So far the Hawke Government has shown no willingness to deal with these problems; in some cases, it is taking steps which will worsen them. A truly internationalist approach to the environment is outlined below.

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The details

Policy directions and initiatives which would give effect to the principles outlined above are as follows:

Constitutional referendum:

A referendum to give the Commonwealth more power over

environmental matters is essential to supplement the wide range of existing but circuitous powers which the Federal Government has been extremely reluctant to use. The referendum will be supported by the Democrats, subject to its wording and its

implementation. it will also test the integrity of the "greening" claimed by the Coalition parties.

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Federal agencies;

The creation of a Federal agency or agencies to supervise matters of national and global environment concern within Australia is overdue, Such bodies would set environmental standards# and co-ordinate and monitor their implementation.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA):

A major public review of EIA procedures is required, to rectify the fundamental weaknesses of the existing system. The Democrats believe the following changes are essential to EIA'at they should be conducted independently of project proponents; they should be

required for any environmentally significant project (including, for example, tourism and biotechnology); they should cover the full range of potential environmental impacts (for example, by

considering the contribution of projects to the Greenhouse Effect); full public participation should be provided during the course of each study; groups acting in the public interest should have the right to appeal ministerial decisions (e.g. to not conduct an EIA in a given case); and the current assumption that projects will proceed regardless of the outcome of the EIA must be abandoned.

Democrat amendments to achieve most of the above changes were defeated by the Hawke Government and the Opposition in 1986.

National accountsi

The Government's preoccupation with growth in Gross Domestic Product as a measure of national well-being is inappropriate and illusory. GDP counts any commercial act as a benefit to the

national economy, while ignoring environmental or social costs e.g. the loss of soil fertility and:livelihood caused by farming on marginal lands or the social cost of car accidents.

The shortcomings of using GDP as a measure of national

achievement render it unsuitable for policy-making for a sustainable Australian economy. A major overhaul of our methods of measuring national well-being is required.

Soil degradation/sustalnable agriculturet

Soil degradation» Government policy must be founded on a recognition that soil degradation is a major crisis which has several elementsi salination and acidification; water and wind erosion; chemical pollution; structural decline; and fertility decline.

The National Soil Conservation Program is a piecemeal and under-resourced approach to these problems. The emphasis on channelling funds through Landcare groups, by-passes areas where

soil degradation is a serious problem but where Landcare groups do not exist such as corporate pastoral properties and Aboriginal lands.

A substantial amount of funding to combat soil degradation is controlled state-by-state, yet the most effective approach is to address the problem within ecological boundaries, particularly water catchment areas, which can cut across states.

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A comprehensive national approach to soil degradation is required, beginning with a national assessment of land capability, which would be used to set a national policy framework within which funding allocations would be made. As the

recent CSIRO report 'Regreening Australia' notes, the current level of resources dedicated to turning back soil degradation is far too small. This shortfall will not be reduced significantly by the measures in the July 20 statement.

Sustainable agriculture: Active Government support for sustainable agriculture is also required, funded in part by a levy on agricultural chemicals, Extension services and research funding must be equally available to organic producers, and market development assistance must be given to enable full

exploitation of the enormous potential markets for clean, chemical-free food for the Northern Hemisphere.

Marine and coastal degradations

National strategy» The Federal Government must develop a national strategy for coastal and marine protection and management. Its decision to refer the matter to the Resources Assessment Commission is only an inadequate first step.

Fisheries patrol; Fishing activities in Australia's Exclusive Economic Zone are not being adequately policed, giving free rein to considerable over-fishing. A proper coastal patrol and surveillance system is essential to bring this resource under government protection.

Sewage: The pumping of sewage into the ocean must stop; even treated sewage damages the marine environment. An appropriate sewage strategy requires hazardous chemical wastes to be kept out of the sewage system, which would- allow waste water to be recycled and human wastes to be returned to agricultural lands as fertiliser; this would not only prevent marine pollution, it would also reduce our reliance on non-renewable fertilisers such as mined phosphates, as the need for sustainable agriculture demands.

Jervis Bav: The Government's credentials on coastal zone management will be put to the test in the case of Jervis Bay, which is the intended site for major naval facilities now located in Sydney. This Is the largest coastal construction project planned for the east coast, and cannot be justified. Jervis Bay

should be made a National Park and Marine Reserve managed by local Aboriginal communities.

Atmospheric pollution:

Greenhouse Effect: A national and global strategy to reduce atmospheric emissions of greenhouse gases is urgently required; the strategy should be based on the need to prevent, not adapt: to global warming.

A 1988 inter-governmental conference in Toronto (Canada) attended by Australia called for a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2005, and a longer-term goal of reducing emissions of all greenhouse gases by half from 1988 levels. These

reductions should form the minimum basis for a national strategy -- they will almost certainly need to be larger — and for the

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Government's proposed international Greenhouse convention,

Ozone layer depletion» The recent decision by the Federal, State and New Zealand Governments to accelerate the phase-out of ozone-depleting chemicals (95% by 1995) is welcome, if highly ironic — it comes just four months after the Government and Opposition defeated Democrat amendments which would have achieved

that goal.

