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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1307

Mr Snedden (BRUCE, VICTORIA) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice:

(1)   How many interdepartmental committees are currently in operation.

(2)   What is the composition and function of each, and for what period of time has each of them been active.

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the right honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   and (2) To compile the information would involve lime and expense that I am reluctant to authorise, as were my predecessors in relation to similar questions (Hansard. 10 March 1971, pages 810-11 and 7 September 1971, page 888).

Australian Conservation Foundation (Question No. 898)

Mr Lynch asked the Minister for the

Environment and Conservation, upon notice:

(1)   Did he publicly announce a reduction from $1 50,000 per annum to $50,000 per annum in the grant to the Australian Conservation Foundation for 1973-74; if so, (a) when and (b) why.

(2)   Did he or any member of his staff use words to the Foundation's Executive to the effect that the broad or national role of the Australian Conservation Foundation would be taken over by his Department.

(3)   Is his Department able to be an effective public critic of the Government's environmental policies.

(4)   What were the considerations which resulted in the Foundation's 1973-74 grant being maintained at the same level as the 1972-73 grant.

(5)   Is it a fact that the grant was maintained following discussions which the President of the Foundation held with the Prime Minister and/ or Mrs Whitlam.

Dr Cass - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(I)   I informed the Foundation's Executive Commiitee on 13 July 1973 that I proposed to recommend that the grant be so reduced. I was concerned that the Foundation was not truly representative of conservation organisations or individual conservationists and that as a consequence it was inequitable that the Foundation should be the only organisation other than the Keep Australia Beautiful Council to be receiving Australian Government assistance to conservation groups.

C2) No. However, I did point out that since the Foundation had been established, Departments with responsibility for environmental protection had been formed by Australian and State governments. As a consequence the role which the Foundation could most appropriately play had changed.

(3)   No. My Department was set up not to criticise Government environment policies but to help formulate them. In fact, I urged that the Foundation should adopt a more critical approach to Government policies which it considered to be environmentally unwise.

(4)   In discussions with members of the Executive of the ACF I was assured that the Foundation would review its role and constitution. I am pleased to note that since my discussions the Foundation has been more actively involved in work done by individual groups. In addition, a further $100,000 was included in the Budget to assist conservation groups other than the Foundation.

(5)   Not to my knowledge.

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