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INSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN AUSTRALIA


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INTEGRATED DECISION-MAKING

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies   

The Commonwealth of Australia is a federation of six self-governing States and two self-governing mainland Territories. The Federal Government's powers and responsibilities are defined in the Australian Constitution and the State and Territory Governments are responsible for all other matters. State and Territory Governments also have established systems of Local Government, and there are approximately 750 local Councils throughout Australia.

 

The principle of sustainable development is now broadly accepted and built into the working programmes of the key bodies of national governance, which bring together the National and State governments. An example of these key bodies is the Ministerial Councils, including: 

  • Australian and New ZealandEnvironment and Conservation Council (ANZECC)
  • Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ)
  • Australian and New Zealand Minerals and Energy Council (AMZMEC)
  • MinisterialCouncil on Forestry, Fisheries and Aquaculture (MCFFA)
  • Australian Transport Council

Decision Making: Legislation and Regulations 

Environmental powers are not specifically dealt with in the Australian Constitution and are not the sole province of any one sphere of government. There is recognition that environment and sustainable development issues need to be addressed on a local, regional, national and international scale. This is reflected in the development of national strategies and agreements, which provide the main domestic basis for the implementation of UNCED outcomes.

 

A cooperative approach with strong leadership at the national level on environmental issues has provided the cornerstone to Australia's policy development and program delivery since 1992. This approach within the Government extends as well to non-governmental organizations and community groups.  In order to oversee the development of national strategies and policy issues concerning the environment and ecologically sustainable development there is a range of mechanisms, which provide an administrative and Ministerial framework for advice and input. Overall coordination is effected through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), relevant Ministerial Councils, including Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ), Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC), Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MDBC), National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) and related working groups reporting to these bodies. 

In addition, the ICESD regularly consults with the following non-governmental organizations: World Wide Fund for Nature, Australian Conservation Foundation, Greenpeace, Australian Council for Overseas Aid, National Farmers Federation, Business Council of Australia, Minerals Council of Australia, Australian Council of Trade Unions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, National Environmental Law Association, Environment Management Industry Association of Australia, Australian Association for Environmental Education, Institute of Engineers, Women and the Environment Network, Action for Solidarity Equality Environment and Development (Youth NGO), Community Aid Abroad, National Association of Forest Industries, and Environs Australia (formerly the Municipal Conservation Association).

The 1992 Intergovernmental Agreement on the Environment (IGAE) is an agreement among all spheres of government concerning their roles and responsibilities in decision making processes and sets out mechanisms for resolving national issues. The IGAE provides a framework for a cooperative approach to environmental decision making, policy development and program implementation. The IGAE recognizes the need for effective integration of environmental and economic considerations and is based on the acceptance of ESD principles by all spheres of government. Members of the Government involved in the IGAE include the following:

  • Australian Government Departments: Prime Minister and Cabinet; Environment, 
  • Sport and Territories; 
  • Foreign Affairs and Trade; 
  • Primary Industries and Energy.

State Government Departments involved include: Premier's, New South Wales; Premier and Cabinet, Victoria; Office of the Cabinet, Queensland; Premier and Cabinet, Western Australia; Premier and Cabinet, South Australia; Premier and Cabinet, Tasmania; Chief Minister's, Northern Territory; Environment, Land and Planning, Australian Capital Territory, and Australian Local Government Association.  

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans  

Australia has a number of key strategies in place to support sustainable development. The principal and overarching strategy is the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD), which seeks to address sustainable development from a distinctly Australian perspective. The National Strategy for ESD has three core objectives: 

·         to enhance individual and community well-being and welfare by following a path of economic development that safeguards the welfare of future generations; 

·         to provide for equity within and between generations; and 

·         to protect biological diversity and maintain essential ecological processes and life-support systems. 

Other key strategies which have been implemented since 1992 include the National Forest Policy Statement, the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity, the National Greenhouse Response Strategy, the Commonwealth Coastal Policy, the National Waste Minimisation and Recycling Strategy, and the National Landcare Program.

 

At a national level there has been considerable work undertaken on reviewing and monitoring national agreements and strategies. A number of these reviews were concurrent with the five-year time frame of the United Nations General Assembly review of progress since UNCED. The focal point for these review processes was the senior Intergovernmental body, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

The National Strategy for ESD has been reviewed on two occasions with reports on implementation prepared for 1993 and the period 1993-95. Outcomes from the second review process are currently being directed towards targeting key areas for further progress. The IGAE was reviewed in 1995, and a review of respective governmental roles and responsibilities with respect to the environment was undertaken with an overarching aim of improving the cooperative framework established under the IGAE. In parallel with this process, federal environmental legislation will also be reviewed. These reforms will encourage the implementation of ESD through better environment protection coupled with greater certainty for industry in decision-making processes.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement

In order to oversee the development of national strategies and policy issues concerning the environment and ecologically sustainable development there is a range of mechanisms, which provide an administrative and Ministerial framework for advice and input. Overall coordination is effected through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), relevant Ministerial Councils, including Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ), Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC), Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MDBC), National Environment Protection Council (NEPC) and related working groups reporting to these bodies. 

In addition, the ICESD regularly consults with the following non-governmental organizations: 

·         World Wide Fund for Nature;

·         Australian Conservation Foundation, 

·         Greenpeace; 

·         Australian Council for Overseas Aid; 

·         National Farmers Federation;Business Council of Australia;Minerals Council of Australia

·         Australian Council of Trade Unions; 

·         Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission; 

·         National Environmental Law Association;

·         Environment Management Industry Association of Australia;Australian Association for Environmental Education;

·         Institute of Engineers

·         Women and the Environment Network; 

·         Action for Solidarity Equality Environment and Development (Youth NGO);

·         Community Aid Abroad; 

·         National Association of Forest Industries;

·         and Environs Australia (formerly the Municipal Conservation Association).

 

Programmes and Projects   

Australia is implementing economic instruments and developing the use of market-based mechanisms, which incorporate the environmental and social costs of resource use into pricing. Measures under way include improved pricing and allocation of water, cost recovery for solid waste disposal and a price differential for leaded petrol. A compendium of Australia's experience in using economic instruments to meet environmental objectives has been prepared by Environment Australia.

Since 1992 there has also been general international consensus on the need to provide more quantifiable advice to policy makers on the progress towards implementing sustainable development. In Australia there have been a number of approaches in this regard. In 1996, the first comprehensive Australian State of the Environment (SoE) Report was released. The Report, which was called for in the National Strategy for ESD, provides a key element in providing information on the condition of and the pressures on our natural environment, and societal responses to these pressures and conditions. In addition, many State, Territory and Local Governments are in various stages of undertaking state of the environment reporting. At a sectoral level there is also a range of initiatives on developing sustainability indicators. Work on improving information available to decision-makers has also been undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The ABS has researched and produced a range of publications on environmental statistics.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has developed national accounts balance sheets to include the market value of natural assets including forests, subsoil assets and land. These estimates are based on resource use values and exclude non-monetary environmental values. The Commonwealth has recently published a handbook on a range of techniques for environmental valuation and their application in decision making. The Australian Bureau of Statistics is also developing a range of environmental accounts, including physical accounts in an input-output framework, and financial accounts for environmental protection.

Status 

National Decision-Making Structure

 

1. National Sustainable Development Coordination Body:

YES

2. National Sustainable Development Policy:

YES

3. National Agenda 21/other strategy for SD

YES

4. Local/Regional Agenda(s) 21:

YES

5. Environmental Impact Assessment Law:

YES

6. Major Groups involved in Sustainable Development Decision-Making:

YES

 

National Instruments and Programmes

 

1. Sustainable. Dev. or environmental education incorporated into school curricula:

YES

2. Sustainable Development Indicators Program:

YES/IN PROGRESS

3. Ecolabel Regulations:

YES

4. Recycle/Reuse Programs:

YES

5. Green Accounting Program:

YES

6. Access to Internet:

YES

7. Access to World Wide Web:

YES

8. National World Wide Web Site for Sustainable Development or State of the Environment:

YES

 

Policies, Programmes and Legislation

 

1. Combatting poverty:

YES

2. Changing consumption and production patterns:

YES

3. Atmosphere:

YES

4. Land Use Planning:

YES

5. Forest and Deforestation:

YES

6. Desertification and Drought:

YES

7. Sustainable Mountain Development:

YES

8. Sustainable Agriculture:

YES

9. Biological Diversity:

YES

10. Biotechnology:

NO

11. Oceans and Coastal Areas:

YES

12. Freshwater Management:

YES

13. Toxic Chemicals:

YES

14. Hazardous Wastes:

YES

15. Solid Wastes:

YES

16. Radioactive Wastes:

YES

17. Energy:

YES

18. Transport:

IN PROGRESS

19. Sustainable Tourism:

YES

Challenges  

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information is available

Information   

No information is available

Research and Technologies 

No information is available

Financing 

The Federal Government recognizes the need to provide a secure funding base for initiatives addressing Australia's environmental and ecologically sustainable development challenges. Recognizing the importance of the health of the environment to economic, social and conservation objectives, the Federal Government has decided to establish a $1.25 billion Natural Heritage Trust. The Natural Heritage Trust is to be largely funded by the partial sale of a publicly owned telecommunications utility. Like many governments, the Australian Government is under fiscal pressure, and in examining alternatives to taxation or borrowing, has decided that the short-term financial gains derived from the sale of a public asset should be used to establish a long term investment in Australia's environment for current and future generations.

The Natural Heritage Trust is based on the protection, conservation and sustainable use of Australia's natural resource base through constructive and cooperative partnerships between governments, communities and the private sector. The establishment of the Trust also marks a new era of innovative and secure environmental funding, re-orientation of environmental financing toward areas of genuine national importance, and better integration of conservation and natural resource management programs to rehabilitate and ensure the protection of the natural environment.

 

Cooperation

Australia supported the establishment of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and has been a member of the Commission since its inception. Australia's commitment to the principles of Agenda 21 is also reflected in the appointment of an Ambassador for the Environment. Australia has consistently supported an expanded role for NGO participation throughout the UNCED process. This commitment has been reinforced by having NGO representatives on Australian delegations to all sessions of the CSD.