Acid rain» The Government must acknowledge that acid rain is emerging as a problem in Australia, and must take preventative national action, in concert with a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Energy 2000: The Government's energy strategy as announced in the 1988 policy paper 'Energy 2000' is a recipe for environmental disaster. It seeks to boost the consumption and export of non-renewable and highly polluting fuels — coal, natural gas and uranium — while disregarding the contribution of energy

conservation measures and renewable energy sources.

There should be a shift toward taxation based on resource use especially of non renewable resources. This shift would not only lead to more conservative resource use but to increased labour demand.

By definition, a sustainable economy must rely mainly on the efficient use of renewable energy resources; this represents a major change in our energy base, which can only be achieved with a major commitment of research and development expenditure by

governments, communities and business enterprises. A national energy strategy consistent with this goal must be developed with widespread public input, to replace 'Energy 2000'.

Solar poweri The major factor inhibiting the development of renewable energy sources and energy conservation technologies is not technical, but financial; the capital cost of a solar water heater, for example, must be paid up front by the individual consumer, whereas the capital cost of generating equipment to provide the power to an electric water heater is spread over all consumers connected to the power grid and spread over a long period of time. Equivalent financing arrangements for renewable energy sources and energy conservation technologies must be provided to ensure that they can compete equally with polluting sources.

uranium mining; The Hawke Government's environmental rhetoric will continue to look hollow as long as it allows uranium to be mined and exported, thus contributing- to a major health and security hazard and the worst unsolved waste problem the world

has ever faced. A March 1989 poll by Frank Small & Associates found 46% of Australians opposed to uranium mining (34% in favour), while a 1988 poll by the same firm found that 73% of Australians regard the disposal of nuclear wastes as a major environmental problem.

Coal and etas production t The Government has yet to acknowledge that Australia's coal and gas industries will soon come under the umbrella of national and international restrictions on greenhouse

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gas emissions.

Resources and industries:

Forest and paper industries» Australia's forest industries must be made sustainable, by shifting from native forests to hardwood plantations as a resource base. National Estate forests must be fully protected, and extensive’ research is required to provide

baseline ecological data and resource inventories on which a national forestry strategy can be based. Paper production based on .r conservation, recycling and environmentally benign technologies should be encouraged.

Mineral sands: Mineral sands mining for a variety of

manufacturing and high-tech applications is a growth export industry in Australia, which carries serious radiation and land degradation hazards, and contributes to the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. A national inquiry into the industry's

environmental implications is needed, possibly by the Resources Assessment Commission, given that the radiation hazards of the existing sand mines in WA are now being revealed, and new mines are also proposed in Queensland and Victoria.

Genetic engineering: Gene manipulation carries potentially serious environmental risks, with often dubious social benefits. Government regulation of this growing industry is essential. The Australian Democrats believe that genetic material should not be patentable to avoid misuse for commercial ends.

Toxic and Hazardous wastes»

Uranium tailings; Much greater; attention must be paid to the problem of keeping uranium mine tailings out of the biosphere for the hundreds of thousands of years they remain dangerous. This will requite a research program which dwarfs present efforts.

Nuclear reactor vastest Proposals to import high-level nuclear wastes for disposal in central Australia should be rejected as a means of earning foreign currency. The proposal highlights the urgent need to stop the mining and export of uranium.

“Polluter Payg"> Urgent measures must be taken to ensure that industrial wastes are separated from domestic waste and sewerage and to enforce payment by the polluter rather than the taxpayer.

Hazardous chemicalsi The Government's present effort to establish a scheme for the disposal of intractable wastes using a

high-temperature incinerator should not be seen as a green light to continue the unrestrained production of such materials, The most effective strategy is to reduce production. A National Industrial Waste Audit is required to enable monitoring of waste

production and stockpiles.

Infrastructure projects;

Very Fast Train; The Government's unwillingness to take the lead on the VFT proposal is another major blot on its environmental record. The Democrats support increased rail transport and the development of a national rail programme but have grave

reservations about the proposed route on environmental and social grounds. We have proposed a Senate inquiry into the VFT,

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which has been supported by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Caoe York Spaceport: The Hawke Government's support for this proposal is another example of economic considerations being put before the environment. The proposed site for the spaceport is listed on the Register of the National Estate, and the project

has been condemned by the local Wuthathi Aboriginal Council. Recent statements that environmental consequences will be considered are welcome but the secrecy surrounding the project must cease and the proposal must be opened to full public


Protection of areas/speciesί

Multiple land use: The policy of multiple land use in protected areas is a recipe for degrading their ecological or Aboriginal values, and must be abandoned in favour of comprehensive protection. ·

Kakadut By way of example, mineral exploration and mining should be prohibited in all Stages of Kakadu National Park, which should become a world Heritage area. The Jawoyn people's Sickness Country should be fully protected.

