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Monday, 1 December 2003
Page: 23271

Ms GEORGE (12:46 PM) —I am pleased to be able to say a few words in support of the report that has been tabled by the chair of the Standing Committee on Environment and Heritage, and to echo his sentiments of thanks to our colleagues on the committee and to the secretariat, who worked very hard to bring it to fruition. I want to pick up where the chair left off by saying that in the time since the earlier 1994 report there has been in the business world and in the community generally a substantial growth in the awareness and understanding of and commitment to the environment. This has been a very positive trend because we have seen the integration of environmental concerns into general business practice and planning to the extent that people are now much more conscious of sustainable development. So no longer do we have the environment industry uniquely and discretely on its own. Many of the fundamental issues are being taken up in triple bottom line reporting and in a corporate culture that is much more sensitive to the issues of sustainability. That in itself, we believe, is a quantum leap from the earlier report and will be a driver for future employment opportunities in the environmental industry broadly defined. A report was released in 2000 which estimated that the environment industry, in terms of the domestic market, stood at about $8.6 billion, with a good growth rate projected at three per cent per annum and with exports at around $300 million. In my view, too many of the goods and services are still being imported, but the industry accounts for roughly 1.6 per cent of GDP and, on the best estimates, an estimated 127,000 jobs.

The committee did grapple with definitional problems: what is a green job and how is the environment sector to be defined in the future? As part of the workings of the committee, we expanded the traditional definitions of the sector, largely based on a very technical description adopted in practice from OECD sources. So I do not think we can any longer see the environment industry as a discrete and separate stand-alone industry. As I say, it is now being integrated in the everyday business of companies, contractors and decision makers. This was well expressed in the words of one submission we received from the Barton Group, which said:

The reality is that ... we in the environment industry are simply background people cleaning up rubbish. The real environmental managers in this country are the many tens of thousands of people out there who make policy, write specifications, write work orders, draw up contracts and administer a business every single day. They are, in the main, absolutely unaware of what they are doing. These people see themselves in a job. Institutionally the system just gets them to do a job. They are remote and unconnected to the environmental responsibility that they actually discharge.

So the greening of many mainstream areas of business and employment provides substantial opportunities for the future. In light of this, one of the major challenges facing our nation is in defining and scoping the environment industry and its potential. The industry will continue to grow in significance, but we are light on for reliable national data for this exercise and for future analysis and economic forecasting.

The SPEAKER —I point out to the member for Throsby that time for the debate expired at 12.50 p.m., and I am extending a little courtesy to her, to allow her to make some wind-up remarks.

Ms GEORGE —Thank you, Mr Speaker. One of the recommendations made in the report is that the government should actually commit to the funding necessary for the ABS to undertake this task. We have spent a lot of time looking at issues to do with accrediting and educating the work force. We also need to look at the lack of a career structure, professional development and relatively short-term employment contracts for graduates in that industry. Lastly, the industry provides great scope for young people, and we are making a serious recommendation that ANTA actually tie on a traineeship or an apprenticeship to the Green Corps project that is involving many young people throughout the nation. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER —The time allotted for statements on the report has expired.