Australia funds key international institutions involved in promoting multilateral solutions to environmental problems. Among these organisations are United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), United Nations Education and Scientific Cooperation Organisation (UNESCO), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and the twenty-two international agricultural research centres, including the sixteen centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. 

Since 1992, Australia has undertaken a range of substantial measures to integrate and promote the principles of sustainable development throughout the development cooperation program. The policy basis for the development program is contained in the document, "Towards a Sustainable Future." This policy focuses on the key themes contained in Agenda 21, namely; the economic and social dimensions of development, the conservation and management of resources for development, and strengthening the role of major groups. In particular the policy basis is targeted towards sustainable development priorities in the Asia-Pacific region. The environmental expenditure component of Australia's aid program increased from A$ 120 million in 1992 to over A$ 160 million in 1995.

 

 

* * * 

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th, 6th, and 7th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: February 1999.

Click here for the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development.

Click here for the Australian Environmental Impact Assessment Network

Click here for the Australian Environmental Education Network

Click here for the State of Environment Report.

Click here for information on Regional Environmental Indicators Project

Click here for the National Land and Water Resources Audit

Click here for the Montreal Process Criteria and Indicators

Click here for the State of the Environment - Australia

Click here for the Australian Agency for International Development, AusAID

Click here for a draft national cleaner production strategy - 'Towards Sustainability: Achieving Cleaner Production in Australia'.

For information on Environmental Law around the World, click here:

| Australia | All Countries | Home |

 

MAJOR GROUPS

WOMEN

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

Australia continues to address the issue of increasing the influence of women in environmental decision-making in a number of ways. These include supporting the involvement of women and their organizations in environment policy processes particularly in relation to ecologically sustainable development.   

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women was signed on 17 July 1980 and ratified on 28 July 1983.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

Australia's National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (NSESD) requires the development of ESD related policies, programs and actions, which incorporate the particular concerns of women, while ensuring that actions to achieve ESD do not have inequitable effects on women. Decision makers are explicitly requested to assess, and make efforts to minimise, where inequitable or disadvantageous, the gender impacts of ESD related decisions.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information is available

Programmes and Projects   

No information is available

Status   

No information is available

Challenges  

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information is available

Information   

No information is available

Research and Technologies   

No information is available

Financing   

No information is available

Cooperation

Australia supports international programs addressing women and environmental issues through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). AusAID provides funding to a number of UN agencies that work closely with women, including the UN Fund for Population Activities, the UN Environment Program and the UN Development Fund for Women. AusAID also assists women in developing countries through its funding of individual bilateral projects and through NGOs.

Also at the international level, Australia's participation in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in September 1995, reflected a commitment to fully integrating the principles of ecological sustainability into all aspects of regional, national and global development and to ensure that women participate on an equal basis in this process.

 

 

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th and 6th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 June 1998.

For information on WomenWatch in different countries, click here:
For information on national plans of action in the follow-up to the Beijing Conference, click here:

 

CHILDREN AND YOUTH

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

The Government consults with young people through the Australian Youth Policy Action Coalition (AYPAC), the national non-government youth peak organisation.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

Australia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1990 and the World Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children in May 1991. Australia has encouraged multilateral agencies to promote the goals of the World Plan of Action for Children in their programs.   

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

No information is available

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information is available

Programmes and Projects 

As part of Australia's National Program of Action for Children, development cooperation programs will place greater emphasis on priority areas for children such as immunisation, enhancing the status of women, refugee assistance and basic education. The aid program is concerned with encouraging a reduction in child exploitation through its contribution to the economic and social development of developing countries. 

Status   

In January 1997, the Federal Government announced the Green Corps Program which provides young people with full-time training, for up to twelve months, on community based environmental projects. Projects include land care, eco-tourism and restoration activities, and survey and data collection work. Training associated with projects is linked, where possible, with career opportunities in fields such as environmental management, science, conservation and restoration

Challenges  

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information is available

Information   

No information is available

Research and Technologies   

No information is available

Financing   

No information is available

Cooperation

Internationally, Australia's commitment to education and training issues is reflected through bilateral and regional programs with:

·         developing countries; 

·         participation in multilateral fora such as APEC and the OECD; support for the United Nations' specialised agencies including WHO and UNICEF; 

·         support and contributions to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank; 

·         provision of consultancy services to regional projects funded by international finance institutions; and 

·         the establishment of the Australian International Education Foundation.

 

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

 

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) is a decentralised organisation, combining representative, policy-making and administrative elements. It was designed to put into effect the principle of self-determination for indigenous Australians. Aboriginal Land councils represent indigenous people in relation to land matters in a number of geographic regions. They also participate in a number of related environmental and social issues. Aboriginal groups have for some time been jointly managing a number of national parks, including the major parks of Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kakadu, Gurig and Nitmiluk in the Northern Territory. The management of these areas increasingly seeks to incorporate traditional practices and knowledge and recognises the value of indigenous cultures to Australia's heritage.   

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

The Federal Government has fully recognised the importance of strengthening the role of indigenous peoples through the enactment, in 1989, of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission Act. That Act established a statutory body whose corporate objectives and functions specifically seek to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the development of policies and operations of government programs.

The most significant event influencing Australian domestic policy on indigenous peoples, and the environment, is the High Court Mabo decision of June 1992 on native title. The Native Title Act 1993, which is the Federal Government's response to the Mabo judgement, seeks to strike a balance between the recognition and protection of the rights of native title holders and the land development needs of all Australians.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

No information is available

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information is available

Programmes and Projects   

No information is available

Status   

Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are among the most disadvantaged groups within the Australian community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise approximately 1.6% of the total Australian population and currently own approximately 15% of the land. However, there are a number of characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander land which have implications for environmental and land management. Although much Aboriginal land is largely agriculturally non-productive, it contains localised areas which are rich in resources and which are the focus for many competing land uses. Aboriginal land use is a mixture of traditional and introduced, small scale and extensive, high impact and benign land uses that interact and overlap with each other. Aboriginal land managers are faced with the complexity of these often interrelated and overlapping land uses and their sustainability.

Challenges  

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information is available

Information   

No information is available

Research and Technologies   

No information is available

Financing   

No information is available

Cooperation

 No information is available

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

 

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies   

The Australian Government is committed to consulting widely with the community on domestic and international environment matters.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

For the purpose of ensuring that the views and interests of the community are taken into consideration, the Government has created a range of channels for consultation. A peak body reviews the international agenda, focussing on Australia's objectives in meetings of the Commission on Sustainable Development and other international environment meetings. This fora is chaired at Ministerial level. There are on-going consultations between Government and relevant NGOs on topical international negotiation and issues relating to the implementation of Agenda 21.   

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans 

The Australian Government encourages participation by NGOs on Australian delegations to international environment convention meetings, at their own expense. Two NGO advisers join Australian delegations to a number of the major environmental meetings, one from an environment/development organisation and one from business

At a domestic level, the Intergovernmental Committee on Ecologically Sustainable Development conducts annual consultative meetings with NGOs on matters relating to the implementation of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development. Meetings of a group of peak conservation organisations with the Environment Portfolio Minister are held on a regular basis and an informal dialogue is maintained at officer level with both industry and environment NGOs. More detailed consultations take place on a range of specific environmental issues covered by chapters in Agenda 21. Forests, coastal areas, and ocean and freshwater resources, are all areas of particular importance for Australia and consultations on them with NGOs are extensive.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information is available

Programmes and Projects  

Environment Australia administers a program of grants to voluntary conservation organisations (the GVCO program). The program aims to help environmental organisations, both nationally and internationally, for the protection and enhancement of ecological processes and natural resources as essential components of the well-being of current and future generations. Assistance is given to organisations which raise community awareness and understanding of environmental issues and ecologically sustainable development principles. Funding is provided under the program to maintain or enhance the operational capacity of eligible organisations to pursue their programs.

NGOs contribute in a unique way to grass roots development and the building of personal contacts between Australians and people in the developing world. The central mechanism through which the Australian Government provides funding to NGOs is the allocation of development project subsidies from the AusAID-NGO Cooperation Program. AusAID administers this program in consultation with the NGO community through the Committee for Development Cooperation.

Status   

No information is available

Challenges  

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information is available

Information   

No information is available

Research and Technologies   

No information is available

Financing   

No information is available

Cooperation

 No information is available

   * * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

 

LOCAL AUTHORITIES

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies   

There are approximately 750 Councils in Australia, which vary in size, population, geography and budget. Local Government responsibilities also vary depending on the State jurisdiction, but include land use planning and management, and infrastructure and service provision. Local Government activities, including in such areas as urban planning, environmental health, water supply, pollution control, sewerage treatment, waste management and disposal, and natural resource management, can significantly influence the management and protection of the environment, for example. For this reason, many Councils are involved in developing conservation and management strategies to improve their environments within their municipality and region.

Most Councils in each State and Territory are represented by their respective Local Government Association. These associations are represented nationally by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA). ALGA's core business is intergovernmental relations, and involves representation on the Council of Australian Governments and intergovernmental committees including the Intergovernmental Committee on Ecologically Sustainable Development.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations   

No information is available

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

No information is available

Decision-Making: Major Group Involvement

No information is available

Programmes and Projects 

Environs Australia (formerly the Municipal Conservation Association) has taken a lead in translating Agenda 21 into practical measures to assist its implementation by Local Government. Funded by the Federal Government, Local Agenda 21, Managing for the Future provides a guide to successfully implement Local Agenda 21. Many Councils are developing Local Agenda 21s, or are involved in processes which are consistent with its principles.

 

Status

No information is available

Challenges

No information is available

Capacity-Building, Education, Training and Awareness-Raising

No information is available

Information

No information is available

Research and Technologies

No information is available

Financing

No information is available

Cooperation

No information is available.

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

Click here for Local Agendas 21.
Click here for Local Government On-Line Australia.
Click here for the Local Government Guide to Agenda 21.

