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Convened by Senator Robert Hill, Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Canberra, 5 July 2000
Environmental Economics Research Paper No. 7
© Commonwealth of Australia, 2000
ISBN 0 642 19485 8
Economic instruments and taxation measures for natural resource management
CHAIR–This session is on the use of economic instruments and taxation measures for natural resource management. This is obviously a critical issue for us. For our international visitors, I guess it would be true to say that, if you were to rank Australia’s environmental problems, you would put quite near the top, if not at the top of the list, the loss of biodiversity and soil and water degradation. Soil degradation is being manifested through dryland salinity, sodicity and acidification of soil systems, and water quality is declining in terms of excessive nutrient loads, increasing salinity in streams and loss of variability of flow, so that the natural flow regimes have been substantially disrupted.
The problems arise essentially from 200 years of applying European agricultural systems to an environment which is simply not capable of sustaining that sort of activity over much of its face over the long term. The things that have led to loss of biodiversity–for example, extensive vegetation clearance–have then in turn impacted on rising water tables transporting salt to the surface and into the stream systems, and so on. They tend to be interrelated issues associated with broad, landscape-level, land management concerns. Of course, speaking on a continental scale, the problems are not homogeneous: they will vary significantly across the nation, and the appropriate policy responses cannot be totally homogeneous either–reflecting the differences in the biophysical characteristics of these problems and concerns.
How do we help the agricultural sector, rural towns and the community at large to respond to these issues of living sustainably in this fragile environment?