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Publications archive - Annual reports

Disclaimer

Key departmental publications, e.g. annual reports, budget papers and program guidelines are available in our online archive.

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

Environment Australia Annual Report 2000-01

Environment Australia, 2001
ISSN 1441-9335

Additional outputs that support the achievement of outcome one

Conduct environmental assessments and grant approvals

DEPARTMENTAL OUTPUTS THAT SUPPORT PROGRAMMES

Output group 1.1 - Policy advice and accountability

Domestic | International | State of the environment | Corporate reform

Strategic analysis and advice was provided on a wide range of issues. Issues for particular focus included natural resource management; the use of economic instruments; impediments to and potential incentives for private conservation; land clearing and land use change; air quality; and environmental flows.

This analysis and advice has involved modelling, analysis of economic impacts, estimating the social costs and benefits of activities and policy options, and advice on cost-effective policy approaches and governance issues.

International policy advice

Briefing and support were provided for a wide range of activities during the year, aimed at obtaining results from international environment forums and relationships.

Briefing was provided to the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, which met in New York in April 2001, with the Department leading the Australian delegation. Themes in 2001 included atmosphere, transport and energy. The commission's recommendations will be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly. Preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development gained momentum, with the first formal preparatory meeting convening as the tenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development immediately following the ninth session.

Environment Australia led the delegation to the United Nations Environment Programme's Governing Council and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum in February 2001. The delegation contributed to results from the governing council that have advanced the international environmental agenda. One major outcome was the establishment of a ministerial-level working group on international environmental governance, which will submit proposals (through the United Nations Environment Programme Global Ministerial Environment Forum in February 2002) to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The working group is reviewing the sum total of international arrangements on the environment, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the multilateral environment agreements.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development held a meeting of its Environment Policy Committee at ministerial level in May 2001. At the same time, there was a joint meeting of economic and finance ministers with environment ministers on sustainable development as part of the annual ministerial council meeting. Environment Australia undertook the preparations for Australia's participation in these discussions, which the Minister attended.

In the region, there was progress on bilateral relations with Australia's near neighbours. The range of cooperative activities with Indonesia was extended, particularly on the shared marine environment. Relations with Papua New Guinea progressed, especially on the management of natural resources and biodiversity. An action plan on cooperation between China's State Environment Protection Agency and the Department was developed and agreed.

2001 State of the Environment Report

A draft of the 2001 State of the Environment Report is with peer reviewers for comment. The development of a set of core indicators will follow the completion of the natural and cultural heritage theme report, in which the indicators have been tested on a national scale for the first time.

Corporate reform agenda - output pricing review

A second output pricing review was completed in November 2000. The approach considered cost, impact and effectiveness. It also used Department of Finance and Administration recommended tools as part of its value for money assessment. These tools included benchmarks, rate of market testing, process mapping, and evaluations and reviews. Environment Australia's output pricing review stage two report provided evidence of effective performance and good value for money. The sample of 31 detailed projects covering 30 per cent of the output cost was substantial, representative and facilitated accurate benchmarks. Benchmarking comparisons were favourable and, in the sample, 40 per cent of outputs were contracted services, outsourced, or were delivered in a competitive environment.

Output structure revision

The Environment Australia output structure was revised and implemented in the 2001-02 Portfolio Budget Statements. The new structure is simpler and achieves alignment with the organisational structure. Performance indicators were developed for the new output structure. The number of performance indicators was reduced from approximately 200 to 80. The new indicators are focused and comprise a cascading set of levels derived from divisional, branch and individual section work plans.

Market testing

In early 2000 Environment Australia started market testing of corporate services in line with Government policy. The programme follows an earlier output pricing review of corporate services which identified scope for potential improvements in the way the services are delivered. As the title implies, this includes the possibility of outsourcing.

Corporate services provide essential support to Environment Australia's core functions and activities and represent a significant proportion of departmental resources. It is important that Environment Australia is able to demonstrate that the services are delivered in the most efficient and effective way possible. For this reason it was decided to market test the full range of corporate services in six market groupings:

For each service grouping, the objective is to identify whether the overall best value for money is obtained by outsourcing or retaining the service delivery in-house. Environment Australia takes the view that a decision to outsource will only be made if there is a clear business case to do so, based on quality of service, costs and risks.

At 30 June 2001, three requests for tender had been released to the market. None had reached the decision stage on the sourcing of the services. The remaining three will be released before the end of 2001 and the programme will be completed by June 2002.

Following extensive consultation with affected staff the Department finalised a Staff Support and Career Transition Programme in May 2001. A key objective of the programme is to assist staff to make informed decisions about future career options and choices. Elements of the programme include redeployment and redundancy policy; a priority placement register (as a means of redeploying staff); and a range of training, counselling and planning services.
Environment Australia expects to achieve both efficiencies and improvements in the quality of service from market testing, whether they are achieved from outsourcing or from improving methods of in-house delivery.

Business rules

On 17 April 2001 the executive endorsed Environment Australia's new set of business rules for financial administration and business processes. The rules were developed to enhance clarity of required processes, uniformity in practice, and processing efficiency. All areas of Environment Australia were involved in their development. The business rules will become effective in 2001-02.

Corporate plan

The Minister launched Environment Australia's new corporate plan on 5 April 2001. The plan outlines the Department's vision, objectives and approach to meeting the objectives.

Service charter

Environment Australia's service charter has been developed as part of a commitment to continuing improvement in all aspects of client service delivery. The charter sets out the standards of service clients can expect from the Department, their rights and responsibilities, and how to find out more about Environment Australia. The charter applies to everyone who has contact with Environment Australia including other government agencies, community organisations, industry and members of the public.

The current service charter, issued in July 1998, contains a commitment to review the charter after three years, which is in line with the Department of Finance and Administration client service charter principles. This review is currently underway and a revised charter will be released in 2001.

Tax reform

Environment Australia has been instrumental in progressing environmental tax reform in a number of areas. One successful outcome this year was the announcement of changes to the tax treatment of payments for entering conservation covenants. Problems with the current tax treatment became apparent in the Tasmanian Private Forest Reserve Programme, set up as part of the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement. The Department's analysis helped to identify a viable solution that attracted broad support.

Certified agreement

Environment Australia's second certified agreement, for the period 2000-2002, was certified in August 2000. It continues implementation of the Government's Australian Public Service reform agenda. The agreement strengthens the alignment of Environment Australia's people management strategic framework with the business objectives of the organisation. Significantly, it establishes the performance and development scheme that is designed to contribute to improving Environment Australia's productivity.

Output group 1.2 - Programme administration

Grants | Schemes

Environmental organisations

Eighty organisations applied for entry to the Register of Environmental Organisations. All applications were assessed for compliance with the legislative and administrative requirements of the register. Twenty-two organisations were listed on the register during the financial year.

Changes required under the new tax system were incorporated successfully. The public contributed more than $27 million in tax-deductible donations to environmental organisations.

Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations

A total of 173 applications were received. All applications were assessed. Of these, 147 met the eligibility criteria and 108 were recommended for funding. A total of $1.53 million was allocated under the programme and all grants have been paid.

Environment Resource Officers

A positive evaluation of the Environment Resource Officer Programme in 1999-2000 demonstrated that Environment Australia continued to deliver services to local government and the Department at a level that satisfied client groups. Detailed workplans and performance indicators were negotiated and agreed between Environment Australia and local government associations and used for the management of the programme.

Indigenous issues

The Environment Australia Network on Indigenous Issues had its first full year of operation which saw the progressive implementation of the Environment Australia Reconciliation Action Plan. Officers in different areas of Environment Australia implemented decisions made by the network.

The Indigenous Advisory Committee was established, made up of 12 members from across Australia with expertise in indigenous land management issues. The committee met twice and agreed on its terms of reference and a 12-month work plan.

