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Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP
National Farmer's Federation Conference
Thursday 5 June 2003
I am very pleased to be here at your national conference today - particularly as today is World Environment Day.
The Government is acutely aware that we need to work closely with the farm sector to achieve our mutual goal of sustainable natural resource management.
Farmers, who have the strongest interest in preserving the land, and who have the knowledge and expertise that comes from working with it over a long period of time, are, and will continue to be, our most important partners in achieving sustainable agriculture and a sustainable Australia.
As soon as I became Environment Minister I made it a point to seek to develop a continuing and open relationship with primary producers, and I am very pleased at the open dialogue that has resulted between the Department, Environment Australia, and the major representative bodies, in particular the National Farmers Federation.
For instance, in response to concerns that farmers were unable to get access to clear and practical information about the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (the EPBC act), in July last year I announced funding for an Information Officer to be located at the NFF to improve access for farmers and their representative organizations to relevant information on the EPBC Act.
One result of this collaboration is a website providing a consolidated set of links for the key information and its processes including:
I'm pleased to launch it today, and I can assure you that we will be keen to take all comments on board about how to make it work for farmers around Australia.
The Farmers' page has been developed as a pilot page to address current needs of farmers and after an evaluation of its success, the Government will consider the development of other business and industry focused pages.
In addition, the EPBC Farmers' page will be regularly updated to ensure that it provides a useful service to your members.
The Farmer's page can be viewed by following the Industry link on the EPBC website home page. (http://www.ea.gov.au/epbc/)
Many farmers are coming to understand that the EPBC Act can be an important tool for providing certainty for farmers.
It is important to understand that the Act simply doesn't apply to most farming activity - only those actions which are likely to have a significant impact on one of the six matters of national environmental significance are affected by the Act.
In terms of farmers, only four of these six matters have any relevance. They are where an action is likely to have a significant impact on:
Where a matter has been referred, and the Government decides that the proposed action will not have a significant impact then the action is protected from further Federal action.
Another advantage of referral is that where an action is held to be allowable if impacts are mitigated in certain ways, it opens the door to funding assistance to help to pay for that mitigation.
The Government recognises that we need to do our part in ensuring that legislative reforms like the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation - EPBC - Act benefit rather than harm those affected by it - like your members.
This is why last July I agreed to fund a full time EPBC Act Communications position with the National Farmers Federation.
I am pleased to announce that I have agreed to support the continuation of the position for another year, until the end of June 2004.
I have been delighted with the information, insights and practical solutions that the current holder of the position, Cormac Farrell, has provided to the Department, and I believe that the NFF has also been satisfied with the services that have been provided to farmers through this initiative.
I support a consultative approach to the implementation of the EPBC Act and I believe that the EPBC Communications Officer has played an important and constructive role in maintaining an ongoing dialogue with rural stakeholders, and has delivered genuine win-win outcomes for both the Government and farmers.
I would now like to hand over to the current EPBC Information Officer, Cormac Farrell, for a more detailed report on the activities of this position to date.
Catherine Job 0408 648 400