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

14 May 2003

Sharper Focus for Environment Portfolio

With the Howard Government's commitment to the environment topping $2 billion for the first time in last night's Budget, structural changes to the portfolio will sharpen its focus on Government priorities, Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, announced today.

"The changes will help ensure the Government's record levels of spending achieve real results in meeting the challenges of water reform, biodiversity management (particularly land clearing), salinity, urban air and water quality, and energy," Dr Kemp said.

Within the Department of the Environment and Heritage, a new Landscapes Division will be created, strengthening the Department's capacity to advise the Government on important water and coastal issues and biodiversity management. A new Natural Resource Management Programs Division will give a stronger focus to the regional delivery of the Government's flagship funding programs for natural resource management - the Natural Heritage Trust and the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality.

"Just as the Government has moved environmental issues into the mainstream, industry increasingly recognises that the environment is core business," Dr Kemp said.

"The Department's industry activities will focus on national environment protection standards and on those issues where the Commonwealth can make a difference at the national level. Integral to this approach will be to encourage industry to take increasing responsibility for the sustainable use of resources, for example, through product stewardship arrangements."

The Government's reforms will be driven from within a new Policy Coordination and Environment Protection Division, reflecting the direct relationship between environment protection issues, environmental economics and national policy development.

Following a review of Australia's Oceans Policy, the Government will maintain the National Oceans Office as an independent Executive Agency reporting directly to Dr Kemp as the Chair of the National Oceans Advisory Board.

"The $18 million announced in the Budget for the National Oceans Office over 2003-04 and 2004-05 will enable it to meet the national and international commitments made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg last year, and further Australia's reputation as a world leader in oceans policy," Dr Kemp said. "This reflects the Office's increasing role as the cornerstone of the Government's marine agenda."

The Director of the Australian Antarctic Division will represent Australia on the International Whaling Commission, reflecting that Division's close involvement in whaling issues.

"I will continue to have direct responsibility for this sensitive area," Dr Kemp said.

"I am confident these organisational changes will enable the portfolio to deliver more effectively on the Government's environment agenda."

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

Commonwealth of Australia