Publications archive

Department of the Environment and Heritage annual report 2004-05

Volume one
Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005
ISSN 1441 9335

Managing the department (continued)

External scrutiny

Courts and tribunals

The most significant decision having ongoing implications for the work of the department is that of the Full Court of the Australian Federal Court in Minister for the Environment and Heritage v Queensland Conservation Council Inc [2004] FCAFC 190. The decision affirmed an earlier Federal Court decision in the Nathan Dam case under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which was reported last year. For more information about this and other cases, see the report on the operation of the Act in the second volume of this set of annual reports.

Auditor-General reports

Apart from the report on the department’s financial statements, two audit reports were tabled that had findings and recommendations of relevance to the department.

Parliamentary committees

Two reports were tabled by the Senate Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Committee:

The government has not yet responded to these reports. An advanced draft of an Australian Government response to the invasive species report has been prepared.

The department contributed to the Australian Government responses to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry report Getting Water Right(s): The Future of Rural Australia and the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report Rural Water Resource Usage. The department ensured environmental issues identified in the National Water Initiative were reflected in the government responses to these reports.

The department coordinated the government response to a report of the House of Representatives Environment and Heritage Committee, called Employment in the Environment Sector: Methods, Measurements and Messages. The report was tabled on 1 December 2003. The government’s response will be tabled by November 2005, subject to final clearances.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

There were no formal reports from the Commonwealth Ombudsman during the year.

Other external scrutiny

See the response to the Productivity Commission’s report on native vegetation laws, and the announcement of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into policy framework and incentives for the conservation of Australia’s historic built heritage.

Freedom of information

This section is presented in accordance with the requirements of section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982. The Act gives the Australian community the right to access information held by the Australian Government. The only limits are exemptions needed to protect essential public interests and privacy.

Applications received

The department received 24 applications pursuant to the Act during 2004-05. One application was made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This was withdrawn before the tribunal heard the matter.

Information about the department

Under section 8 of the Act the department has to make available information about its functions, organisation, operations and powers that affect members of the public. Relevant information is contained elsewhere in this annual report (the executive summary presents an overview).

Information about categories of documents

Under section 8 of the Act the department has to report details of certain categories of documents it maintains. The department holds a large range of documents in the following categories:

Some documents may have been transferred into archival custody or destroyed in accordance with the Archives Act 1983.

Arrangements for outside participation

Under section 8 of the Act the department has to report details of arrangements whereby members of the public can participate in certain kinds of decision-making.

The department consults members of the public and bodies outside the Australian Government’s administration when developing policy and programmes, and administering legislation and schemes. In addition to general public consultation, which may be a requirement of particular legislation, the department and the minister receive advice from various scientific and expert committees, and other bodies. These include the Australian Heritage Council, the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, the Biological Diversity Advisory Committee, and the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee.

Generally people can participate by making oral or written representations to the minister or the department or by putting submissions to the various working groups chaired by the department.

Formal arrangements under the Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981, Sea Installations Act 1987, Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, and the environmental impact assessment provisions of the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 provide for proposals to be examined publicly and for comments to be received.

Formal arrangements under the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands Environment Protection and Management Ordinance 1987 provide for public consultation during the development of management plans.

Formal arrangements under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 provide for public consultation on scientific research programmes and matters relating to the effects on the environment in the Alligator Rivers region of uranium mining operations.

Procedures for gaining access to information

Freedom of information matters within the department are handled by the Legal Section in the Policy Coordination and Environment Protection Division. Contact details for the freedom of information officer are:

Phone: (02) 6274 1578
Fax: (02) 6274 1587

Written requests for access to documents should be addressed to:

The Freedom of Information Coordinator
Legal Section
Department of the Environment and Heritage
GPO Box 787
Canberra ACT 2601

For enquiries specific to the Antarctic contact:

The Director
Australian Antarctic Division
Kingston TAS 7050