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Tuesday, 23 November 1971
Page: 3534

Mr Uren asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   Why is Australia not a member of the preparatory committee for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment which is to be held in Stockholm in 1972 (question No. 2914, Hansard, 23rd April 1971, page 2036).

(2)   As the then Minister for Foreign Affairs indicated in his answer that officers in the

Department of Foreign Affairs who attended meetings of the preparatory committee in Geneva and New York as observers were not technical experts in environmental matters, will he ensure that in future officers attending these conferences are competent in these fields.

(3)   Will the Australian contribution to the Conference be co-ordinated by the Office of the Environment after it commences operation.

(4)   What are the specific details of Australia's proposed contribution to the Conference.

(5)   How will Australia's delegation to the Conference be constituted.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

(1)   There are 27 members of the Preparatory Committee drawn from the total membership of the United Nations. Australia is not a member of the Preparatory Committee for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment because it was nol elected to membership. We exercised considerable effort in seeking membership of the Committee, which was comprised according to the electoral distribution pattern of the Economic and Social Council, under which Australia must share representation with a number of other countries. Australia strongly urged that this pattern was not suitable for a committee on environmental questions if it did not ensure that important geographical areas of the world were adequately represented.

(2)   The third session of the Preparatory Committee was held at New York during September 1971 and Australia was represented in an observer capacity by Professor Webster, Scientific Counsellor at the Australian Embassy, Washington, and an officer from the Australian Mission to the United Nations, lt must be noted that, since an. important part of the work of the Preparatory Committee itself is concerned with questions of international conference procedures, it is desirable al':o to have an observer present who is versed in these questions. Australia is a member of 4 working groups (on marine pollution, soils, conservation and monitoring), which ure preparing material and formulating proposals for the Stockholm Conference. On each of them the Australian representative has been a technical expert.

(3)   The Department of the Environment, Aborigines mid the Arts is co-ordinating preparation 13r Australia's participation in the Stockholm Conference.

(4)   Australia nas submitted a national report on the environment. In addition, 14 proposals for case studies to illustrate particular opics to be discussed at Stockholm were submitted to the Conference Secretariat. Tha Secretariat has selected a limited number of case studies from various countries for special treatment. At the invitation of the Conference Secretariat, a case study on the development of new towns has been prepared for possible inclusion in the official conference documents. Australia is also participating through its technical specialists in the work of the 4 lnter-governmental Working Groups referred to in (2). In addition, we have sent observers to the lnter-governmental Working Group on the Declaration on the Environment as - well as the

Preparatory Committee of the Conference. As soon as action proposals to be considered at Stockholm have been completed and circulated by the United Nations Conference Secretariat, discussions with the appropriate agencies, particularly the States, will be held to enable the brief for Australia's delegation to be prepared.

(5)   Its composition has not yet been determined.

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