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Thursday, 22 August 1996
Page: 2938

Senator MARGETTS —I address my question to Senator Short, the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services. In regard to your response to my question on post-consumer recycled paper on 28 May this year in which you told the Senate that the government's purchasing policy for recycled paper products encourages buyers to purchase goods and service with the least environmental impact, I now ask: is it true that for the common use arrangement for purchase of tissue paper, BG85, unlike the current buyers' guide, the draft buyers' guide for tendering contains little or no information about the environmental purchasing policy; and that, of the eight criteria in the buyers' guide, only five non-environmental criteria have a weighting, and that recycled content has a zero weighting; and that this draft is proposed to replace the current guide when the contract goes to tender later this year?

Senator SHORT —I thank Senator Margetts for the question and also for giving me some notice just before question time that she was proposing to ask it.

Senator Sherry —Don't worry, Jim, I won't do that to you.

Senator SHORT —I bet you won't. I have sought some advice from the Minister for Administrative Services. In the limited time available, I cannot give you a detailed response to the first two of your questions, so I will come back to you on those. However, so far as the most important aspect of your question is concerned—that is, the third part—I can advise that, in the final version of the tender document to which Senator Margetts referred, information about environmental purchasing policy will be prominent, and that the assessment criterion for recycled comment will have a weighting.

Senator MARGETTS —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. Instead of `recycled comment', I think the minister meant `recycled content', but it is quite clear that that might be the problem as well. Note (d) on page 3125 of the budget paper says that the paper recycling assistance program is being withdrawn as part of the savings to the DEST portfolio. Does this not indicate the government's lack of commitment to paper recycling and to effective greenhouse measures? How is your policy on recycled paper reflected in information put forward to potential bidders? How is the information in bids used to assess environmental impact?

Senator SHORT —We obviously regard environmental considerations, including recycling, as very important. We have made that clear over and over again and we will continue to do so in the future. I can only repeat to Senator Margetts what I said in my first answer to her; that is, when the tender documents in regard to this matter go out later in the year, the final version will give prominent information and coverage to environmental purchasing policy and the assessment criterion for recycled content will have a weighting.

Senator Hill —Madam President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper .