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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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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.

Investing in our Natural Heritage

The Commonwealth's Environment Expenditure 1997-98
Statement by Senator The Honourable Robert Hill
Minister for the Environment
Environment Australia 1997

Chapter 6: Environment Protection

Key Points
  • The Natural Heritage Trust will provide $5 million to the year 1999-2000 for the Waste Management Awareness Programme to support existing national waste reduction strategies.
  • The Government, under the ANZECC process, will continue to place a major emphasis on reduction, reuse and recycling through cooperation with industry and research and development.
  • The Commonwealth, in conjunction with the States and Territories, will develop National Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs) on air, transboundary movement of hazardous wastes, and a national pollutant inventory, as well as a proposed NEPM on contaminated sites.
  • The Commonwealth Government is playing a leading role in activity to manage Australia's persistent organic pollutants.

Protecting the environment is a shared partnership between all levels of government, industry and the community. The Commonwealth plays a key coordination and leadership role in relation to environmental protection initiatives. Table 6.1 sets out major areas of Commonwealth expenditure. This table includes environment protection programme savings of $2.9 million over four years from 1997-98. These form part of the Government's fiscal consolidation strategy.

NATIONAL ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION

The National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) was established in 1995 under joint Commonwealth, State and Territory legislation. Its membership consists of Ministers from the Commonwealth and each State and Territory. Its function is to make National Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs) and to report on their implementation and effectiveness. The role of NEPMs is to ensure equivalent protection from air, water, soil and noise pollution across Australia. The Commonwealth contributes to the operating costs of the NEPC, as well as contributing to the development costs of NEPMs. The current agenda of the NEPC includes the development of NEPMs for air, transboundary movement of hazardous wastes (see Box 6.1), and a national pollutant inventory (NPI), as well as a proposed NEPM on contaminated sites.

The Commonwealth is also running programmes to reduce the impact of noise pollution from Sydney's new and existing airports.

Table 6.1: Environment Protection - New Measures and Programme and Tax Expenditure Estimates

Image: Table 6.1: Environment Protection

Programme and tax expenditure estimates include the effect of new measures.

- denotes nil; na denotes not available; .. denotes not zero but rounded to zero

(a) For 2001-02 and six year total expenditure see Table 1.3.

(b) This is an economic instrument aimed at discouraging the use of leaded petrol.

National Pollutant Inventory (NPI)

The establishment and implementation of the NPI is a priority for the Commonwealth Government. Information on emissions to air, land and water from human activity will be collected and disseminated to governments, industry and the community to provide a better basis for decisions about environment protection.

In 1996-97 the Commonwealth allocated $13.0 million over four years for establishment and implementation of the NPI. In November 1996 the NEPC agreed to the development of a NEPM for the National Pollutant Inventory.

State and Territory and Commonwealth governments will work together to ensure the effective collection, collation and dissemination of NPI data. Using the inventory, government, industry and the community will be able to make better informed decisions about actions from human activity that affect the local and national environment.

In the meantime, further trialing of aspects of the NPI are taking place in NSW and Qld.

Box 6.1: A NEPM on the Transport of Hazardous Wastes

The Commonwealth is cooperating with the States and Territories in developing a NEPM on the transport of hazardous wastes across State and Territory boundaries which will identify hazardous wastes to be controlled under State and Territory law. The NEPM will allow tracking of hazardous wastes across State and Territory borders and ensure that hazardous wastes are treated and disposed of at appropriate facilities.

Noise Pollution

Current Commonwealth programmes dealing with noise pollution focus on areas around the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and the preferred site for the proposed second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek (see Box 2.1). The Implementation of Noise Amelioration Programme for Sydney Airport provides for voluntary acquisition of houses in the 40 ANEF (Australian Noise Exposure Forecast) contour and insulation of noise affected houses and other buildings under the Government's Sydney Airport noise amelioration package. This activity is one of a range of measures to reduce and more equitably share aircraft noise associated with the operation of the Sydney Airport. A levy on jet aircraft landings at Sydney Airport was introduced with effect from 1 October 1995. The rate prescribed is intended to recover the costs of the noise amelioration works over a period of about ten years. The Commonwealth will spend $94.5 million on this programme in 1997-98.

The Commonwealth has provided $11.1 million for the voluntary acquisition of potentially noise affected properties within the 35 ANEF contour of Badgerys Creek. Eleven properties have been purchased under this programme so far.

ENVIRONMENT/INDUSTRY INITIATIVES

In order to solve our environmental problems we must have a growing, diverse and innovative environment industry in Australia which is continually developing new solutions to environmental problems. Issues such as maintaining our biodiversity, treating our own hazardous wastes, decreasing the hole in the ozone layer and reducing water pollution are addressed by the application of technologies and processes coming out of the environment industry. The Government recognises the value of this industry to our environmental future and is working closely with the industry to encourage the development of such environmental solutions. A number of programmes have been set up under the Environment/Industry Initiatives package for this work.

