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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

19 March 2002

The State of the Environment is Everybody's Business


Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, today tabled the Australia State of the Environment (SoE) Report 2001, the second comprehensive and independent national assessment of Australia's environment.

"The 2001 SoE report acknowledges that government, industry, landholders and community groups have taken important steps during the past five years to address the environmental pressures which the 1996 SoE report identified," Dr Kemp said. "It also identifies the major challenges that lie ahead for Australia's governments and her people."

"I thank Professor Thom and his committee and endorse their conclusion that, 'Fundamental to better management and planning is the recognition that the environment, including our cultural and natural heritage, is everyone's business.'"

Achievements

"Five years ago, the first State of the Environment Report made clear that our most urgent task was to prevent many of our precious and unique animals, plants and their habitats from disappearing from the face of this land.

"It is encouraging that Professor Thom and his committee report that: 'The protection of biodiversity values in Australia has progressed significantly with the enactment of the EPBC Act. The protection of biodiversity values now extends well beyond the reserve system. The comprehensiveness and adequacy of the reserve system has improved.'

"The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is already making a difference. For instance, SoE 2001 notes that all export fisheries must now be assessed for sustainable management. Just this morning I announced the exemption of two Tasmanian fisheries from export controls because the Government was satisfied that their operations were sustainable.

"Professor Thom and his committee acknowledge that the $2.5 billion Natural Heritage Trust is assisting in this task. Through the Natural Heritage Trust, almost 400,000 Australians have become involved in conserving the environment in the past five years, planting 29 million seedlings, replanting and protecting 780,000 hectares of native vegetation, protecting or regenerating 480,000 hectares to conserve native species, erecting 19,000 kilometres of protective fencing, and protecting waterways with 5,000 kilometres of fencing.

"The Government's decision to extend the Trust will ensure this vital work continues with a strengthened strategic focus.

"The Committee also reports that over the last six years:

"But there is another side to the ledger," said Dr Kemp.

Challenges

"SoE 2001 reports that:

"It is clear that having put in place the legislative tools to better protect our flora and fauna, the next urgent task is to protect the soil and water that sustains not only our many unique species but the people and prosperity of Australia.

"This is a task that will require an unprecedented national co-operative effort between the Commonwealth and State governments and local communities. The plan to do this is embodied in the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality which will directly mobilise some $1.4 billion and build on and complement the work of the Natural Heritage Trust.

"Significantly, the report states that the size of many of the problems facing the Australian environment is beyond the capacity of governments or individual landholders alone to address, and that every Australian needs to accept responsibility for protecting the environment.

"The way ahead will involve increased cooperation and partnerships between Federal Government, State, Territory and local governments, industry, farmers, community groups, educational institutions, environmental groups and each and every Australian.

"As Professor Thom and his committee observe, 'The key to Australia's sustainable future lies in ourselves: our attitudes towards the environment, our heritage and each other.'"

Media Adviser:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400


The full SoE report and seven supporting theme reports can be found at: http://www.ea.gov.au/soe/2001

A Key Findings Brochure and fact sheets about the 2001 SoE report can be found at: http://www.ea.gov.au/soe

More information about the Government's environmental achievements and program can be found in the publication Work in Progress - Australia's Commitment to the Environment at: http://www.ea.gov.au/about/publications/commitment/index.html

Commonwealth of Australia