 

WORKERS AND TRADE UNIONS

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies   

Australian trade unions play an important role in reducing the economic and human costs associated with poor occupational health and safety (OHS) and environmental performance through their activities in specific workplaces. More broadly, trade unions play a role in developing and implementing economic, social and environmental policies and programs. Development of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development brought together trade unions, industry, conservation and community groups in an effort to address their mutual interests and concerns for ESD.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has participated in a range of consultative processes with respect to both domestic and international issues. The ACTU participated in the Australian Government's NGO Forum on International Environmental Issues and the National Greenhouse Advisory Panel. In addition, the ACTU participated in Australian delegations to the Commission for Sustainable Development and to the First Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC).

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations   

No information is available

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

No information is available

Decision-Making: Major Group Involvement

No information is available

Programmes and Projects 

No information is available

 

Status

No information is available

Challenges

No information is available

Capacity-Building, Education, Training and Awareness-Raising

No information is available

Information

No information is available

Research and Technologies

No information is available

Financing

No information is available

Cooperation

No information is available.

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

 

BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies

No information is available

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations

No information is available

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

The Australian Government recognises the central role played by business and industry in the economy and in efforts to move towards a more ecologically sustainable pattern of development. The Government has therefore involved industry closely in the development of strategies and initiatives aimed at promoting ecologically sustainable development. Business and industry representatives are also included on delegations attending international meetings on environmental issues.

Decision-Making:  Major Group Involvement

No information is available

Programmes and Projects   

Environment Australia aims to facilitate environment protection in Australia and the region by bringing Australian technological and managerial solutions to environmental problems. A key focus is to facilitate the growth of Australia's environment management industry based on both domestic and export markets. A strong and growing environment industry serves to promote environment protection and has an underpinning role in supporting ecologically sustainable development. Environment Australia works collaboratively with the environment management industry and has a good working relationship with the peak industry body, the Environment Management Industry Association of Australia (EMIAA). There are a number of other programs aimed at facilitating the growth of the Australian environment industry.

Status   

There is a wide range of initiatives occurring within government and industry to encourage more sustainable practices. Industry has shown it can provide leadership in demonstrating best practice approaches, such as Alcoa's rehabilitation program at a Western Australian mine site, which was recognised by the United Nations Environment Program for its excellence and is now part of the Global 500. The Government has also provided assistance to industry to promote the adoption of environmentally sound practices.

Challenges

No information is available

Capacity-Building, Education, Training and Awareness-Raising

No information is available

Information

No information is available

Research and Technologies

No information is available

Financing

No information is available

Cooperation

No information is available

 

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

 

SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNOLOGICAL COMMUNITY

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

Scientific expertise is integrated into policy-making at all spheres of government. At an operational level, most agencies have working relationships with scientists and engineers and their expertise is instrumental to effective policy-making in line areas of policy like health, environment, industry, communications, defence, education and so on. The Primary Industries and Energy portfolio has a specialised agency, the Bureau of Resource Sciences, which is responsible for managing the interface between science and policy and interpreting scientific knowledge for the benefit of decision makers. This promotes better linkage between scientific and technical knowledge and strategic policy and program formation. 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 and engineers provide advice on environmental issues to all spheres of government through the Australian Science and 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. Scientific and technical inputs are sought in the development of negotiations towards international agreements, and consultative processes enable the public to comment on these inputs (e.g. development of an Australian position on the Biosafety Protocol).  

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations

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.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

Australian Governments recognise the important role 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 Agenda 21.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

No information is available

Programmes and Projects 

The Research and Development Corporations are research funding and investment agencies, financed by government and industry, which also determine their priorities. Many contribute by disseminating information to industry and the public on sustainable land use and agricultural practices, again improving the interface between science and decision-making, as well as the implementation of scientific results

 

Status 

 

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.

 

Challenges  

 

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information is available

Information   

No information is available

Research and Technologies   

No information is available

Financing   

No information is available

Cooperation  

No information is available

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

 

FARMERS

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

The Government plays an important role in policy and program formulation and acts as a catalyst for development while relying on broad-based consultation with the relevant communities. The Government also consults a wide range of farmer and community groups on both a formal and informal basis through peak industry and welfare associations.
State Governments have a major role to ensure adequate infrastructure, education and health facilities, tele-communications and law enforcement.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

No information is available

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans 

The Government recognises that rural communities do not have the same capacity as urban areas to raise public revenue; yet rural industries are major export earners in the Australian economy.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement   

The Government also consults a wide range of community groups on both a formal and informal basis. These groups include the National Farmers' Federation, a wide range of rural industry associations, the Country Women's Association, The Australian Council of Social Service, the Isolated Children's Parents' Association, the National Rural Health Alliance, the Australian Mining Industry Council, Australian Women in Agriculture, the Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women, the Rural Adjustment Scheme Advisory Council.

Programmes and Projects 

There is an increased emphasis on broad-based community consultation in Government policies and programs for rural communities. The success of this approach has been demonstrated under the National Landcare Program. Program supports activities, which contribute to the sustainable management of land, water and vegetation, in line with regional State and national strategies. Natural Heritage Trust funding of around $280 million will refocus the National Landcare Program, broadening its scope by tackling specific on-the-ground projects and taking a more integrated approach to its activities.

Australian farmers work in a fragile environment that is subject to significant and unpredictable changes in climatic conditions, market fluctuations and volatile commodity prices. The FarmBis Program, which builds on property management planning, provides a framework for promoting a positive approach to change across the farm sector. FarmBis will assist all those involved in the farm business, including employees, to build on their existing skills and improve the performance of the farm business in terms of its profitability and sustainability. FarmBis will commence operations on 1 July 1998. 

Status 

Approximately one-third of Australia's population lives in rural and remote areas and a significant proportion of these people are farmers and their families. Social and economic opportunities for these communities are vital to the sustainable development of the nation's economy and future. A community-based approach, directly involving farmers and rural community groups, supported by government, has proved to be the most effective model to effect progress in sustainable development in regional and rural areas. This is consistent with the market-based approach to agricultural development and the achievement of self-reliance of farmers.

Challenges  

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising 

No information is available

Information   

No information is available

Research and Technologies   

No information is available

Financing   

No information is available

Cooperation

No information is available

 

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This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th and 6th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 Jun 1998.

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SCIENCE 

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is the pre-eminent body for national, or federal, decision-making. It incorporates science into policy development through working groups, expert reports and expertise from the bureaucracy.

At a broad level, the Commonwealth Government of Australia has a number of science advisory bodies, which provide an across-government view of major issues. These include the Chief Scientist, the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council, the Australian Science, Technology and Engineering Council, the Coordination Committee on Science and Technology, and the Genetic Manipulation Advisory Committee.

The Australian Science, Engineering and Innovation Council provides independent advice to the Commonwealth Government of Australia on a wide range of policies and programs related to science and technology. This includes advice on matters relating to the development and application of science and technology in relation to the furtherance of the national well-being, including sustainable development.

Scientists are also involved either directly or indirectly in the work of a number of inter-governmental Ministerial Committees and their related standing committee structures, which inform the policy development process. Examples of these include ARMCANZ, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management, ANZECC, the Standing Committee on Conservation, MCFFA and the Standing Committees on Forestry and Fisheries and Aquaculture respectively.

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations

Apart from the above coordination and advisory mechanisms, the Commonwealth Government of Australia has a number of ways in which it incorporates science into its decision-making processes. The Departments of Industry, Science and Tourism, Primary Industries and Energy, and the Environment each incorporate in-house and externally-sourced scientific inputs as part of their normal policy advisory processes.

 

The Department of Primary Industries and Energy incorporates three professionally independent research bureaux within its structure; these are the Bureau of Resource Sciences (BRS), the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) and the Australian Government Survey Organization (AGSO). Each of these bureaux, within their respective spheres of expertise, contribute to the maintenance of integrated research and information bases for ecologically sustainable development.

The Bureau of Resource Sciences (BRS) has a unique role to play at the interface between science and policy through its role in analyzing, assessing and packaging science for the sustainable development of Australia's primary, energy and resource industries. 

The Australian Geological Survey Organization 's (AGSO) role, which has been complemented by other policy-related programs, has been to provide technical information and monitoring systems to help decision-making. AGSO's expertise in the science of water resource management falls into three broadly interlinked areas: groundwater resources, groundwater quality and land management.

Australia has a number of well-developed mechanisms, which relate directly to the management of the nation's natural resources and environment. For managed fisheries, the Commonwealth has established management advisory committees and consultative committees that facilitate communication between scientists, managers and industry. Australia's Regional Forest Agreement process involves scientists, industry, government and the community interacting closely in the assessment of biodiversity and other values of forests prior to community consultations regarding areas to be included in reserves. Community consultations are informed by the scientific assessments of environmental and heritage values of forests, assessments of forests' economic value and the vulnerability of forest dependent communities to changes in the uses of forests.

 

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

 

In Australia, science and research-based institutions play a significant role in providing advice for national decision-making on sustainable development issues. This occurs through both formal and informal mechanisms and in relation to both policy and program development.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement 

Outside government structures, there are many other mechanisms, which facilitate the transfer of scientific knowledge and dialogue among scientists and between scientists and the public. These include scientific societies and professional bodies such as the Australian Society of Soil Science, the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology, the Geological Society of Australia and the Rangelands Society.

Programmes and Projects 

In Australia there are many mechanisms to facilitate dialogue among the scientific community, the Government and the public in relation to sustainable development issues.   The Commonwealth Government of Australia has established a number of institutions, which directly facilitate this dialogue. These include the various inter-governmental Ministerial Councils and their related standing and research working group structures in the areas of nature conservation, agriculture and resource management, forestry and fisheries. The Government has also established a range of research and development corporations in the primary industries and natural resource management sectors. These provide a direct mechanism for governments, public and private users of research, and research bodies to interact. Examples include the Land and Water Resources R&D Corporation, the Forest and Wood Products R&D Corporation and the Fisheries R&D Corporation. 

The Government has provided funding to support the work of 62 Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs ) since May 1990. CRCs involve the bringing together of researchers from universities, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and other government laboratories, and private industry. The Program emphasizes the importance of developing internationally competitive industry sectors. It also addresses the health and well being of Australian society, the understanding and management of the environment, and the interaction of all these objectives to achieve ecologically sustainable development.

In addition, CSIRO has established sector advisory committees, which draw upon the advice of, and ensure a high level of dialogue with, CSIRO's various public and private sector clients. CSIRO also interacts closely with commercial clients in developing research outputs to meet user needs.

