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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Air Pollution Inquiry - Solutions for a Critical Issue


2 October 1996
(123/96)

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has announced a major independent inquiry to examine solutions to combat urban air pollution in Australia.

The national inquiry will be conducted by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering with the aim of exploring innovative but practical solutions to the urban air pollution problem. The Academy will report to the Government by 30 September 1997.

The establishment of the inquiry delivers on a key commitment made in the Coalition's Saving Our Natural Heritage election policy.

Senator Hill says Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about the quality of air which they and their children are exposed to.

"The quality of the air we breathe affects not only our quality of living but our health and well-being.

"Surveys by the Australian Bureau of Statistics of the environmental concerns of Australians have put air pollution as the number one issue.

"More recently the 1996 State of the Environment report found that air pollution levels in Sydney and Melbourne, particularly for ozone, can occasionally approach those in New York and Tokyo.

"It also found that motor vehicle emissions are likely to be a major concern in areas of rapid urban growth such as south-east Queensland, Perth and western Sydney.

"The pall of smog and haze which hangs over our major cities with seemingly increasing regularity is further evidence that action needs to be taken.

"We are all aware of the problem and a large amount of work has already been done to identify its extent.

"What is needed now is a scientifically-based, strategic assessment of the policies which could be put in to place to tackle the problem. "

Senator Hill says the Academy has the scientific expertise required to make the assessment and propose practical solutions.

"The Academy has a world-wide reputation for scientific excellence. Under its direction, the inquiry will address the capacity of existing policies and current strategies to reduce air pollution.

"The inquiry is designed to avoid simply going over old ground covered by previous inquiries into the extent of air pollution. It will focus on finding solutions to the problem.

"The terms of reference for the inquiry focus on identifying practical measures which can be taken by governments, industry, community groups and individuals to improve air quality in Australian towns and cities in the medium to long term.

"There are no quick fixes to this problem but we are confident the Academy can put forward a range of potential solutions.

"The inquiry will complement the work of the National Environment Protection Council which is developing a National Environment Protection Measure for ambient air quality."

The President of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Sir Arvi Parbo, has welcomed the opportunity for the Academy to play a key role in such an important environmental issue.

"The fundamental purpose of the Academy is to promote the application of scientific and engineering knowledge to practical purposes for the benefit of Australia.

"The inquiry into urban air pollution and practical measures to improve air quality is very much in accordance with this aim.

"Through this inquiry, Australian science, technology and engineering can make a major contribution to improving the quality of life for future generations of Australians. "

The Academy will invite written submissions from the public and any interested groups addressing the inquiry's terms of reference. A call for submissions will be made in December and advertised in the national press. A guide will be made available at that time to assist those wishing to make a submission to the inquiry.

Further details:

Matt Brown (Minister) 06 277 7640; 0419 693 515

Jim Cannon (Department) 06 274 1076

Gordon Brown (Academy) 03 9347 0622

Commonwealth of Australia