Environment Australia is progressively implementing its Indigenous Career Development and Recruitment Strategy. Achievements included approval of 14 indigenous traineeships, including two positions in head office. Cross-cultural training programmes were conducted for staff at the John Gorton Building and in the jointly managed national parks.

Funded through the Natural Heritage Trust, the Indigenous Land Management Facilitator Network has contributed to a steady increase in the level of access by indigenous groups to Natural Heritage Trust programmes. The network has 12 facilitators operating in regional Australia, employed under contract through regional agencies. Funding for indigenous land management through the Trust increased by 20 per cent from the previous year. The network has also contributed to increased participation by indigenous people in Trust processes such as regional and State assessment panels.

A workshop was held at Albury to encourage exchange of information among the facilitators and with agencies involved in the administration of the Natural Heritage Trust.

Output group 1.3 - Strategies

Agreements | Codes | Coordination

Provision of corporate services to portfolio agencies

Environment Australia provides a range of corporate services to portfolio agencies including the Australian Heritage Commission, Australian Greenhouse Office, National Oceans Office, the Director of National Parks and the Interim Sydney Harbour Federation Trust.

These services are performed in accordance with purchaser/provider arrangements in the form of service delivery agreements.

New agreements were finalised with the Australian Greenhouse Office, the National Oceans Office and the Director of National Parks.

The agreements include clauses that provide a mechanism for dispute resolution in relation to service delivery. No formal complaints relating to any aspects of these service delivery arrangements were received. This was assessed as an indicator that Environment Australia has achieved satisfactory standards in relation to the delivery of the services.

Output group 1.4 - International participation

Forums | Obligations | Representation

International forest policy reform

Environment Australia's participation in international activities promoting sustainable forest management was focused on converting broad general principles into concrete results, especially in our own region. The Department contributed to a range of forums that deal with forest issues, including participating in the United Nations Forum on Forests and providing briefings for meetings of the International Tropical Timber Organisation.

Environment Australia undertook bilateral conservation and sustainable forest management projects in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea. The projects developed the tools needed for sustainable management of forest biodiversity and transferring them to the control of the agencies in Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.

Output group 1.5 - Information

Databases | Websites | Education

Community support and involvement

Community support plays an important role in efforts to protect and conserve the Australian environment. Environment Australia provides information and undertakes education activities on all aspects of the environment in order to raise community awareness of environmental issues and to achieve community participation in the Commonwealth Government's environmental initiatives and protection. All of the programmes administered by the Department include information and education components.

Environment Australia's community information unit answered 34 173 public inquiries, a 27 per cent increase over the previous year. The unit also distributed almost 200 000 information items.

Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games

The community information unit's busiest period was during the Sydney Olympic Games, known as the Green Games. Environment Australia played a part in the Commonwealth Government's promotional campaign during the games. It hosted an environment theme day at the Sydney Media Centre and produced a range of promotional fact sheets and brochures. A dedicated Green Games website was developed.

During the Paralympic Games, Environment Australia had an information stand at the community pavilion. As a result of these activities, and collaboration with the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, considerable media coverage of the environmental aspects of the planning and management of the Games was achieved.

Natural Heritage Journal

Four editions of the Natural Heritage Journal were produced during the year, each with a print run of 40 000 copies. These editions included special features on the Olympics and volunteers as well as articles on the many successful community projects funded by the Trust.

Environmental education

In July 2000 the Minister launched Environmental Education for A Sustainable Future: National Action Plan. A key element of the plan, the first national strategy on environmental education, was the formation of the National Environmental Education Council. The council's purpose is to raise the profile of environmental education and provide advice to the Government on priority environmental education needs in Australia.

As part of the implementation of the national action plan, Environment Australia established a National Environmental Education Network, comprising representatives from all State and Territory environment and education agencies. The network and other initiatives are designed to achieve improved coordination of environmental education in Australia and better outcomes in terms of attitudinal and behavioural change in the community.

World Environment Day

Australia's celebrations of World Environment Day on 5 June 2001 were hosted in Canberra. A key event was the Banksia Environment Awards that included the Prime Minister's Environmentalist of the Year Award. The award was presented to Professor Peter Cullen, eminent scientist and advocate of sustainable resource management.

