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Speech to the MTIA National Business Group Strategy, Canberra

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I am very pleased to be addressing the MTIA's National Business Strategy Group. I am always happy to

discuss important government initiatives with business - especially those that relate to the environment.

Today the subject is of critical importance to you, and to me, because it demonstrates that there is a co­

operative way forward for environmental processes, one that will be of lasting benefit to Australia.

It shows us that in the environment even more than in other spheres of activity Australia is One Nation.

It is only through a constructive and consultative approach in which government and industry work

together that we will achieve the most efficient, clean, productive - and ecologically sustainable -

manufacturing industry possible. . - . . . .

It is through processes such as Ecologically Sustainable Development, and the development of our waste

minimisation and recycling strategies that we have shown what is possible when we think and talk

constructively. . .

Many of your concerns are my concerns. We all want a clean and healthy environment for our children -

especially in the big cities where most of us live. Here in Canberra because it is so dean and healthy it is

easy to forget the problems that all capital cities have with air quality, with water quality, with polluted

land, with waste of all kinds - those issues concern me greatly, as we move towards the 21st century - the

quality of life issues. Those are the issues which we are going to have to work on together. Those are the

issues which the structure I will talk about today primarily addresses. .

The major agenda item for this meeting is Australia’s environmental policies and their impact on

manufacturing investment. - '

Well, I've got some good news for you. The Intergovernmental Agreement on the environment represents a

new - a historic - approach to the role of government - all levels of government - in environment t

management in this country. In the medium to long term it will help create jobs and assist in the growth

and productivity of the manufacturing sector. '

The Prime Minister announced that the test of the Agreement had been settled in the One Nation

statement last week., , - > ' ■

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The IGAE heralds a truly collaborative intergovernmental approach to the problems of the environment.

It sets out the roles of the parties and establishes 'ground rules' under which Commonwealth, State,

Territory and local governments will interact on the environment. It includes a broad set of principles to

guide the development of environment policies. And, in a series of schedules, it sets out co-operative

arrangements on a wide range of specific issues.

The proposal to develop the Agreement arose as part of the Government's initiative to reform

intergovernmental relations. The intention to develop the Agreement was announced in the Communique

issued by the first special Premiers Conference in October 1990. Its text has .been negotiated by a working

Group comprising representatives of Commonwealth, State, territory and local government interests.

I would like to take a few minutes to outline the purpose and main features of the Agreement because I

believe it will have a crucial bearing on future environment policy.

The agreement aims to provide the basis for a new co-operative approach to the management by

governments of environmental issues in Australia^ .

In particular, it will be the mechanism for providing:

. -a co-operative national approach to the environment .

- better definition of the roles of the respective governments with respect to environment

- a reduction in intergovernmental environmental disputes

- more certain government and business decision making ^

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- better environmental protection ^ ' .

Streamlining of environmental decision-making is a major feature of the Agreement. Mechanisms and

procedures for accommodating the interest of thevarious levels of government in environmental issues

emphasises timely consultation and the need to avoid duplication of decision making. .

In particular, the Agreement specifies the mechanisms for the Commonwealth and a State to handle those

issues where both have an involvement. These will: .

- include the co-operative setting of outcomes and standards . '

- and involve the accreditation by the commonwealth (or a State) of the decision-making processes or

systems of the other sphere of government.

Under the Agreement, once a party has accredited a process or system, it will be obliged to give 'full faith

and credit' to the outcomes of that process when making decisions on those outcomes. This aims to avoid

the arbitrary revisiting of environmental issues by the parties. It also has obvious benefits in avoiding

duplication of Commonwealth and State decision making processes.

The Agreement establishes improved consultation arrangements between the Commonwealth and the

States in relation to negotiating and entering into international agreements on the environment. This will

result in a more harmonised approach to implementation of such agreements.

Where responsibility for an environmental issue is not readily apparent, The Agreement requires

consultation between the Commonwealth and the relevant State to determine the nature of the interest ■ ' ■ " . ' ' . . v . '

and how it should be handled. Such consultation is subject to strict time limits. · .