The 1996 State of Environment (SoE) report addressed issues relating to water quality, water use and environmental flows in a chapter based on Australian research. Over the next four years the National Land and Water Resources Audit will contribute significantly to providing scientifically based information about water issues to decision-makers.

Status 

Australia has an advanced science base, and, in many fields, Australia's scientists are at the leading edge of research. Specific strengths relevant to sustainable development include remote sensing; climate change research; numerical modelling; dryland farming, irrigation research and salinity control; fisheries science, near shore and coral reef marine biology and ecology, limnology and water management, geology and mining technology; and the biology and ecology of the Australian biota.

The development of links between indigenous knowledge and modern science is a relatively new field in Australia and is an increasingly urgent task as traditional knowledge and culture are lost with the passing of traditional lifestyles. Some work has been done by scientists in central Australia working with the Mutitjulu community, revealing an understanding of the relationships between landforms, plants, creatures and people, very different from prevailing scientific paradigms. They concluded that the detailed understanding of habitat preferences and the behaviour of rare, threatened and exotic species could be well utilized in future monitoring of wildlife conservation.

There is an increasing recognition of the links between ecology and health. The National Health and Medical Research Council is formulating principles for ecology and health and considering ways to include health into environmental impact assessment procedures. The Genetic Manipulation Authority has been established to oversee the management of the environmental and health risks of the new biotechnologies.

The Environmental Research Institute of the Supervising Scientist conducts research on the environmental impact of mining, particularly uranium mining, to enable the development of standards, practices, and procedures that will ensure protection of the environment both during mining operations and following rehabilitation.

Science education is part of the public education system and is available to all sectors of the community regardless of socio-economic status. In addition, the science sector is undertaking several projects that are directed to meeting the needs of the poor. For example, the Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO) has conducted several studies focused on improving both the quantity and quality of water supplies for Aborigines in arid environments.

CSIRO conducts over $120m of research annually into environmental areas, a great deal of it related to the objective of sustainable use and management of natural resources. In the biodiversity area for example, a major program aim is to examine the functional role of biodiversity in ecosystems, aiming to help achieve land management practices which optimize the balance among production, the conservation of biodiversity and the maintenance of ecosystem function. Another program looks at sustainable tourism, maximising sustainable economic, environmental and social benefits for Australia' s tourism industry while minimizing detrimental impacts.

Similarly, CSIRO work in the marine area covers sustainable use of fish stocks, and several programs in its forestry sector relate to sustainability in both native and plantation forests. In CSIRO's mining and energy sectors, a good deal of research has addressed sustainability as part of seeking greater efficiency in mining and energy production. More recently a major project has begun to demonstrate new concepts for the production of distributed electric power at very much higher total thermal efficiencies through a solar-fossil fuel hybrid system incorporating fuel cells.

Challenges  

No information is available

Capacity-building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

No information is available

Information 

Australia is increasingly using electronic means to promote information exchange and availability among the scientific community, the Government and the public at large. Most national and state institutions with an interest in sustainable development issues, public and private, have either developed or are planning to develop, web sites as part of their communication strategies.

Environmental indicators are a relatively new field, and research is progressing in some areas. The Land and Water Resources R&D Corporation and the Grains and Meat R&D Corporation are respectively developing indicators of sustainable production systems. Individual agencies are also developing specialist electronic databases. To encourage research and further development of Australia's environmental industries, environmental technologies have been declared 'generic' by the Government under the generic technologies grants scheme for industrial research. Industry also benefits from a general 125% tax deduction for expenditure on R&D.

Monitoring and reporting on a set of indicators for state of the environment reporting is becoming an important mechanism for informing the dialogue between scientists, governments and the community. Environment Australia is currently managing the development of a set of scientifically-credible indicators for SoE reporting. In addition, these national indicators are being used as a guide for the development of State environmental indicators within States and Territories through the ANZECC SoE Taskforce. These will eventually form an important component for reporting indicators of ecologically sustainable development. 

Research and Technologies   

No information is available

Financing 

The Australian Research Council is the primary funding agency for universities and funds research projects, which range across all aspects of environment and development. The National Health and Medical Research Council funds health-related research.

CSIRO often works in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government departments and makes submissions to many inquiries relevant to sustainable development, including those run by Parliamentary committees, ASTEC and the Industry Commission. CSIRO devotes over 10% of its budget specifically to environmental research and has in place a number of large multidisciplinary programs addressing climate change, the coastal zone, integrated pest management, land and water care and mine site rehabilitation.

Funding for most of the research by the above institutions is sourced directly from government appropriations, including the Natural Heritage Trust, and from competitive tendering for project funding from bodies such as the Research and Development Corporations and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.

The research is diffused by a number of mechanisms but most commonly through government or private extension services and by the research community with funding contracts that specify the need for a diffusion strategy, which can include users, policy groups, regional resource management organizations and community groups. Many projects are undertaken in the context of broader natural resource management strategies, which involve partnerships between industry, researchers, government agencies and community groups.

Cooperation  

Australian scientists are involved in a broad range of international bodies of relevance to sustainable development. They take part in international meetings charged with developing or implementing international conventions (e.g. Desertification, Biodiversity, Climate Change, fisheries regimes etc) particularly, but not only, through science sub-groups such as the IPCC and the 'Montreal Process' Working Group. 

Internationally, AGSO is currently working on the mitigation of threats from volcanic eruptions in Papua New Guinea and potential longer-term amelioration of drought conditions in Papua New Guinea. Similarly, it has also conducted work on rural water resources planning in the Republic of South Africa and has contributed to a range of other studies aimed at alleviation of rural poverty.

 

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th and 6th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 June 1998.

Click here for the Department of Industry, Science and Tourism.

Click here for the CSIRO homepage.

Click here for the Australian Antarctic Division web site on science.

Click here for National Resource Information Center.

Click here for the Australian Geological Survey Organization.

Click here for the Department of Primary Industries and Energy.

Click here for the Bureau of Resources Sciences.

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INFORMATION

Decision-Making: Coordinating Bodies    

Environmental information is held by a diverse range of institutions in Australia. The primary responsibility for the collection and collation of economic and social statistics in Australia rests with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).  

The Commonwealth of Australia is a federation of six self-governing States and two self-governing mainland Territories. The Australian (sometimes referred to as the Commonwealth or Federal) Government's powers and responsibilities are defined in the Australian Constitution.  The State and Territory Governments are responsible for all other matters. State and Territory Governments also have established systems of Local Government. There are some 683 Local Councils in Australia.  Local Government environmental responsibilities vary depending on the State/Territory jurisdiction, but include activities such as land use planning and management, and infrastructure and service provision.

Responsibilities and powers related to sustainable development are not specifically dealt with in the Australian Constitution, and are not the sole province of any one sphere of government. Each level of government in Australia is responsible for aspects of sustainable development. There is recognition that environment and sustainable development issues often transcend government boundaries and need to be addressed on a local, regional, national and international basis.

There is a range of mechanisms overseeing development of national strategies and policies for ecologically sustainable development (ESD).  These mechanisms provide Ministerial and administrative frameworks informing and advising ESD policy process and development. Overall coordination is effected through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). COAG is the most senior intergovernmental forum of all Australian Governments, consisting of the heads of the Federal, State and Territory Governments, and the President of the Australian Local Government Association. Relevant Ministerial Councils include:

  • the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ);
  • the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC);
  • the Australian and New Zealand Minerals and Energy Council (ANZMEC); Ministerial Council for Fisheries and Forestry of Australia (MCFFA);
  • the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MDBC); and
  • the National Environment Protection Council (NEPC).

Each of these Ministerial Councils has established working groups reporting to the respective Councils on matters of specific interest.  Information on these Ministerial Councils can be found at web-site address http://www.dpmc.gov.au/briefing/doc/Compendium.pdf

For more information on the Australian system of government and related mechanisms, visit the Commonwealth-State Relations Secretariat home page at http://www.dpmc.gov.au/comm_state_index.html

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations  

State of the environment (SoE) reporting processes are being increasingly adopted by Australian governments.  New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory have adopted legislative requirements for state of environment reporting. The New South Wales Government has also made it mandatory for local governments in that State to undertake state of the environment reporting.  State of Environment Reports have been produced by all Australian States and Territories except the Northern Territory.  Data from local SoE government reports feeds into State/Government, particularly where a number of councils have collaborated to produce regional reports.  

The Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), which came into force on 16 July 2000, promotes ecologically sustainable development through the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources.  It focuses Commonwealth interests on environmental aspects defined as matters of national environmental significance. The Act also requires the production of national State of the Environment Reports every five years. Information on matters of national environmental significance, as well as extensive information and guidance to project proponents and the public, is available through the Environment Australia Internet home page at http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/

As part of the Australian Government’s approach to achieving ESD, the EPBC Act includes new mandatory ESD reporting requirements for Australian Government agencies.  Paragraph 516A(6)(a) is particularly relevant because agencies are obliged to report on the extent to which ESD principles are applied in decision making. The relevant ESD principles (defined in section 3A of the EPBC Act) include: integrated decision making; use of the precautionary principle; inter-generational equity; the fundamental importance of biological diversity and ecological integrity in decision making; and the use of alternative policy instruments.

The requirements establish a whole-of-government ESD performance reporting framework for all Australian Government agencies to report on the ecological sustainability of their operations, policies, programs and outcomes. These mandatory reports will be public documents and therefore available for Parliamentary and public scrutiny. The Auditor-General has powers to audit a Government agency’s compliance with these reporting requirements. The first reporting period is for 2000-2001.

Other Commonwealth legislation, regulation and policy instruments are mentioned in the relevant sections throughout this document.