Website

During the year, Environment Australia undertook a major redevelopment of its website. The new site is designed to provide easier access to the large amount of information on the site, including better access for disabled people. It also enables e-business to be conducted in relation to various approvals and permits, in particular those associated with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. A dedicated media centre is part of the site.

Communication campaigns

Environment Australia coordinated the Government's information campaign to encourage applications for funding from the Natural Heritage Trust
Other major communication campaigns included promotion of the Natural Heritage Trust programmes; National Threatened Species Day; Biodiversity Month; and Logs Have Life Inside, about firewood collection.

Promotional activities

Major corporate promotional activities included: the launch of the Environment Australia corporate and strategic plans; coordination of the centenary of the Australian Public Service celebrations; assistance with National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week activities; and the development of a communication strategy for the 2001 State of the Environment Report, to be released later in 2001.

Public affairs

During the year Environment Australia's public affairs area was involved in the preparation and distribution of 243 media releases for the Minister and Parliamentary Secretary.

NAIDOC Week

The National Aboriginal and Islander Day of Observance Committee programme targeted Environment Australia staff, school groups and the public. It included live performances of indigenous music and dance, cross-cultural awareness sessions, presentations by indigenous rangers and land managers and displays of indigenous art.

Indigenous land management

Fact sheets were prepared on the Indigenous Protected Areas Programme and on case studies of indigenous land management projects. The fact sheets were distributed to indigenous land management agencies, resource agencies, and Commonwealth, State and Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs agencies.

Environmental Resources Information Network database facilities

The Department's database facilities continued to be developed, maintained and made accessible by the Environmental Resources Information Network in compliance with national and international standards and best practice. These databases are increasingly being used for decision-making and by community groups. More than 1000 analyses and maps were produced to support Government programmes.

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act

Decision-support tools were released to coincide with the Act coming into effect and have been widely used both within the Department and by the broader community. The tools received two national awards.

Joint initiatives with the National Land and Water Resources Audit are providing improved facilities for government and community access to natural resource data. The National Pollutant Inventory, the Register of the National Estate and the Australian Coastal Atlas were maintained and enhanced. Several Australian Coastal Atlas State nodes were extended to provide access to a broader range of information.

Measures taken to minimise the effects of activities on the environment

Environment Australia has made a commitment to manage and reduce its environmental impacts and to provide a practical model for others to follow. This commitment has been implemented through a structured Environmental Management System which has been certified to the international standard ISO 14001. Under the system, Environment Australia addresses a range of its operational activities including energy management, transport (departmental fleet), waste management, purchasing and water management. The system provides a framework for considering and addressing environmental impacts within the context of continual improvement.

Significant achievements include:

Environment Australia has now completed the first full three-year cycle of the Greenhouse Challenge agreement. Environment Australia has surpassed the target of a 20 per cent reduction in emissions and continues to use renewable Green power energy for the John Gorton Building. Environment Australia has reduced greenhouse emissions associated with tenant light and power by 52 per cent for Nature Conservation House and Tourism House.

ACTIVITIES AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF LEGISLATION THAT ACCORD WITH THE PRINCIPLES OF ECOLOGICALLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

National strategy

Environment Australia finalised a first national report against a set of headline sustainability indicators, to measure performance against the core objectives of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development. The report was prepared in consultation with Commonwealth agencies, other jurisdictions, and the general public.

Environment Australia continued to advance the implementation of Local Agenda 21 (a sustainable development planning system for local government). Forums of leading players in local government were convened and agreed to priorities for future actions, including the development of milestones to measure Local Agenda 21 performance, and a major international conference to be held in Adelaide in March 2002.

A response to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Commonwealth Agency Implementation of Ecologically Sustainable Development was finalised. The response includes increasing agencies' implementation of environment management systems and greenhouse challenge, and assessing the impact of new regulations on ecologically sustainable development.

Draft guidelines were prepared for reporting by Commonwealth agencies and departments on their sustainable development and environmental performance.