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Thursday, 12 April 1973
Page: 1446

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Dr CASS - I move:

(1)   That a Joint Committee be appointed to inquire into and report on -

(a)   environmental aspects of legislative and administrative measures which ought to be taken in order to ensure the wise and effective management of the Australian environment and of Australia's natural resources and

(b)   such other matters relating to the environment and conservation and the management of Australia's natural resources as are referred to it by-

(i)   the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, or

(ii)   resolution of either House of the Parliament.

(2)   That the Committee recognise the responsibility of the States in these matters and seek their cooperation in all relevant aspects.

(3)   That the committee consist of four members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, two members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, one member of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives, two Senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two Senators nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.

(4)   That every nomination of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

(5)   That the members of the committee hold office as a joint committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time.

(6)   That the Prime Minister nominate one of the government members of the committee as Chairman.

(7)   That the Chairman of the committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the committee to be the Deputy Chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.

(8)   That the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to examine.

(9)   That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, to move from place to place and to sit during any recess or adjournment of the Parliament.

(10)   That the committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.

(11)   That the committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that all members of the committee have not been appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy on the committee.

(12)   That five members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee, and a majority of the members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that sub-committee.

(13)   That in matters of procedure the Chairman or Deputy Chairman presiding at the meeting have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of voting, have a casting vote, and that, in other matters, the Chairman or Deputy Chairman have a deliberative vote only.

(14)   That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources.

(15)   That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.

(16)   That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.

Select committees of both Houses, concentrating on environmental issues, have performed a valuable service to both the Parliament and the people of Australia in recent years. I am thinking in particular of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution and the House of Representatives Select Committees on Aircraft Noise and Wildlife Conservation. The purpose of this motion is to ensure that the Parliament, through both its Houses, is able to continue, and build upon, the precedents established by these committees. It is proposed that this be achieved by the establishment of a Joint Standing Committee on the Environment. The use of a Standing Committee rather than a series of select committees should facilitate the timely consideration of environmental issues as they arise, thereby strengthening Parliament's role in this area.

It will be recalled that the report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation recommended that a Standing Committee of the House of Representatives be. established in the new Parliament with powers to inquire into matters of environmental and conservation concern referred to it by the House. This recommendation would, in effect, be implemented by the establishment of the Committee I am proposing, the only difference being, of course, that it is now proposed as a committee on which both Houses are represented.

In moving for the establishment of this Committee I am conscious of the great many environmental problems that must be both faced and solved if the future citizens of this country are to enjoy the kind of life that so many of us take for granted. They are problems that have far too often in the past been pushed aside or neglected as we have pressed for immediate benefits without regard to the longer term consequences of our actions, or to the kind of country we are creating for our descendants. These problems are so numerous and so important for this country that I cannot conceive of a situation in which the Parliament would not wish to be fully involved in their consideration and their solution. A Joint Standing Committee on the Environment would, in my view, provide a most effective means of providing for the full involvement of Parliament in this field. As the first Minister for the Environment and Conservation it gives me pleasure to commend this motion to the House.

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