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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment
14 November 1997
The Independent Inquiry into Urban Air Pollution has found that air quality in all major Australian capital cities generally meets standards established to protect human health.
The inquiry was commissioned by Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill and was conducted by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.
The report has found that:
"Australian cities have generally managed to maintain air quality over the past decade, especially compared to similar sized cities around the world. ... Notwithstanding efforts to date, the continued growth of our cities will continue to place increasing pressure on their urban air quality. ... Provided a range of initiatives, both long and short term, are pursued air quality can still be maintained at levels close to or within the band of required standards into the longer term of 15 - 20 years or more."
Senator Hill says the inquiry has made a range of recommendations applicable to Commonwealth, State and local governments and also to the general community.
"Australians consistently rate air pollution as their major environmental concerns.
"The inquiry was set up to focus on solutions rather than problems; identifying ways in which governments, industry, community groups and individuals can contribute to make the air we breathe cleaner.
"This report is saying we can all play a role in ensuring we maintain air quality - through better maintenance of our cars, better urban planning, improved urban transport and by paying attention to pollution sources around the home such as wood heaters, lawnmowers and backyard burning."
The report confirms that motor vehicles are still the major source of urban air pollution. Australian transport emission are among the highest per capita in the world.
The inquiry has made recommendations both in relation to improved emission standards for new vehicles and for programs to improve the performance of high-polluting vehicles.
The report also notes that by alleviating transport congestion problems by improving transport logistics, a dual benefit of better air quality and better economics is delivered.
The Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics has estimated that traffic congestion in mainland capital cities imposes direct annual costs of about $2.16 billion. It also results in increased pollutant concentrations in densely trafficked corridors.
Senator Hill says the theme of providing multiple outcomes through tackling the air pollution problem is consistent through the report.
"We all accept that air pollution causes health problems and impacts on our quality of life.
"The inquiry is telling us there are also economic costs associated with air pollution. It points to the potential impact on our tourism industry and our ability to attract companies to locate in our major cities. It also could impact on our ability to attract major international sporting and cultural events.
"So there are a multitude of reasons why we should be taking this problem seriously and all playing a role in providing a solution.
"Clean air is a natural resource. It is an asset that we do not pay for, but we all need; essential to our health and welfare and to our nation's economy. It is a natural resource we cannot afford to squander or undervalue."
The inquiry was conducted over a 12 month period, drawing on the expertise of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, a large number of other academics, and public submissions.
Senator Hill thanked the Academy for their work as well as all those who participated in working and discussion groups or contributed through written submissions.
The Independent Inquiry into Urban Air Pollution honours a promise the government made in the lead up to last year's election. Copies of the report are available by telephoning Environment Australia's Community Information Unit on 1800 803 772.
Media contact: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Jim Cannon (Environment Australia) 02 6274 1076
14 November 1997