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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 2263

Dr JENKINS (Scullin) - In the time allowed to me 1 wish to concentrate on the environmental aspects of the estimates that are now before the Committee. I do so in some ways to rebut what the previous speaker the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) just said, in that he has taken the concept of the Opposition as one of an overall structure dealing with the environment rather than an overall concept of what a Department of the Environment means and what it should deal with. Environment, ecology, pollution and conservation are nice 'in' words at the present moment. If we use these 'in' words we pay lip service to what are popular matters. What we really should be looking at is how much depth there is in action taken on these matters. There is too much accent on pollution and conservation per se. They are discussed too much in isolation and too much as isolated instances. What is the real subject of discussion is man's use and manipulation of the world around him. Man has to decide what he wants and what he will do without. In other words, we have to find a proper balance between what he will accept for material, aesthetic and recreational purposes.

In examining the functions of the Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, I am afraid that its functions are far too nebulous and that they do not give us any clear guidelines as to what we are determining. If we. are to decide what man wants, what he will accept and what he will do without, for a. start, members of Parliament, who will have to deal with the legislation that will handle these matters should be involved in this whole process of looking at the total concept. Yet what do we see? We see the briefest of debates on the report presented to the Parliament on the United Nations Conference on Human Environment held in Stockholm. Really there was no involvement on the part of the members of this Parliament in the matters discussed.

Another important conference that was held was the second International Parliamentary Conference on the Environment which was held in Vienna this year. The first conference was held in Germany last year. The Government was persuaded with, some reluctance to send 2 members along to that conference. We were represented this year by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox) and Senator Keeffe at this important international parliamentary conference which dealt with items raised at Stockholm. These are matters which are not reported to Parliament, matters which are not discussed in Parliament, and matters which do not involve the members of Parliament in having a look at this overall concept, despite the very wide ranging discussions that took place and the very sensible recommendations that were made. I think we should have a look at this total concept of the environment and the Minister should use his Department to encourage this sort of involvement of members of the Parliament and discussion of these wide issues.

Let us take the more popular issues of pollution that are raised and have a look at the record* We might even refer to what some of the States have done in relation to this matter. In 1958 a Clean Air Act was passed in Victoria, but still there is much air pollution in that State. In 1971 an Environmental Protection Authority was set up in Victoria and the pamphlet publicising the setting up of this authority is headed 'Tomorrow and tomorrow and . . .'. 'Tomorrow' is right because despite the Clean Air Act of 1958 little has been done, and I have little confidence that anything will be done by the Environment Protection Authority. The Commonwealth has had a number of Senate select committees on pollution questions. What has resulted from them? Very little indeed. Recently a statement was made that action would be taken on exhaust emissions. A number of matters were put forward on this subject to the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution. I know of one gentleman, a Mr Cosway, who uses a wet injection method of reducing exhaust emissions. He demonstrated his device before that Committee, and many others did the same. Very little assistance has been given to those men. If we think of what confronts all of us, we see just how pollution is a day to day affair. We are waiting for the election day to be announced. What will happen is that tons of paper will be produced We will have pamphlets and howtovote cards. Where will this paper go? It will pollute the environment in which we live. Perhaps it might be wise for the political parties to put on every piece of paper they publish a message such as 'Do not rubbish Australia', 'Dispose of this' or Do not pollute your environment'.

On a more serious note, mention has been made of impact studies carried out by the Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. I do not know whether these will provide the total answer. I think there is a greater understanding now that there is an economics of ecology. In a recent speech Brezhnev said:

As we take steps to speed scientific and technical progress, we must see to it that it should combine with a rational treatment of natural resources and should not cause dangerous air and water pollution or exhaust the soil.

Taking it from there, if we have a look at some of the industries that are established, the question is raised whether the pollution of the industrialised nations is not already adversely affecting the developing countries, whether developed countries in fact are not pushing industries with a high pollutant effect on to the developing countries and so causing problems for them. I believe that with our natural resources this is an area of which we have to beware. We must not have industries of this sort pushed upon us. Recently I saw an example of these economics of ecology in Tasmania at the pulp and paper works. The raw material comes from the natural forests and from planted forests. This brings in the economics of reafforestation of areas for raw materials. The actual industrial process itself causes the pollution through the various chemical treatments of the wood which causes the release of effluent which pollutes the environment. This raises problems for the industry. If rigid requirements are made on the industry it may mean that production is stopped; it may mean that man has to accept less of this material. I feel that members of Parliament should be informed of these things. The Department of the Environment should be taking a hand in these matters because industry may not necessarily be solely responsible. It may be that there has to be a partnership between the Government and industry in working out measures to control these disadvantages in conservation and pollution as they affect economics. We must think of the environmental aspects of industry and other things in a total concept of national planning. I trust that we will see the Department of the Environment really spelling these things out and being not a nebulous structure but something with real force and real effect in the community.

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