EnviroNET Australia

EnviroNET Australia, a network of databases freely available on the internet, details Australia's environmental capabilities in a range of areas including technologies, cleaner production approaches, environmental education, and research and development. The databases, which aim to bring together those seeking environmental solutions with those who have the technologies and capabilities needed, are continually being updated. They are being accessed many thousands of times per month by Australians and overseas parties. The Government is committed to this innovative use of the internet for the improvement of environment protection and has provided $200,000 per annum to ensure it provides up to date information and ideas.

Environmental Cooperation with Asia

To assist in the continued growth of our environmental goods and services industries and to address some of our commitments to assisting environment protection in our region, the Government has committed in the order of $200,000 in 1997-98 under the Environmental Cooperation with Asia Programme. This programme provides for joint public/private sector initiatives aimed at improving export markets for Australian environmental goods and services. Activities will include demonstration projects, technology seminars and business development strategies.

CLEANER PRODUCTION

The Commonwealth is committed to promoting cleaner production as a major competitive tool for Australian companies. This process not only reduces the environmental impact of the production of goods and services but also significantly reduces the costs of their production. To ensure greater adoption of cleaner production practices and to encourage uniformity across jurisdictions, the Commonwealth has obtained the agreement of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council to develop a National Strategy for Cleaner Production. It allocated $300,000 in 1996-97 towards the development of this strategy, as part of total cleaner production funding of $700,000 in 1996-97. These funds will be used to undertake research into the barriers to adoption of cleaner production by industry, as well as developing methods for the efficient dissemination of cleaner production information to industry and the community. The strategy will provide future direction to State and Territory governments and industry in pursing cleaner production approaches.

The Commonwealth continues to work in partnership with industry, the community and all spheres of government on encouraging the adoption of cleaner production. These initiatives include undertaking a demonstration programme to assist ten companies to review their entire production processes in order to adopt cleaner production practices; developing a National Cleaner Production Database which illustrates the lessons from the demonstration programme; implementing a programme to demonstrate how design can reduce the environmental impacts of producing, using and disposing of products (the EcoReDesign Project), and participating in the Government Sector Linkages Programme and AusAID APEC support programmes with Indonesia to strengthen Indonesia's cleaner production knowledge and skills, through using Australian expertise.

WASTE MINIMISATION

It is estimated that over 14 million tonnes of solid waste is disposed of annually in Australian landfills, with the major components including organic, building, packaging and paper waste, whitegoods and cars. All Governments have recognised the need to reduce this waste and the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) has set a national target to reduce waste by 50 per cent by the year 2000 (based on 1990 per capita levels). The Commonwealth, through the Natural Heritage Trust, has allocated $5 million to the year 1999-2000 to the Waste Management Awareness Programme. This expenditure will be directed to support and complement existing national waste reduction goals and strategies.

A key strategy in achieving waste reduction nationally is the development of voluntary agreements between government and industry. These agreements are known as Industry Waste Reduction Agreements (IWRAs). Efforts to date have focussed on packaging waste, with agreements being struck with milk packaging, steel cans, paper packaging and newsprint. Negotiations are currently proceeding with liquidpaper-board industry and PET manufacturers, other plastics producers and the glass industry.

ANZECC places a greater emphasis upon source reduction in the development of IWRAs, rather than focussing primarily upon recycling measures. IWRAs now incorporate the benefits of light weight product design, production waste reduction, the ease of product reuse or recyclability and the use of recycled materials in new products. ANZECC also identified new priority waste streams, including green/organic waste, construction and demolition waste, and commercial, industrial and institutional waste.

The Commonwealth provides a tax deduction for expenditure by taxpayers incurred on or after 19 August 1992 for the sole or dominant purpose of preventing, combating or rectifying pollution, or treating, cleaning up, removing or storing waste.

The Commonwealth funds research by the Cooperative Research Centre for Waste Management and Pollution Control which covers all aspects of the waste management hierarchy; from waste minimisation through to treatment and disposal. All elements of waste are being considered, including liquid waste, solid waste, gaseous emissions and site contamination, although the emphasis is on liquid waste as Australia has particular skills in this area. A particular emphasis is placed on waste management practices that could assist Australian industry.

HAZARDOUS MATERIALS AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Chemical Assessment and Management

Assessment for industrial chemicals is carried out under the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), and for agricultural and veterinary chemicals under the National Registration Scheme (NRS). Assessment covers the whole life cycle of these chemicals, and assessment under the NRS is carried out under a full cost recovery regime from industry. Cost recovery for industrial chemicals is currently 50 per cent but moves towards a 100 per cent cost recovery for NICNAS are expected in 1997-98.

A National Strategy for agricultural and veterinary chemicals, of which the protection of the environment is a very important element, is also being drafted under the auspices of the Agricultural and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ). The focus of the National Strategy will be to map out a vision of where Australia wants to be by the year 2000 in terms of the best management of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, and the strategies that need to be put in place to achieve this vision.

The Government has also begun work on the preparation of a national profile to describe Australia's infrastructure for the sound management of chemicals. The profile will provide a comprehensive picture of the regulations and procedures which underpin production, import and export, use and general management of chemicals in Australia.