The,Agreement also includes a commitment to aim to eliminate functional duplication between the

Commonwealth and the States wherever the interest of the relevant sphere of Government have been


As well the Agreement proposes a series of broad principles to guide the parties in the development and.

implementation of environmental policies and programs. These principles include .the, adoption of a

precautionary approach to environmental issues and the. effective integration of environmental and

economic considerations in decision making.

I am sure there will be some criticism of the Agreement. Some groups w illno doubt feel that it does not

give the Commonwealth enough power, others that it gives it too much power. , ■ ~

I do not believe that the Agreement should be viewed in this way. Rather, it should be seen as a document

which establishes a collaborative national approach to the environment between the Commonwealth and

the States to the many environmental problems we face.

So much for the Agreement itself. ' .

Schedules to the Agreement spell out co-operative arrangements between the Commonwealth and the

States in a wide range of specific environmental areas.

For example, the schedules include:

- the development of a national approach to the collection and exchange of environmental data

- closer co-operation between the Australian Heritage Commission and State Agencies in relation to

tiie national estate

• co-operative arrangements for the identification and nomination of World Heritage sites, which

should see an end to disputed nominations ■ · . ■ ■ ,

Two schedules will be of particular interest to the members of your Association. - . . . V . . t ■ ■

Under Schedule 4, Environmental Protection, a new Ministerial Council will be put in place. Through the

enactment of complementary State and Territory legislation, the Council will be empowered to set

enforceable national standards, guidelines and goals, and the necessary associated protocols. As

Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, I will chair the Council. -

Under Schedule 3, the parties have agreed to adopt a common set of principles on which to base the conduct

of Environmental Impact Assessment in Australia. This will mean a more consistent approach to

Environmental Impact Assessment, It will also be possible for the Commonwealth and the States to

accredit each other's processes as a means of eliminating duplication. ' .

Industry groups and individual companies have often said to me that the two greatest difficulties with the

environment assessment process are that it leads to delay and creates uncertainty. Delay and uncertainty

will be the two areas specifically targeted by the Government in its implementation of the

Intergovernmental Agreement . -

To reduce delay, the Government will ensure that for each project, strict time schedules are set, in close

consultation with the project proponent, for all stages of the assessment process. The Commonwealth,

through ANZECC, will negotiate a single national agreement with the State and Territory Governments to

eliminate duplication in the assessment process. '

Mechanisms will also be developed to ensure that any conflict or dispute which arises during the

assessment process is resolved quickly and effectively. >

To reduce uncertainty, the Government through ANZECC and in co-operation with the States, will develop

national criteria for those classes and types of proposals that will normally attract the application of formal

environmental impact assessment procedures. .

This will guide industry on the likely assessment requirements even before project proposals are developed.

For each project proposal, the Government will give clear guidance on criteria.for.environmental

acceptability of potential impacts. - . . '■ /■„. . f' ’

In addition, industry wide guidelines will be developed which can be readily applied to specific project

proposals. The single national agreement between the Commonwealth and States on environmental

assessment will also remove the uncertainties associated with projects involving more than one of these


The Commonwealth Government will be working closely with the State and Territory Governments to

ensure that each of these initiatives is quickly implemented at all levels of government

The Government remains firmly committed to environment protection through an effective environmental

impact assessment process. The Government is equally committed to an efficient assessment process which

minimises delay and uncertainty. · 1 · .. < " '

The signing of the Agreement strengthens a national approach to the environment and recognises that air.

and water transcend State boundaries. I am aware that, in general, industary is keen to see this national

approach reflected in greater uniformity and predictability in environmental standards and regulations. -

Two major areas where the Agreement and the new collaborative approach will create a win-win situation ·

for government., industry and the environment are the setting of national environment standards and

implementation of the national waste minimisation and recycling strategy. -

To date it has beerl difficult for industries to confidently develop and plan ahead as each State has different

guidelines, standards, approaches, measurements and means of describing environmental pollutants. I

firmly believe that uniform standards will save industry money and time as well as assist in long-term

planning and investment

I also believe'that a system of national standards will achieve the greatest advantages if industry is

directly involved in its development. ’· . ; · ·. , ’

I am sure that no-one here,would disagree that it is essential that air and water quality not only be

maintained for future generations but, wherever possible, be improved. In Australia we are sheltered from

a range of environmental problems experienced in the northern hemisphere - acid rain, contaminated food

and drinking water and obsolete and rundown industrial processes. However, particularly in our urban

areas, ozone and other photochemical pollutants exceed internationally recognised health guidelines.