Arid lands; Too little has been done to protect Australia's ecologically rich arid lands. in particular, the Nullarbor plain should be made a National Park.

Kangaroos: The continued commercial culling of kangaroos is an international disgrace, and has been allowed to continue without effective regulation by the Hawke Government. While some culling may be justified, it should be done . by suitably qualified

Government employees, and not be market-driven as at present.

Urban environment!

National policy: The urban areas of Australia are coming under severe environmental and social pressures, generating traffic congestion, air pollution, family breakdown, homelessness, unemployment, violence. Any comprehensive approach to these problems must include employment stimulation, urban planning, vehicle emissions, public transport, community facilities, housing, and many other dimensions. The Federal Government has a role to play in addressing these problems by the implementation of appropriate policies, guided by an urban conservation policy.

Multi-Function High Technology Polls: At a time when public consultation over major construction projects is increasingly being demanded, the secrecy surrounding the Japan-Australia MFP proposal is unacceptable. Communities are increasingly and

justifiably unwilling to have grand schemes imposed upon them without full disclosure of social and environmental costs. If the project is to proceed, public involvement must be invited from the outset.

Population; -

It is time for the Government to recognise that Australia's human 'carrying capacity' is limited by environmental factors, which inevitably brings into focus the question of immigration.

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‘ The Democrats believe that Australia must accept its global responsibilities in the areas of refugee resettlement and family reunion. However, the Government's approach of using immigration as an economic development tool is short-sighted and must be put under careful scrutiny.

Environmental data-bases

The resources now being proposed for the creation of a national environmental data base ($6 million over the next three years) is a .pittance. This amount should be increased substantially, and the project should be oriented towards conservation, not resource exploitation. The data gathered should be regularly reported to

the Australian public and the United Nations.

Government operationsi

The greening of the Government will require that the policies and day to day operations of its various departments are rendered environmentally sensitive. For instance, the continued high levels of paper use (particularly bleached and unrecycled paper)

is unjustifiable from an environmental point of view.

Defenceϊ The Defence Department raises particular environmental concerns. It has a large and destructive equipment base and often operates in ecologically fragile areas, yet remains outside environmental controls. The proposed naval relocation to Jervis Bay is a major environmental hazard. Another is Kangaroo 89, the largest military exercise in Australia's peacetime history, to be held from July to September this year; it is essential that a

full report of the environmental, social and economic impacts of the exercise be compiled and publicly released.

The Democrats' view is that the Defence Forces should be redirected to perform more civilian tasks in peacetime; environmental protection (e.g. patrolling of fisheries and the Torres Strait) could be one such task.

International responsibilities»

Antarctica: The Government's campaign for protection of this unique continent should aim for full World Heritage status. The lesser objective of a world Park now being pursued does not offer sufficient protection.

Aid: Australia's aid programme must be reviewed to ensure that Australian aid does not contribute to environmentally damaging practices in the recipient countries. On the contrary

international aid should be structured to help protect or repair the environment and to promote environmentally sensitive development, using guidelines applicable in Australia.

Australian companies operating overseas: Companies which are fully or partially owned in Australia should have international loans for overseas operations scrutinised for environmental acceptability, consistent with the regime to be enacted for aid programs.

Bougainville: The decision to supply military helicopters to the Papua-New Guinea Government in an attempt to force the reopening of the CRA-owned Bougainville copper mine flies in the face of

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environmental considerations. The mine has been socially, economically and ecologically destructive, and Government policy must be reviewed to prepare a more appropriate response for similar situations in the future.

Third World debt» The destructive exploitation of the natural resources of Third world countries is often a response to the pressure to export commodities to meet the crippling burden of their international debt repayments. The result is a net flow of resources from Third World to industrialised countries, aid programs notwithstanding. The 1988 Toronto Inter-governmental

Conference called on the global community to reverse this flow of resources, to allow the development of sustainable economies in the Third World.

The Australian Government should spell out its plans to achieve this.

Hazardous waste disposal» The build-up of wastes in the industrialised world is creating incentives to dump it in the oceans or Third World countries. Australia should campaign for both practices to be outlawed. Disposal is the responsibility of

the each country which produces the waste.

Nuclear-armed and -powered ships: There has been much publicity recently about US nuclear warheads leaking plutonium into the Pacific Ocean off Japan, and accidents aboard Soviet

nuclear-armed and -powered submarines. This highlights the irresponsibility of the Australian Government in supporting the unrestricted right of nations to send these vessels through international and Australian waters.

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"Public awareness of conservation issues as an essential part of Australia's future development has never been greater.

Hr, Hawke has a unique opportunity to address the issues I have listed - he will get the community's approval and the Democrats' support if he decides to tackle them now.

For his sake and ours I hope he displays the leadership this country needs, * *

Senator Janine Haines Leader of the Australian Democrats

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