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Monday, 30 August 1993
Page: 598

(Question No. 332)


Senator Coulter asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories, upon notice, on 28 May 1993:

  (1) What is the reason for the delay in the ratification of the International Convention on Biological Diversity.

  (2) Is the minister prepared to proceed with ratification of the Convention if a state or territory government opposes such ratification; if not, why not.

  (3) Did the minister allude to such unilateral action on an AM radio interview when she was recently in Washington.

  (4) How many countries have so far ratified the Convention.

  (5) Who has been appointed to the Endangered Species Advisory Committee and what organisations do they represent.

  (6) Who has been appointed to the Scientific Advisory Panel and what organisations do they represent.

  (7) Has the government established a steering committee to oversee the development of a Protected Areas Network Strategy; if not, why not; if so: (a) who is on the committee and what organisations do they represent; and (b) does the committee include representation of the Aboriginal community and non-government organisations.

  (8) Will the minister attend the first full meeting of the signatories to the Convention which is to be held in Nairobi in September 1993; if not, why not.

  (9) Has the Federal Government established a Committee to examine the issue of access to Australia's genetic resources: (a) if so, who is on the committee and what organisations do they represent; (b) does the committee include representation of the Aboriginal community and non-government organisations; if not, why not; (c) what are the terms of reference or specific charter for the committee; (d) when is it due to report to the government; and (e) will the report be made publicly available.

  (10) (a) Has the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) established, or is ANZECC about to establish a working group to examine the issue of access to Australia's genetic resources; (b) what are the terms of reference or specific charter of the working group; and (c) when is it due to report to ANZECC and the minister.

  (11) When will the National Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity be adopted.


Senator Schacht —The Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) (2) (3) Australia ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity on 18 June 1993 following extensive consultation with the states and territories in accordance with Schedule 6 of the Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE). Agreement on ratification was reached at the Council of Australian Governments meeting on 9 June 1993.

  (4) As at 1 July 1993, 165 countries and the European Community had signed the Convention and 21 countries had ratified, including China, Canada and Japan. Thirty ratifications are required for the Convention to enter into force and this is expected to occur early in 1994.

  (5) Under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992, the following people have been appointed to the Endangered Species Advisory Committee:

Dr Andrew Burbidge (Chair of the Committee), Director of Threatened Species and Communities Unit, Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia. Representative of the scientific community (mammal specialist);

Mr David Papps, Deputy Director, Policy and Wildlife, National Parks and Wildlife Service, New South Wales. Representative from the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council;

Dr Gordon Drake, Manager External Relations, Health, Safety and Environmental Affairs, BHP, nominated by the Business Council of Australia. Representative of the business community;

Mr Donald Kratzing, Environmental Scientist for Ampolex Limited, nominated by the Business Council of Australia. Representative of the business community;

Mr Don Pfitzner, Farmer and Grazier, Eudunda, South Australia, Past President, United Farmers and Stockowners of South Australia Inc, nominated by the National Farmers Federation. Representative of the rural community;

Prof James Kirkpatrick, Head of Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Tasmania, nominated by the State Conservation Council. Representative of state conservation groups;

Michael Krockenberger, Biodiversity Program Coordinator, Australian Conservation Foundation. A representative of conservation groups;

Dr Ray Nias, Conservation Manager, World Wide Fund For Nature Australia. A representative of conservation groups;

Dr Peter Bridgewater, Chief Executive Officer, Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Representative of the Commonwealth;

Dr Judy West, Program Leader, Australian Flora Resources and Management, Australian National Herbarium, CSIRO Division of Plant Industry. Representative of the scientific community (botanical specialist);

Dr Tim New, Reader in Zoology, La Trobe University, Victoria. Representative of the scientific community (invertebrate specialist);

Dr Meryl Williams, Director, Australian Institute of Marine Science. Representative of the scientific community (marine specialist);

Dr Margaret Brock, Department of Botany, University of New England. Representative of the scientific community (ecological communities and freshwater specialist).

  (6) The members of the Endangered Species Advisory Committee which represent the scientific community form the Scientific Subcommittee under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992.

  (7) The Prime Minister, in his Environment Statement of December 1992, committed the government to the development of a national comprehensive system of parks and reserves, to be achieved in cooperation with the states and territories. I have discussed the matter with my state and territory ministerial colleagues on ANZECC and it is my intention to present a joint paper with the Queensland and Victorian Environment Ministers for consideration at the ANZECC Ministerial Council meeting scheduled for later this year. Consultation with community groups, including the Aboriginal community and non-government organisations will be a matter addressed in the paper.

  (8) I am not planning to attend the meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in Geneva in September 1993. It is intended that the meeting undertake preparatory work for the first meeting of the Conference of Parties and accordingly will not be at ministerial level.

  (9) The government's Coordination Committee on Science and Technology (CCST) has established a working party on access to Australian biological resources and their products. The Departments of the Prime Minister and Cabinet; Foreign Affairs and Trade; Attorney-General's; Primary Industries and Energy; Health, Housing, Local Government and Community Services; Employment, Education and Training; and Environment, Sport and Territories; and the Australian Nature Conservation Agency and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation are members of the Working Party. Membership of the Working Party is confined to Commonwealth Government Agencies and does not include non-government organisations such as representatives of the Aboriginal community.

  The terms of reference of the working party are:

  To examine what action, if any, is required to ensure that:

Australia's scientific, commercial and nature conservation interests are appropriately protected;

Australia's national and international obligations are honoured; and

a fair and equitable share in benefits is obtained by Australia,

in relation to access to, research in and development of Australia's biological resources (all living organisms, including products derived directly or indirectly from them) and in access by collectors and researchers from foreign companies and countries to these resources.

  Within these Terms of Reference, the Working Party will take into account:

the adequacy and effectiveness of existing legislation and related processes;

all relevant international treaties, conventions, declarations etc and their status with respect to access to and responsibility for national biological resources;

the need to develop controls and procedures which:

  provide effective protection of Australia's biological diversity and commercial interests, while

  encouraging and promoting appropriate scientific research and the communication of the results of that research;

methods and/or processes which may encourage and facilitate commercial development in Australia, based on Australia's biological resources;

measures put in place by other countries to regulate access to biological resources.

  The Working Party will take cognisance of reviews of the Wildlife Protection (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1982 and of any relevant work undertaken by the Australia and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council.

  The CCST Working Party is expected to report within the next few months to the CCST with the intention of making the report publicly available.

  (10) In its report on the ratification and implementation of the Convention, the ANZECC Task Force on Biological Diversity identifies the control of access to Australia's genetic resources as an issue of national importance requiring urgent attention. The Task Force recommends that First Ministers arrange for the establishment of a Commonwealth, State and Territory Working Group to investigate and report on the strengthening of existing controls governing access to genetic resources, including legislation. It is my intention to raise this matter with the states and territories.

  (11) I have previously indicated my intention to have a National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity adopted by the end of 1993.