You only have to recall the problems experienced by Melbourne and Sydney over the past few weeks - the

past few decades! to realise-that our pollution problems are real, and very serious. The air quality

problems of all our major cities demonstrate that we must find national, not just local or state based

solutions. . - Λ . . · ,

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The One Nation statement contains measures which will encourage a reduction in the age of Australia's

motor vehicle fleet by reducing the sales tax on new cars, and by the massive spending on improving the

efficiency of Australia's rail network.

Water quality is being addressed through a consultative process involving ANZECC and AWRC and we are

all too well aware of the problems of Sydney's beaches and of recent problems with toxic algae in pur water

ways, chemical pollution and turbidity, salinity and land degradation. These problems stem from

inadequate waste treatment and disposal and from water diversion for irrigation. A collaborative approach

is essential. ; /

National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy . . „

As you will be aware, in June last year I released a draft National Waste Minimisation and Recycling

Strategy for a 3 month comment period. The main points raised by industry were the need for incentives, for

research and development, national standards, public education programs, appropriate waste management

charges, markets for recycled products and tax concessions. . - .

Through the strategy, cooperative means will be developed to apply the doncepts of ecologically sustainable

development It is hoped that these means can be achieved through research and development incentives

and micro economic reform. , ' .

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The Strategy proposes to review tax, regulatory regimes and approval procedures to encourage efficient

application of resources and investments in new technologies, markets and waste minimisation and

recycling initiatives. .

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The Strategy can help point the way for Australian industry to become more efficient, internationally

competitive, environmentally responsible and sustainable It will provide a means to achieve new,

innovative, clean technologies and production processes and savings in resource use and disposal costs. The

result will be more jobs, greater export potential, the use of fewer resources and the generation of less


The Strategy is not only about improving environmental quality, it is about fostering a very large industry sector. It's about jobs and

the environment.

The world wide market for waste management technology is estimated to be anything between $US150

billion and $300 billion a .year, gro wing at more than 5% per year. If Australian companies can achieve just

2% of that market it would be worth $6 billion by the year 2000. We have the know-how and the

technology- we need to get into the marketplace - in Australia and overseas , develop it and an d sell it.

Regulations, standards and targets are sometimes seen as introducing distortions and loss of efficiency in

economic terms. But if wisely chosen I believe it is more accurate to see them as a means of bringing

environmental, social, and resource depletion costs directly and quickly into calculations where they would

otherwise be totally overlooked. They all relate to a better quality of life. For example Australia's

Environment Ministers have recently endorsed recycling targets which we believe are not only achievable,

environmentally responsible, but are fundamental to the industries which make use of those resources.

This Agreement demonstrates that co-operation is possible .between the States, Territories, Local

Government and the Commonwealth. I believe the Intergovernmental Agreement is the biggest single step

all levels of government have taken on this most fundamental of all policy areas in 200 years.

For all of us the next and equally crucial time has arrived. Are we, Government and Industry prepared to

see Australia's environmental problems as opportunities to work together for the common future of our

One Nation? Are we going to grasp the opportunities that necessary environmental standards will bring

in new technologies, new jobs, new industries - a renewed vision for what opr great country - our great

cities - can be? ·

Groucho Marx once said that he wouldn't do anything for future generations. "What have they ever done for

us?" he said.

I put it to you ladies and gentlemen, that there can only be one answer. Unless we have the imagination

and the courage to invest now in our environment, in our future, in our children's future, then we face an

increasingly dismal present . ^