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Publications archive - International Activities and Commitments


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Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time.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

Australia's report to the UNCSD - 1995

Implementation of Agenda 21
Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories, 1995
ISBN 0 6444 3152 0

Scientists and the technological community

Chapter 31 of Agenda 21

The Australian Government recognises the important role Australia's scientists, technicians and engineers will play in addressing economic, social and environmental problems and is considering, and acting on, many of the issues raised in this chapter.

Australia has a long tradition of independent research and a well-organised and often vocal scientific and technological community, and these contribute to the essential public debate about science and its importance to the economy and the environment.

Establishing and strengthening links between the scientific and technological community and the broader community, in government, in education, in industry and elsewhere is an important part of more effective decision-making processes concerning environment and development. Whilst government can facilitate and encourage these links, ultimately they are the responsibility of individual scientists, technicians, engineers and the institutions in which they work.

Policies and programs

Scientific expertise is integrated into policy-making at all levels of government. At an operational level, most agencies have working relationships with scientists and their expertise is instrumental to effective policy making in line areas of policy like health, environment, industry, communications, defence, education and so on. New information technologies are being used in decision support systems that can integrate large quantities of data from a variety of sources, including remote sensing, so that this information can be utilised in a meaningful way.

Distinguished scientists provide advice to the highest levels of government through the Australian Science & Technology Council and the Prime Minister's Science and Engineering Council. Parliamentary committees regularly examine science-related issues of national importance, holding public hearings across the country. More specialised bodies such as the National Greenhouse Advisory Committee provide expert scientific advice on specific issues of importance to the Australian Government.

Improving the communication of science in education, industry and to the public in general is a high priority of the government. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a world leader in science programming and the annual Michael Daley Award rewards excellence in science, technology and engineering journalism in all media. The Australia Prize is an international award for scientific and technological achievement - sustainable land management was the 1994 topic. The Commonwealth (Federal) Government is supporting the Australian Academy of Science's 'National Primary School Project', which aims to introduce a well-structured and well- taught science, technology and environment program to primary schools in Australia.

Science and industry is a major focus of current policy and there is a range of programs in place to encourage industrial research. These include Cooperative Research Centres, the Grants for Industry Research and Development Program, which encourage collaboration between research institutions and companies, and the National Teaching Companies Scheme which gives grant support for graduates to work in companies on projects based on an agreement between the company and the supporting institution. Research support of the primary industry sector is jointly funded by industry levies and the Commonwealth Government through the primary industry R& D Corporations.

Australia has developed its own National Greenhouse Research Program, as other countries' programs tend to focus on northern hemisphere issues. Australia's National Greenhouse Response Strategy and the Framework Convention on Climate Change both require Australia to conduct research to further our understanding of the causes, effects, magnitude, timing and consequences of climate change.

The Government is also concerned that scientific practice is undertaken safely and humanely, and has developed stringent guidelines for work in hazardous areas like nuclear science, toxic chemicals and genetic manipulation. Voluntary guidelines include the code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes, guidelines for small scale genetic manipulation work, guidelines for large scale work with recombinant DNA, and procedures for assessment of the planned release of recombinant DNA organisms. The Federal Government intends to introduce legislation covering research, contained use and field trials of genetically manipulated organisms.

Australia's international policies

Australia is actively participating in a number of international programs, through the United Nations, and other international organisations like the OECD. These are detailed in other chapters.

The Academy of Science is the national member of the International Council for Scientific Unions and a number of Australian scientists are active participants in the programs which operate under the auspices of individual unions and committees, like the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, the Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research, the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment and the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics. Most Australian scientists maintain contact with their peers throughout the world, through professional journals, meetings and conferences and the scientific unions.

Australian scientists are active in the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program's various activities, with the Global Change Terrestrial Ecosystem's core project office located in Canberra and receiving support from a number of Australian Government agencies.

AIDAB, in collaboration with Australia's Chief Scientist, supports the work of the Commonwealth Consultative Group on Technology Management (CCGTM). The Group provides advisory services and voluntary expertise to Commonwealth developing country Governments, identifying and applying appropriate technologies to development. In 1994-95 AIDAB will provide A$100 000 to the CCGTM.

Australia, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), provides funding to the Commonwealth Science Council for the same purposes, and is contributing A$303 000 in 1994- 95.

Australia supports the developmental efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IEAE) through its Technical Cooperation Fund (TCF). The Fund finances technology transfer projects that promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, for example in medical, mineralogical, agricultural and industrial applications. In 1994-95 AIDAB will provide US$934 000 to the TCF. AIDAB also directly finances bilateral and regional activity in this technological sector.

A Centre for the Applications of Solar Energy is being established in Perth by the Federal and Western Australian Governments, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO). The Centre will promote and provide economically, socially, technically and industrially appropriate solar energy technologies and services to developing countries in the region.

Australia, as a signatory to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, contributes to the Protocol's Multilateral Fund. The Fund finances the transfer of ozone-friendly technologies from developed to developing countries. In the triennium 1994-96, Australia will provide US$2 633 990 per annum to the Multilateral Fund. Some of these funds may be used to finance expert services to Technical Committees reporting to the Protocol, and provides the Chairmanship of the Technology and Economic Assessment Panel.

For further information contact:

Department of Industry, Science and Technology