Web-sites

Australian Bureau of Statistics - http://www.abs.gov.au/

Australian Biological Resources Study - http://www.anbg.gov.au/abrs/index.html

Australian Surveying and Land Information Group - http://www.auslig.gov.au/

Australian State of the Environment Reporting - http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/index.html

Bureau of Meteorology - http://www.bom.gov.au/

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia -  http://www.affa.gov.au

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 - http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/index.html

Environmental Resource Information Network - http://www.erin/psg/erin/index.html

Legislation administered by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage - http://www.environment.gov.au/corporate/legislation.html

National Land and Water Resources Audit - http://www.nlwra/

National Pollutant Inventory - http://www.npi.ea.gov.au

National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development - http://www.environment.gov.au/psg/igu/

National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity - http://chm.environment.gov.au/strategy/contents.html

Natural Heritage Trust - http://www.nht.gov.au/index.html

Regional Forest Agreements – http://www.rfa.gov.au

Australian State of the Environment Reporting

Since 1992, there has been general international agreement on the need to provide quantifiable advice regarding achievement of sustainable development to policy makers.  

The objectives of state of the environment reporting in Australia are:

  • To provide accurate timely and accessible information about the condition and prospects of the Australian environment; 
  • To provide an early warning of potential problems;
  • To report on the effectiveness of policies and programs designed to respond to environmental change, including progress towards achieving environmental standards and targets.

In these ways, state of the environment reporting contributes to policy making and goal setting.

Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (1992 - see web-site address http://www.environment.gov.au/psg/igu/nsesd/index.htm) called for a comprehensive, independent Australian State of the Environment (SoE) Report. The first such report was released in 1996, providing information on the condition of and, pressures upon, Australia's natural and human settlements environments, and responses to these pressures and conditions.  Under the EPBC Act, national state of the environment reporting is now a legal requirement, with national reports to be produced every five-years.

A core set of indicators for environmental reporting, derived from sets of theme indicators (based on the seven environmental themes for SoE reporting), was endorsed by the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC – see http://www.environment.gov.au/psg/igu/anzecc/index.html).

Headline Indicators

Australia is also developing a set of headline indicators to illustrate national sustainability trends and broadly assess Australia’s progress towards the core objectives of the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development. This draft set of headline indicators is currently under consideration by all Australian jurisdictions, and was released for public consultation in July 2000.

The headline indicators cover themes at a generic and representative level. They provide an overall “score card” of Australia’s sustainability performance.  Trends in these indicators will help us to identify any major threats to our national well-being by providing a starting point for tracking an underlying cause to a larger, "parent" set of data, for example, Australian Bureau of Statistics publications, the national State of the Environment Report and the National Land and Water Resources Audit (NLWRA). Only in the context of these larger sets, will the headline indicators provide information which is useful for national policy making and goal setting."

Sectoral Indicators

Sustainability assessment is under way in Australia in a number of sectors, particularly forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and water.  Sectoral indicators are intended to provide more detailed information than the headline indicators referred to above, and to act as sustainability management or policy tools for specific sectors.  A range of approaches is employed for each of these sectors, and efforts to develop consistency across sectors is progressing.  Sector-specific indicators are being developed, and data collected against them, as a part of voluntary eco-efficiency agreements between industry associations and Environment Australia.

Forests

Montreal Process criteria and indicators provide the basis for assessing progress towards sustainable forest management, both nationally and within sub-national forest regions. A framework of regional indicators was endorsed by Ministerial Councils in 1998. The framework comprised 7 criteria and 67 indicators, and was designed to be applicable to all forests and tenures, Regional Forest Agreement.

The next State of the Environment and State of the Forests reports, as well as the report to the Montreal Process in 2003, will be based on a framework of regional indicators.

Agriculture

A framework of five key indicators and 19 attributes has been developed through Ministerial Council processes. The five indicators cover: economic, on-site and off-site environmental and social (managerial and off-site) aspects. The first national report was published in 1998 and documents national findings for 11 agro-ecological regions across Australia. The report was basically a snapshot in time and it is intended to repeat the assessment in five years time, using data developed through the National Land and Water Resources Audit.

Fisheries

The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture is developing a framework for assessing the sustainability of commercial fisheries.

Social Indicators

The Bureau of Rural Sciences is undertaking three projects to develop social indicators for sustainable resource management. The first project is developing indicators of access to services, the second is to develop general indicators of rural community ‘health’, and the third project is development of social indicators of capacity to change for the National Land and Water Resources Audit.

Web-sites

Australian's state of the environment reports and environmental indicator program - http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/index.html

Headline Indicators - http://www.environment.gov.au/psg/igu/index.html

Australia’s participation in the Montreal Process:

http://www.dpie.gov.au/agfor/forests/montreal

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

Harmonisation of and standardisation of data on sustainable development a national and international levels;

There is no single, central national strategy or plan for this purpose.  Harmonisation and standardisation of data is carried out on a sectoral or issue-specific basis.  

 Establishment of a comprehensive national and international information network;

The National Office of the Information Economy is working to assist the establishment of a comprehensive national and international information network. The Australian Bureau of Statistics administers a number of programs that also contribute to the establishment of this network.

Preservation and capacity building of information related to traditional and indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous Knowledge

In response to the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia’s Biodiversity (see web-site http://chm.environment.gov.au/strategy/contents.html) call for identification of biodiversity research priorities, a discussion paper entitled “Biodiversity Research – Australia’s Priorities” has been prepared and circulated for input from stakeholders.  Currently identified priorities include preservation of indigenous peoples’ knowledge regarding conservation of ecological communities, and species distribution, habitat and conservation.   

The Commonwealth Government will fund two projects in 2000-01, supporting indigenous communities to preserve their ethno-biological knowledge for biodiversity conservation.  The projects will enable indigenous communities to record aspects of their traditional ecological knowledge, enhancing community ownership and use of this knowledge. These projects will complement other projects contributing to the inter-generational transfer of ethno-biological knowledge, being run by indigenous organisations, universities and State/Territory agencies.

The Environment Protection and Conservation Biodiversity Act 1999 (EPBC Act) enables the Commonwealth Minister for Environment and Heritage to enter into conservation agreements for the protection of biodiversity on indigenous land, taking account of indigenous knowledge and use of biodiversity. The Act also provides for the establishment of an Indigenous Advisory Committee and for indigenous representation on the Biological Diversity Advisory Committee.

A range of ethno-biological activities is funded under the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) Program. IPA projects often involve the collection and recording of traditional ethno-biological knowledge. Significant ethno-biological projects are also undertaken at Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kakadu and Booderee National Parks, which are jointly managed with their traditional owners. The Commonwealth Government has established a network of Indigenous Land Management Facilitators to assist indigenous communities access programs supporting their land management aspirations.

Decision-Making: Major Groups involvement 

Scientific and technological community

Scientific expertise is integrated into policy-making at all spheres of government. At an operational level, most agencies have working relationships with scientists and engineers.  Their expertise is instrumental to effective policy-making for areas such as health, industry, agriculture, environment, communications, defence and education.

Distinguished scientists and engineers provide advice on environmental issues to all spheres of government through the Australian Science and Technology Council (http://www.astec.gov.au/), and the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (http://www.disr.gov.au/science/pmseic/pmseic.html).  Parliamentary committees regularly examine science-related issues of national importance, holding public hearings across the country. Specialist bodies, such as the National Greenhouse Advisory Committee, provide governments with expert scientific advice on specific issues.  Scientific and technical inputs are sought during negotiation of international agreements, and consultative processes enable the public to comment on these inputs.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO - http://www.csiro.au/) provides a wide range of scientific information. For example, CSIRO is a key partner in the Cooperative Research Centres Program (http://www.isr.gov.au/crc/index.html), established in 1990 and administered by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

A number of Research and Development Corporations have been established through legislation.  They are generally funded by industry levies and Commonwealth Government contributions, and their priorities are set by industry and government.  R&D Corporations disseminate information on sustainable land use and agricultural practices to industry and the public, assisting the linkage between science and decision making.

The Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS - http://www.affa.gov.au/outputs/ruralscience.html) and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE - http://www.affa.gov.au/outputs/economics.html) are independent research bodies operating within the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry portfolio.  BRS and ABARE provide advice to government assisting the sustainable development of Australian agricultural, food, fisheries and forest industries.

Indigenous people

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC - http://www.atsic.gov.au/default_ns.asp) is a decentralised organisation combining representative, policy-making and administrative elements.  It was designed to put into effect the principle of self-determination for Indigenous Australians.  Aboriginal Land Councils represent indigenous interests relating to land matters, and related environmental and social issues, in a number of geographic regions.  Indigenous groups jointly manage a number of national parks, including Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kakadu, Gurig and Nitmiluk in the Northern Territory, and Witjira in South Australia.  Traditional indigenous knowledge and practices are being increasingly incorporated into the management of these areas.

Non Government Organisations (NGOs)

Many government programs promoting sustainable development are based on partnerships with industry and the community.  Cooperation between industry associations and governments also contributes to the collection, analysis and dissemination of information.  

Local Authorities.

Most Councils in each State and Territory are represented by their respective State/Territory Local Government Association.  National level representation of local government interests is undertaken by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).  ALGA has launched the Internet-based Australian Local Government Information Network (ALGIN), aiming to involve 80% of Australia's Councils within the next two years.

Industry

Industry is being consulted in the development of eco-efficiency indicators against which data will be collected through ABS surveys and voluntary eco-efficiency agreements with industry associations.

Web-sites

Australian Local Government Association - http://www.alga.com.au/

Australian Local Government Information Network - http://www.algin.net.au/

INFOTERRA - http://www.environment.gov.au/library/infoterra

Many Government programs promoting sustainable development are based on partnerships with industry and the community.  In most cases, private sector groups involved in such partnerships actively promote their involvement and contributions to the public, through a variety of fora.  For example, private companies are extensively involved in establishing communications infrastructure, in accordance with government policies and regulations.

Non-government organisations

NGOs have been involved in development of the Commonwealth's state of the environment reporting program (http://www.environment.gov.au/soe/index.html) since its inception, with particular emphasis upon scientific and academic expertise.  This began with the release of a discussion paper for public comment in December 1992.  Industry and community groups also participated in an associated two-day workshop.  Representatives from five NGOs sat on the Advisory Council overseeing production of the 1996 State of the Environment Report.

States and Territories

Much of the data and information for state of the environment reporting is provided by the States and Territories under arrangement with the Commonwealth. For most natural resource management data, the Commonwealth is not the data custodian.