In 1997-98 the Commonwealth will receive revenue of approximately $110 million from the leaded petrol excise levy. The levy was introduced as part of the Commonwealth's Lead Abatement Strategy, to encourage people to switch to unleaded petrol. Over 200,000 motorists switched from leaded to unleaded in the first month of the campaign. Air lead levels in urban areas have dropped in line with the reduced vehicle emissions.

On the international scene Australia is helping to develop an international instrument which will apply the procedures of prior informed consent to trade in certain hazardous chemicals. These negotiations should be completed by the end of 1997. Australia has also contributed in the past year to an international report on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Work on an international legally binding instrument is expected to commence by early 1998.

Scheduled Wastes

Domestically the Government is playing a leading role in a cross sectoral and cross jurisdictional activity to manage Australia's POPs such as organochlorine wastes. Two management plans have been completed under the National Strategy for the Management of Scheduled Wastes: one for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and one for hexachlorobenzene waste. Commonwealth Departments are presently implementing the PCB management plan for their own activities (see Box 6.2). Under the National Strategy a third plan is being developed for organochlorine pesticides such as DDT.

The Commonwealth Government is working with other governments through the ANZACC and the ARMCANZ to improve the management of unwanted farm and household chemicals generally, including organochlorine pesticides. The intention is to manage the destruction of existing unwanted chemicals, and to prevent further accumulation. This initiative will reduce risks to the environment, rural communities and consumers from unwanted, expired and obsolete agricultural chemicals. These improvements will help to protect Australia's overseas reputation as a producer of 'clean and green' produce.

Transport of Dangerous Goods

The Commonwealth is currently facilitating the development of a national uniform regime for the transport of dangerous goods by road and rail. The Commonwealth is working closely with State and Territory regulatory authorities and industry groups to develop this new Australian code.

Box 6.2: Storage of Hazardous Waste - Commonwealth Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) Management Plan

The plan addresses issues relating to the phase out and treatment of Commonwealth equipment containing PCBs, including the maintenance of a Commonwealth repository for the storage of environmentally hazardous waste.

The Commonwealth is also funding the removal from storage at Commonwealth radio and television transmitting sites of PCB and PCB contaminated materials and their destruction by an appropriate waste processing facility.

International Hazardous Wastes

In the area of hazardous waste management, the Government is working to ensure that movements of hazardous wastes are conducted in an environmentally sound manner and that these wastes will be managed in a way which will protect human health and the environment. Australia is participating in the work of the Basel Convention Technical Working Group to better define the wastes which are covered by the Convention.

Domestically, the Government is drawing together views from all jurisdictions and sectors through a policy reference group to help ensure Australia meets its obligations under the Basel Convention. In particular in 1996, the Government amended the Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Act 1989 to ensure all Basel Convention wastes are controlled. The Commonwealth is developing measures to assist with compliance under the Act including verification of particular shipments.

As a party to the Convention, Australia also supports the Basel Convention initiative to establish regional centres for training and technology in environmentally sound management in Asia. To strengthen the management of hazardous wastes in the region, the Government helped fund the inaugural meeting for the regional centres in Beijing in 1996.

ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH

In 1997-98 the Commonwealth will spend $200,000 in developing a National Environmental Health Strategy to provide a framework for the development of cooperative environmental health activities between all levels of government and the community. The strategy will be designed to reduce community exposure to environmental hazards from all media, with a focus on high risk circumstances. It will also look at integrating environmental health impact assessment into broader environment impact assessment processes.

The Commonwealth has an ongoing programme contributing to the World Health Organisation's project to assess the health and environmental effects of electromagnetic energy exposure, with an independent Australian research programme. $1 million will be spent on this programme in 1997-98.

Other environmental health activities to be undertaken by the Commonwealth in 1997-98 include a study of chemicals in drinking water treatment, rolling revision of Australian drinking water guidelines, a health risk assessment for arsenic, a study of the long term health implications of global climate change and a ground water quality assessment for Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands. Approximately $200,000 will be devoted to such activities in 1997-98.

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION

Australia's overseas aid programme is carrying out capacity building in environmental management through institutional strengthening of major national environment protection and management agencies in developing countries. Projects such as these enhance countries' capacity to formulate and implement sustainable resource management plans, cleaner production technologies, pollution control and conservation activities. Expenditure on specific environmental protection activities in 1995-96 was nearly $30 million.

Examples of projects include East Java pollution control implementation in Indonesia (total value $20.9 million - see Box 6.3), institutional strengthening in the Punjab Environment Protection Agency in Pakistan ($4 million), Hyderabad waste management (institutional strengthening of the Andra Pradesh State Pollution Control Board) in India ($7 million), and institutional strengthening of the Department of Environment and Conservation in Papua New Guinea ($6 million).

Box 6.3: East Java Pollution Control

AusAID's Pollution Control Implementation Project is designed to provide institutional strengthening, both at central and provincial level by developing an operational framework and enhancing the capability of the Indonesian National Environment Impact Agency and the East Java Provincial Government to implement pollution control programmes. The focus of the project is East Java, and principally Surabaya. The project is valued at $20.9 million over five years and commenced in 1993.