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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
25 September 1996
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has released the most comprehensive report ever produced on the Australian environment, Australia: State of the Environment 1996.
The report has been launched during Senator Hill's opening address to the National Environmental Law Conference in Canberra.
Senator Hill says the 500 page report is the culmination of four years work by more than 200 of Australia's leading scientific, environmental and industry leaders.
"Opinion polls show that the community rates environmental protection as being equal to economic development in levels of importance.
"The State of the Environment report provides a critical information base for Australia's efforts to deliver what were once thought to be competing goals."
Senator Hill says the report is a mixture of good and bad news.
"The good news is that by international standards aspects of the Australian environment are in relatively good condition with our approach to environmental management paving the way for other nations. The bad news is that Australia has some serious environmental problems which will become irreversible if not tackled urgently.
"The report highlights the failure of previous piecemeal attempts to repair the damage we have done to our environment. It calls instead for an integrated, systematic approach to environmental rescue efforts.
"This is the approach the Government wants to take through the establishment of the $1 Billion Natural Heritage Trust to be funded from the sale of one third of Telstra."
Senator Hill says one of the key aims of the Natural Heritage Trust is to protect Australia's unique biodiversity.
"A key finding of the report is that the loss of Australia's wealth of biodiversity is perhaps our most serious environmental problem.
"Australia is home to more than one million species, but for many groups there have been significant losses. 23 percent of our marsupials, nine percent of our birdlife and nine percent of our native freshwater fish are extinct or currently endangered."
"This report is telling us that the time for talk is over. We need action now if we are to protect and repair our natural heritage for future generations."
Further comment: Matt Brown 06 277 7640