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


15 May 1998

The Howard government has unveiled a new strategy to combat increasing air pollution in Australia's major cities.

The "Clear the Air" package is the government's initial response to an independent inquiry into urban air pollution by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering.

The Academy found that the continued growth of our cities will continue to place increasing pressure on urban air quality.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill says the "Clear the Air" strategy will be the base for increased Commonwealth efforts to improve air quality.

Senator Hill says Australia's major cities can no longer take clean air for granted.

"The 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.

"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.

"The Commonwealth has committed more than $16 million from the Natural Heritage Trust to step up efforts to reduce the problem.

"In many ways Clear the Air provides a starting point for those increased efforts as it responds to key areas of concern raised by the Academy's report."

"Clear the Air tackles the problem at an industry level with initiatives focussed on vehicle engine design, fuel quality, alternative fuels, vapour recovery, and reduction of emissions from boilers and furnaces.

"It also has a community focus with funding for Smogbusters to promote increased use of public transport and Breathe the Benefits to promote the efficient use of woodheaters.

"There will also be a national Airwatch program in our schools to educate children about air monitoring, the sources of pollution, and the role of weather in air quality."

Senator Hill says improved forecasting of air pollution is also crucial to the strategy.

"Clear the Air will support the development of a full air quality forecasting model to provide three dimensional, high resolution objective forecasts of major weather and air quality constituents on a daily basis.

"This system will allow us to take more timely remedial action to prevent or lessen the impact of air pollution incidences."

Clear the Air focuses on six major pollutants: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, lead, particles and sulfur dioxide. Projects fall within one of the five core components of the $16 million Air Pollution in Major Cities Programme of the Natural heritage Trust:

National Standards: fuel quality review, retrofit engine emission standards, diesel NEPM, uniform and tighter Australian standard for woodheaters, standards for nitrogen oxide emissions from domestic appliances;

National Strategies: promotion of alternative fuels, reduction of emissions from boilers and furnaces, codes of practice for vapour recovery in small to medium businesses, code of practice for installation of woodheaters, air managers forum, forum on fine particle measurements;

Research: fine particle measurement calibration study, comparison of vehicle test protocols, development of nitrogen oxide catalyst for diesel engines, study of secondary particle formation by photochemical reaction;

Monitoring: pollution forecasting system for major cities;

Community education: Smogbusters (motor cars and public transport), Airwatch (community monitoring), and Breathe the Benefits (woodsmoke).

Senator Hill announced details of Clear the Air while demonstrating just one of the projects funded for development: a world first, air quality forecasting system for major cities developed jointly by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Copies of the Clear the Air document may be obtained by telephoning the Community Information Unit of Environment Australia on 1800 803 772.

The document is also available on the Internet at

Media contacts:
Senator Hill's Office: Matt Brown (02) 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Environment Australia: Jim Cannon (02) 6274 1076

15 May 1998

Commonwealth of Australia