From 1997 onwards, academic and scientific experts have contributed significantly to the development of indicators for continent-wide state of the environment reporting.  Release of a 1998 discussion paper on core indicators resulted in over one hundred submissions from academics, government agencies, conservation groups, consultants and industry groups.

The Australian State of the Environment Committee, overseeing production of the 2001 State of the Environment Report, includes scientific and heritage experts from NGOs. In addition scientists, NGOs and a wide range of experts have been involved in the preparation of the 2001 SoE report as members of expert review panels or as peer reviewers of each of the seven theme chapters.

Consultation on development of Headline Sustainability Indicators

These indicators are being developed through a stakeholder and public consultation process.  Government agencies are directly consulting their key stakeholders, including NGOs and industry groups.  Public input to the set has also been sought and incorporated in development of the Set."  

Programmes and Projects   

Information management framework

The Australian Government's Strategic Framework for the Information Economy Statement (January 1999 – see web-site address http://www.noie.gov.au/projects/information_economy/strategic_framework/index.htm) sets out a national vision and framework for Australia’s information economy.  

The Commonwealth’s information management framework:

  •  provides increased access to, and efficient distribution of, Government information products within the Government and to the public;
  • encourages the use of electronic transactions wherever possible; and
  • removes unnecessary regulations.

The National Office for the Information Economy (NOIE) was established in 1997 as Australia's lead Commonwealth agency for information economy issues. It is tasked with developing, overseeing, and coordinating Commonwealth Government policy on electronic commerce, on-line services and the Internet.

The Australian Government intends to incorporate the functions of the current Office for Government On-line into the NOIE and establish the NOIE as an Executive Agency within the Communications, Information Technology and the Arts portfolio.  This will assist the provision of a coordinated approach to addressing technical, regulatory and social issues affecting government, business and consumers, in the take-up of on-line services and the development of the information economy.

The framework includes provisions for fair and equitable access, especially for those in regional areas or those with disabilities. It recognises the various delivery mechanisms for information dissemination, from the traditional paper-based approach to electronic delivery. The framework focuses on simplifying access to information and utilising the benefits of electronic commerce by:

The National Office of the Information Economy (NOIE) is currently working to identify barriers preventing equitable access to the Internet. NOIE is developing policies and practices to address these barriers, including an 'enabling' program to explain and facilitate access to the information economy.

Government On-line Strategy

In December 1997, the Prime Minister committed the Australian Government to bringing all appropriate Government services on-line, via the Internet, by 2001. The Australian Government recently released its Government On-line Strategy, setting out an operational framework for agencies to meet the Prime Minister's commitment.

Considerable progress has been made in bringing information and services on-line. The vast majority of agencies have web-sites, and nearly half of agencies surveyed offer some degree of interactivity with on-line services or databases.

Universal Internet Access

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS – see http://www.abs.gov.au) data at August 2000 shows that 33% of Australian households are connected to the Internet.  While Australian Internet use overall is increasing very rapidly, disparities in on-line access do exist. These disparities are related to socio-economic factors such as income and education, and to other factors such as access to suitable communication infrastructure.

The Australian Government's multi-faceted approach to this issue comprises: regulatory initiatives to encourage greater competition in the telecommunications market; grants programs to fund the development of telecommunications infrastructure, community access facilities and training; a range of educational skills development initiatives; and providing electronic government services accessible to all community sectors.

Information Infrastructure Development

Infrastructure development has occurred in metropolitan, regional and rural areas right across Australia.  The most significant initiative is the Networking the Nation (NTN) program and associated Social Bonus programs, mostly managed through the Department for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA). These initiatives are designed to upgrade telecommunications infrastructure and services for communities in regional, rural and remote Australia. NTN administers funds totalling AUD$421 million for the Building Additional Rural Networks, Local Government Fund, Internet Access and Remote and Isolated Islands programs.

The development of community-based access centres has also been of paramount importance to the Australian Government. The Department of Transport and Regional Services (DTRS) is managing a 5-year, AUD$70 million rural transaction centre program.  The program helps small, rural communities establish centres providing access to basic banking, postage, telephone, facsimile, Internet, Centrelink, and Medicare Easyclaim transaction services.

Information Education and Training

Commonwealth and State Governments have undertaken considerable efforts to develop community IT education and training programs. The Commonwealth Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs (DETYA – see web-site address http://www.detya.gov.au/) in consultation with other education and training authorities, has developed an Education and Training Action Plan for the Information Economy (see web-site address http://www.detya.gov.au/edu/edactplan.htm). The Commonwealth recently announced funding of up to AUD$5 million to establish an Information Technology and Telecommunications (IT&T) Skills Exchange, to address the current shortage of IT&T skills.

Web-sites

Key Government initiatives for strengthening electronic networking capabilities are:

Government On-line - The Commonwealth Government Strategy - http://www.govonline.gov.au/projects/strategy/GovOnlineStrategy.htm

The National Office for the Information Economy - http://www.noie.gov.au/

Department for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts -http://www.dcita.gov.au

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Office - http://www.hreoc.gov.au/

Department of Transport and Regional Services - http://www.dotrs.gov.au

Australia is committed to further improving its collection, assessment, analysis, integration, harmonisation and standardisation, and accessibility of data, including information on environmental sustainable development issues. Examples of specific programs are outlined below.  

Australian Bureau of Statistics Programs

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) provides a national statistical service to assist and encourage informed decision-making, research and discussion within governments and the community.

The ABS develops and maintains environmental accounts integrating physical and monetary data in a consistent framework.  These accounts follow the guidelines set out in Integrated Environmental and Economic Accounting (UN 1993a), which is a complement to the System of National Accounts (SNA) (UN 1993b),

Physical accounts, showing the stocks and flows of natural resources, have been completed for energy (1996), minerals (1998), fish (1999) and water (2000). An updated Energy Account for Australia, including associated greenhouse gas emissions, is nearing completion.

The ABS includes estimates for non-produced (natural) assets, including land, subsoil and forest assets, in its annual presentation of the national balance sheet.  Data for public and private sector expenditure on environmental protection, for 1995-96 and 1996-97, was released last year.  These estimates were collected according to a comprehensive international framework (European System for the Collection of Economic Information on the Environment -SERIEE) which allowed for detailed estimates by environmental issue to be presented, consistent with the System of National Accounts.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics is currently piloting a survey of business in Australia to gather information on environmental performance.  The survey will address issues regarding benefits to business of environmental activity, as well as expenditure issues.  The survey will collect data reported against eco-efficiency indicators, incorporated under voluntary eco-efficiency agreements between industry associations and Environment Australia, on an annual basis.  It will be far more comprehensive than the current sectoral surveys it replaces.  The first full survey will be conducted in 2001.  

Australia New Zealand Land Information Council and Commonwealth Spatial Data Committee Programs

Frameworks for strategic information infrastructure, including environment and natural resource data and information, are being developed under the auspices of the Australia New Zealand Land Information Council (ANZLIC) and the Commonwealth Spatial Data Committee (CSDC). Most States and Territories are well advanced in implementing whole‑of‑government approaches.

The Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (AUSLIG ) provides national, fundamental geographic information to support natural resource management, mining, agriculture, transport, communications, defence and emergency activities.  AUSLIG continues to revise and upgrade its key mapping, remote sensing and geodetic products and is providing greater access to products through on-line cataloguing, ordering and delivery mechanisms.  AUSLIG represents Australia in international spatial information forums and contributes to national policy and coordination.

National Greenhouse Gas Inventory

In accordance with the requirements the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the National Greenhouse Strategy, Australia compiles an annual National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGGI). The NGGI is an important policy tool for the development and review of greenhouse gas reduction measures, and for assessing progress towards our national emissions reduction target.  See web-site http://www.greenhouse.gov.au for further information.  

Australia has produced an annual inventory of national greenhouse gas emissions since 1990, meeting obligations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. These inventories provide baseline data assisting review of response action, and development of greenhouse gas emissions projections. The 1998 National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, released in July 2000, provides the latest report on Australia's greenhouse gas emissions. This inventory incorporates improvements in data collection and updates emission estimates recorded in the 1990-1997 inventories.

The NGGI is publicly accessible through both hardcopy and on-line publications. The documents provide estimates of greenhouse gas emissions in key sectors and sub-sectors of the economy as well as some macro level indicators. Where possible, activity level data (eg. number of animals, tonnes aluminium produced) is also reported.

Further information on Australia’s transport related greenhouse gas emissions is available at http://www.greenhouse.gov.au

National Carbon Accounting System

Australia’s National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS – see web-site address http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/ncas/) will provide a complete accounting and forecasting capability for human-induced sources and sinks of greenhouse gas emissions from Australian land based systems. The system will underpin Australia’s national reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its instruments.  

The National Carbon Accounting System is compiling and collating extensive remotely sensed and field observation data on natural resources. A variety of data is published and made publicly accessible via access protocols and management agreements with distributors. Access to this data will occur primarily via the Internet. This data set should be available during 2001.

National Land and Water Resources Audit

The Commonwealth has committed $35m over 5 years to the National Land and Water Resources Audit (see web-site address http://www.nlwra/). The Audit will provide a national appraisal of Australia's land, water and vegetation natural resource base.  The Audit report is due in the second half of 2001.   The Audit will develop a national system of compatible and readily accessible data. It will interpret the economic, environmental and social costs and benefits of resource change and remedial actions. The Audit will examine changes in the extent and condition of Australia's native vegetation cover and introduced pastures and crops.

Regional Forest Agreements

Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) are 20-year agreements between the Commonwealth and individual State governments, covering the use and management of native forests in various regions. Each RFA is under-pinned by a comprehensive collection of data on conservation, social and economic forest values.  They are subject to five-yearly reviews, during which new data on sustainability outcomes for RFA regions will be generated.  This data will be generated using agreed subsets of the Montreal Process criteria and indicators.

Public Environmental Reporting

The Australian Government released a national framework for public environmental reporting (PER) in March 2000.  Over 8,000 copies have been distributed.  PER extension officers have been placed in three major industry associations, to promote PER to members of those associations.  A web site has been developed to provide specific examples of PERs for information to industry (http://www.environment.gov.au/epg/environet/eecp/tools3.html).

