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Joint Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator for Western Australia
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Minister for Defence
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator the Hon. Robert Hill
18 March 2005
A major reform to the way environmental aspects of major military exercises will be assessed has been announced today by Defence Minister, Robert Hill and Environment and Heritage Minister, Ian Campbell.
"This new approach sensibly balances the need for our Defence forces to train for our national security, while ensuring there is no compromise in our commitment to the Australian environment," Senator Campbell said.
"Currently, each time Defence conducts a major exercise that may have a significant impact on the environment, it must be referred to me under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).
"The new arrangement will seek to address all the environmental requirements covered under the EPBC Act, so that future exercises will not need to be referred to me if they meet agreed requirements."
Senator Hill said the Australian Defence Force undertakes a major military training exercise every second year on average.
"This strategic assessment is the first of its kind in the world," Senator Hill said.
"It will both provide certainty and flexibility when planning exercises, and also ensure best practice environmental management.
"Defence is committed to protecting the environment and is a good neighbour in environmental matters no matter how big the exercise.
"Our most recent major military exercise involved US forces in a complex air, land and water combat scenario. All activities were managed through a Combined Exercise Instruction to ensure no significant environmental impacts occurred."
The EPBC Act is the Australian Government's main piece of environmental legislation.
Under the EPBC Act, actions that take place on Commonwealth land or that have, or are likely to have, a significant impact on the environment and any matters of national significance, such as threatened species or national or world heritage places, are prohibited unless prior approval is granted by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage.
Draft terms of reference for the strategic assessment are available for public comment at www.deh.gov.au/epbc/publicnotices/index.html
Renae Stoikos (Senator Campbell) 02 6277 7460 0418 568 434
Sascha Meldrum (Senator Hill) 08 8237 7920 0409 034 241
Defence Media Liaison 02 6265 3343 0408 498 664