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

Environment Portfolio Review


3 September 1996

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has announced details of an extensive staff consultation process as part of a review of the Environment Portfolio.

The review of the portfolio structure was foreshadowed in the budget statement "Investing in our Natural Heritage."

The proposed changes will help prepare the Department for the delivery of programs under the $1 billion Natural Heritage Trust, which will be funded through the sale of one third of Telstra.

All departmental staff are today being sent a detailed memo from the Departmental Secretary proposing changes to the Department's structure.

The proposed changes are a preliminary response to the independent report 'Review of the Environment Portfolio' prepared by Coopers and Lybrand.

All staff will have access to copies of the report and be encouraged to comment on the preliminary response.

The consultation process will also involve meetings with CPSU officials and workplace delegates and briefings in all major workplaces including DEST Canberra, ANCA, and the Australian Heritage Commission (AHC).

The involvement of staff in the process is central to the success of the proposed restructuring.

The proposed restructuring has been based on a number of principles which include:

The need for change

The Coopers and Lybrand report found that there were major structural problems facing the portfolio. These included:

Key features of proposed restructure

An Environment Executive will be established to replace the Environment Policy Co-ordination Committee. The Executive will meet weekly and its duties will include determining, subject to the Minister's guidance on the Government's policies, the environment priorities for the portfolio as a whole.

The portfolio will be restructured into four major functional groupings;

These groups will be complemented by an Environment Priorities group which will support the Environment Executive on international, economic and environment information matters.

The restructuring will feature much closer integration of the AHC and ANCA with the Environment department while not impacting on the statutory functions of those bodies.

All environment policy work will be undertaken within the Department with the authorities concentrating on program/service delivery, although the AHC would provide its views to the Minister on Heritage Policy issues.

As part of the restructuring process, staff will be part of regular consultations and will be kept informed with a regular summary of comments received by staff.

For further comment contact Matt Brown on 06 277 7640.

Commonwealth of Australia