 

National Pollutant Inventory

The National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) is a publicly available (Internet) database providing information on the types and amounts of certain chemicals being discharged into the environment. The NPI is a Pollutant Release Transfer Register program, however, it does not currently include transfers.  Nearly 1200 reports on emissions from industrial facilities across Australia are available, as well as information on diffuse or mobile emissions into major airsheds and nutrient emissions into priority catchments.

Further information on the NPI is available at http://www.npi.ea.gov.au

National Forest Inventory

Australia’s National Forest Inventory (NFI), a cooperative venture between Commonwealth, State and Territory governments, is the national focal point for a range of objective information about Australia’s 157 million hectares of forest. The NFI collates and reports information about Australia’s public and private native, plantation and farm forests, fulfilling national and international reporting requirements. This information, which includes data relating to extent, growth stage, height, floristics, tenure, and crown canopy cover is used by Governments, industry and non-government organisations.

The NFI periodically reports on implementation of Australia’s sub-national indicators of sustainable forest management. The NFI formed the basis of Australia’s first State of the Forests Report (1998) and is currently preparing for the second report (2003). The Report provides a detailed and comprehensive picture of Australia’s forest resources and related management, including ecological, economic and social perspectives.  Further information about the NFI is available at web-site address http://www.brs.gov.au/nfi.

Eco Efficiency Agreements

Information on business’ environmental performance will be collected on an annual basis through voluntary eco-efficiency agreements being developed with industry associations.

Biological Diversity

The Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) aims to provide the underlying taxonomic knowledge necessary for the conservation and sustainable use of Australia's biodiversity. ABRS delivers fundamental and comprehensive information on all forms of Australian biota. This information is made available to all sectors of the Australian community.

Australian Libraries Gateway

The Australian Libraries Gateway (ALG) is a free, Internet-based directory service providing information on over 5,400 Australian libraries, and their collections and services. Its ultimate aim is to provide information for every library in Australia. The Gateway has been developed by the National Library of Australia.

INFOTERRA

A prototype portal web-site for the Australian INFOTERRA National Focal Point has been created by Environment Australia.  The purpose of the INFOTERRA Australia site is to provide a single entry point to Australian environmental information. The prototype site can be found at http://www.environment.gov.au/library/infoterra

National Resource Information Centre (NRIC)

The NRIC has been established by Bureau of Rural Sciences (BRS ). NRIC’s sustainable development program provides policy makers with high quality, up-to-date scientific information for the formulation, implementation and revision of sustainable development policies and programs.  The NRIC maintains a range of regional, national and international data-sets, and facilitates access to other crucial data-sets through its data management and directory systems. NRIC also has a wide range of scientific expertise and enabling technologies (such as geographic information systems, decision support systems and simulation and modelling software) based on high performance computing, at its disposal.  Through NRIC, BRS participates in research and data-sharing activities with a range of national and international agencies.

Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN)

ERIN develops and maintains comprehensive, accurate and accessible information infrastructure, which adds value to sustainable development decision-making. ERIN's information is drawn from many sources and includes maps, species distributions, documents and satellite imagery, covering environmental themes ranging from endangered species to drought and pollution. ERIN’s data products are publicly available, through the Environment Australia web-site, in a range of formats, including on-line atlases, maps, images and documents. Some data-sets can be directly down-loaded by individual users for their own purposes.

ERIN contributes to the development of national information initiatives, such as the Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure (ASDI).  ERIN hosts the national node of the Australian Spatial Data Directory (ASDD) and contributes to related data protocols and standards.

See web-site address http://www.environment.gov.au/psg/erin/index.html for more information on ERIN.

Australian Antarctic Data Centre (AADC)

The AADC is responsible for managing and distributing Antarctic scientific data, fulfilling Australia's Antarctic Treaty obligation to facilitate full and free exchange of scientific observation and research results. The AADC is responsible for surveying, mapping and maintaining geographical information systems for the Australian Antarctic Territory, Heard and McDonald Islands. The AADC also maintains spatial digital data resources.  Program information and data is generally available in a variety of digital formats, including interactive on-line maps.

Bureau of Meteorology

The Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) maintains and updates Australia's extensive climatological data archive.  The archive contains data for meteorological and oceanographic observations extending back over a century. It provides vital information for research and services aimed at delivering sustainable land management practices.

Australia’s geographical position in a largely oceanic hemisphere makes us reliant upon information from meteorological satellites and oceanic observing systems operated by other nations. BoM cooperates with a number of international meteorological bodies, particularly the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). BoM participates in WMO's World Weather Watch Program and is also a major hub of the WMO Global Telecommunication System.

Australia’s EnviroNET

Australia rapidly growing environment business sector delivers high quality products and services supporting sustainable development.  The “Australia's EnviroNET” web-site provides information on the complete range of Australia's environment business capabilities.  The web-site has been developed by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Heritage, and offers users access to eight specifically designed pathways addressing a range of environmental protection and sustainable development needs.  

Web-sites

Australian Antarctic Data Centre - http://www.antdiv.gov.au/datacentre/index.html

Australian Biological Resources Study - http://www.anbg.gov.au/abrs/index.html

Australian Bureau of Statistics - http://www.abs.gov.au

Australian National Botanic Gardens - http://www.anbg.gov.au/

Bureau of Meteorology - http://www.bom.gov.au/

National Forest Inventory – http://www.brs.gov.au/nfi

National Land and Water Resources Audit - http://www.nlwra.gov.au

Natural Heritage Trust - http://www.nht.gov.au/

Australian and New Zealand Land Information Council (ANZLIC) - http://www.anzlic.org.au

Commonwealth Spatial Data Committee - http://www.csdc.gov.au

Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure (ASDI) - http://www.anzlic.org.au/asdi/asdimain.htm

Australian Surveying & Land Information Group (AUSLIG) - http://www.auslig.gov.au

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act -http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/index.html

National Greenhouse Strategy - http://www.greenhouse.gov.au

National Pollutant Inventory - http://www.npi.ea.gov.au

Regional Forest Agreements - http://www.rfa.gov.au

Eco-efficiency and Cleaner Production - http://www.environment.gov.au/epg/environet/eecp/

Public Environment Reporting - http://www.environment.gov.au/epg/environet/eecp/tools3.html

Australian Libraries Gateway - http://www.nla.gov.au/libraries/

National Resource Information Centre (NRIC) - http://www.brs.gov.au/nric/index.html

Australia’s EnviroNET - http://www. environet.ea.gov.au

World Meteorological Organization - http://www.wmo.ch/

Status   

There is no single overall information network structure relating to sustainable development.  Rather, information networks are established on a specific or sectoral basis.  For example, the Australian Bureau of Statistics maintains statistical collections relevant to differing aspects, or sectors, of sustainable development.  These various collections are incorporated as part of the various information network structures employed on the basis of separate sectoral or issue-specific relevance.  A similar approach is taken in relation to State of the Environment Reporting data and the Australian Spatial Data Directory.  

Challenges  

Australian institutions are making the transition from sectoral-based policies, programs and data management regimes to more integrated approaches supporting sustainable development. While technical and financial constraints exist, the greatest challenges are in breaking down barriers to inter-institutional collaboration, and freeing up access to existing data.

Increasingly, community groups at local, rural and regional levels require improved access to existing information and the capacity to apply that information. This is a matter of degree rather than an absolute issue. For example, over 300,000 individuals have participated in local and regional Natural Heritage Trust projects. These projects were based soundly on the available information. However the increased emphasis on catchment-based approaches increases the need in these areas.

These issues are the subject of consideration by a number of Government-initiated processes. These include: the development of a Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda, consideration of high-level information management issues to follow the National Land and Water Resources Audit, the establishment of a task force to focus on technical implementation of the ANZECC environmental indicators and the Productivity Commission inquiry into pricing and access issues which includes data issues.

A particular challenge for Australia is how to reach small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with information on the need for sustainability and how they can achieve this.  The vast number and transience of SMEs make them a difficult target.  A range of methods have been tried, including the recent development of a program to sign voluntary eco-efficiency agreements with industry associations, which in turn can then reach their members, large or small.

Capacity-Building, Education, Training and Awareness-raising   

Australia’s strategies for education, training and awareness raising in relation to information and decision making on sustainable development; and for information about building Australia’s information network capacities.

Australia possesses considerable capacity for undertaking the above-mentioned activities and much of the current effort is devoted to maintaining this capacity.  Departments and government agencies undertake a large number of programs and initiatives relevant to capacity building for the various aspects and sectors of sustainable development.  Examples follow.  

A National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in Australia

This Action Plan proposes an initial Commonwealth funding package of $700 million over seven years, to be matched by the States, to address critical salinity and deteriorating water quality problems in twenty highly affected catchments and regions.  The National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality in Australia will build the capacity of land-holders, communities and regions and apply new scientific and technical knowledge by:

  • reorienting the landcare facilitator and coordinator support network;
  • developing the management and technical skills of land managers and other stakeholders
  • extending information and data to communities so that they can effectively develop and implement their plans; and
  • developing appropriate catchment/regional delivery bodies/arrangements to implement the plans.

The Action Plan will also establish salinity response teams to provide specific technical expertise to assist communities to develop integrated catchment/region management plans.

Land and Water Resources Development Corporation

The Land and Water Resource Development Corporation (LWRRDC) funds the Social and Institutional Research Program (SIRP). SIRP research projects completed to date have focussed on a range of priority issues including:

  • interdisciplinary research methodologies;
  • participatory approaches to sustainable natural resource management;
  • decision support models;
  • the role of regulation in managing resource use; and
  • a framework for evaluating natural resource management policies and programs.

Research results are being communicated to policy makers for consideration and utilisation in appropriate policy development.

Web-sites

The National Action Plan on Salinity and Water Quality ‑ http://www.afffa.gov.au/outputs/nrm.html#3

Land and Water Resources Development Corporation  - http://www.lwrrdc.gov.au

Social and Institutional Research Program - http://www.sirp.gov.au

Information   

The Environmental Resources Information Network (ERIN), located in Environment Australia is providing environmental information for policy development and decision-makers. ERIN databases store a vast array of information about the environment, ranging from endangered species to drought and water pollution. Information is drawn from many sources including maps, species distributions, documents and satellite imagery. Through the Internet the community can access this information and the analytical tools to interpret it. It is found on Internet at http://www.erin.gov.au.

The Australian Commonwealth Government Entry Point

The Australian Commonwealth Government Entry Point provides easy access to all Commonwealth authorised information and services.  A list of relevant sites is given below:

Australian Commonwealth Government Entry Point - http://www.fed.gov.au/

Australian Environment Atlas –

http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/enviromaps/v3/enviromaps.pl

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia - http://www.affa.gov.au

Australian Spatial Data Directory - http://www.environment.gov.au/net/asdd/

Bureau of Rural Sciences - http://www.brs.gov.au

Business Entry Point - http://about.business.gov.au

CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) - http://www.csiro.au

Environment Australia - http://www.environment.gov.au/

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Database - http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/db/info.html

Green Pages - the Environmental Data Directory - http://www.environment.gov.au/edd/owa/edd_search2.category_list

National Land and Water Resources Audit - http://www.nlwra.gov.au

INFOTERRA - http://www.environment.gov.au/library/infoterra/index.html

Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda - http://www.minister.industry.gov.au/minchin/releases/2000/may/cmr220%2D00.doc

Virtual Engineering Library for Sustainable Development - http://www.ulb.ac.be/ceese/meta/sustvl.html

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation -

http://www.ansto.gov.au/ansto/environment1/index.html

Australian Geological Survey Organisation –

http://www.agso.gov.au

Australian Surveying and Land Information Group –

http://www.auslig.gov.au

Australian Government Analytical Laboratories –

http://www.agal.gov.au

Australia’s EnviroNET –

http://www.environet.ea.gov.au

Business Entry Point

The Business Entry Point (BEP) provides business users with quick and easy access to information and resources for approximately 150 Federal, State and Territory government agencies and 125 industry associations.  The web-site will be enhanced in the near future to include information about licences, codes of practice and a broader range of transactions.

Biodiversity Clearing House

The Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM) of the Convention on Biological Diversity promotes scientific and technical cooperation between Parties to the Convention.  It also facilitates global access to, and exchange of, biodiversity information.

At the national level, the CHM serves the information needs of those organisations involved in implementing the provisions of the Convention and the National Strategy for the Conservation of Australia's Biological Diversity.

Clearing-House Mechanism of the Convention on Biological Diversity http://chm.environment.gov.au/

Virtual Engineering Library for Sustainable Development

The Virtual Engineering Library for Sustainable Development contains a comprehensive list of Internet sites dealing with sustainable development, including organisations, projects and activities, electronic journals, libraries, references and documents, databases, directories or meta-databases.

INFOTERRA

This Guide to Australian Environment Resources provides a single access point for information about Australian government environment programs and services.

Green Pages - The Environmental Data Directory

Green Pages - the Environmental Data Directory, provides information about data held within Environment Australia.  The directory is accessible via the Internet and is compatible with the Meta-data Guidelines of the Australia New Zealand Land Information Council [ANZLIC].

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Database

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Database assists public awareness and understanding of Australia's new environment legislation – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Australian Spatial Data Directory

The Australian Spatial Data Directory (ASDD) is a national initiative administered under the auspices of ANZLIC - the Spatial Information Council.  The ASDD aims to improve access to Australian spatial data.  The directory links government and commercial nodes in each State/Territory with Commonwealth spatial data agencies.  The ASDD is an essential component of the Australian Spatial Data Infrastructure (ASDI) and provides search interfaces to geo-spatial data-set descriptions (meta-data) from all jurisdictions throughout Australia.

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)

ANSTO uses radio-tracing and nuclear analysis for biological risk assessments, as part its studies of bio-geochemical processes affecting the transport, fate, bio-availability and impact of pollutants in aquatic environments.  These studies have a particular emphasis upon biological cycling, bio-accumulation and bio-toxicity of heavy metals and radionuclides.

Australian Geological Survey Organisation (AGSO)

The core business of AGSO is to deliver geo-scientific research and information services which provide economic, social and environmental benefits for the Australian community.  

Australian Surveying and Land Information Group (AUSLIG)

AUSLIG’s spatial data collection, production and coordination activities ensure the availability of fundamental geographic information for the Australian community. AUSLIG’S map and satellite image data are particularly useful for environmental monitoring and natural resource management.

Research and Technologies   

The National Resource Information Centre (NRIC) develops advanced computing systems designed to service policy and community needs for information on sustainable development. NRIC integrates information from diverse disciplines using data modelling, decision support systems, visualisation and animation to analyse and then communicate the complexities of natural and socio-economic systems. Its information resources consist of more than 50 national and 100 regional spatially maintained datasets, and FINDAR, a software package for interrogating metadata on more than 6500 databases that it maintains as a directory linked to all other major international directories. NRIC also provides training in information technologies and applications for sustainable development to domestic and international agencies via its Advanced Systems Institute. NRIC has an active Internet site at http://www.nric.gov.au.

Australia has, in general, a high level of technological awareness and utilises the full range of current technologies.

The CSIRO (http://www.csiro.au/), universities, and other agencies have pioneered many innovative techniques for data collection.  Particular emphasis has been placed on rapid, cost-effective methods for regional surveys.  Australia relies heavily upon remotely sensed data, derived from space-and-air-borne instruments, from both local and international sources.  Continental-scale remote sensing data is used to monitor changes in land cover, fires, floods, responses to El Niño – Southern Oscillation, etc., while finer-resolution data is used to address more localized issues. Global positioning system technologies are also widely used.

Australia is an innovative and heavy user of these technologies.  Techniques for data storage, management and assessment, developed by universities and research agencies, are being widely adopted by governments and the private sector.  Geographic information and related systems are being increasingly used for policy development and program implementation. These tools are progressively being placed directly in the hands of decision-makers and their immediate advisers.  Geographic information products and systems are becoming increasingly and directly available to decision-makers and the wider community, via the Internet.  

Financing   

Expenditure on information for sustainable development

There are no consolidated estimates of the funds allocated to managing information about sustainable development.   The majority of investment in development/improvement of the Australian national information system comes from the public sector.  

The Australian Government has established a program of Action Agendas to improve the growth prospects for, and global competitiveness of, Australian industries.  Action Agendas are collaboratively developed between government and particular industry sectors.  General objectives include clarifying the balance of responsibilities between government and business, removing barriers to growth, and increasing productive investment and innovation.  The development of an Action Agenda for the Spatial Information Industry was announced on 24 May 2000 and is due by the end of June 2001.  The spatial information industry includes suppliers of software, hardware, data and services for users of location-based (geographic) information.  Australia’s Ministerial Council for Spatial Information has prepared a discussion paper on key issues.  

Web-sites

Action Agendas - http://www.isr.gov.au/agendas/

Discussion paper - http://www.anzlic.org.au/indev/disc_pap.htm

Spatial Information Industry Action Agenda - http://www.minister.industry.gov.au/minchin/releases/2000/may/cmr220%2D00.doc

Cooperation

Australia has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) for bilateral cooperation with a number of countries to enable mutual exchange of information on environmental and sustainable development issues, including information management.  

Australia participates in a number of international sustainable development forums and shares its sustainable development knowledge and expertise with other countries.

Australia contributes funds to key international institutions promoting multilateral solutions to environmental problems, including information management.  Among these organisations are the: United Nations Environment Program; World Health Organisation; United Nations Fund for Population Activities; United Nations Development Fund for Women; OECD;World Bank; World Meteorological Organisation; United Nations Development Program; International Maritime Organisation; United Nations Education and Scientific Cooperation Organisation; Food and Agriculture Organisation; International Tropical Timber Organisation, and the twenty‑two international agricultural research centres, including the sixteen centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

The headline indicator set has been developed to address the objectives of Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development 1992 (http://www.environment.gov.au/psg/igu/nsesd/index.html).  International, and other national government, work on sustainability indicators has been considered during the development of Australia’s headline indicator set, but there is no direct linkage between the Australian headline set and those being developed in other countries or regional and international organisations.

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th and 9th Sessions of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: May 2001.

Click here for the Australian Bureau of statistics.

For information about the Green Accounting Program from the Australian Bureau of Statistics click here.

Click here for EnviroNET Australia links.

Click here for National Resource Information Center.

Click here for more information about environmental education and information programs from Australian Environmental Education Network (AEEN).

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INTERNATIONAL LAW

Decision-Making:  Coordinating Bodies

No information is available

Decision-Making: Legislation and Regulations 

In May 1996, the Federal Government introduced a number of treaty reforms designed to take fuller account of Australia's federal structure and the importance of consultation with Australian State and Territory Governments. At an intergovernmental level, a Treaties Council has been established as an adjunct to the Council of Australian Governments. At the federal level, all treaties, with the exception of urgent and sensitive treaties, are required to be tabled in Parliament at least 15 sitting days to allow for Parliamentary scrutiny before binding treaty action is taken. In addition National Interest Analyses are required to be prepared for all treaties to which Australia is considering becoming a party.  This package of treaty reforms will enhance domestic involvement in, and ensure Parliamentary scrutiny of, treaties to which Australia intends to become a party. In this way treaty reforms are expected to have a positive impact on the operation and implementation of international environmental law in Australia.

Decision-Making: Strategies, Policies and Plans   

Since UNCED, Australia has continued to support the development of international environmental law through a range of activities. These included treaty formulation, domestic implementation of treaty obligations and improved processes to ensure greater transparency in Australian treaty-making.

Decision-Making: Major Group Involvement

No information is available

Programmes and Projects

No information is available

Status

No information is available

Challenges

No information is available

Capacity-Building, Education, Training and Awareness-Raising

No information is available

Information

No information is available

Research and Technologies

No information is available

Financing

No information is available

Cooperation

Australia has played an active role in a number of multilateral agreements including the Basel Convention, negotiations to draw up an international Convention on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, the Montreal Protocol, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Convention on Biological Diversity. At a regional level, Australia has participated in a number of negotiations under the SPREP Convention and the Apia Convention. Australia also played an active role in the development of the Regional Convention on Hazardous and Radioactive Wastes (Waigani Convention).

 

* * *

This information was provided by the Government of Australia to the 5th Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April 1997.

 



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