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by Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell,
Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Environment Minister
New York City
2 May 1996
Mr Chairman, this meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development presents not only the opportunity to look back and review progress but to also make an important contribution to preparations for the 1997 review of follow-up to UNCED.
The previous two weeks of discussions, presentations and negotiations have shown that sustainable development remains a priority for the international community. The challenge before us now is to provide the necessary political platform for policy and institutional progress in the integration of environment and development at al levels.
It is also timely to restate that the CSD must not attempt to duplicate the work that is underway, or has been carried out in other international fora. In particular, the Commission should not attempt to reopen the discussion or renegotiate decisions that have been concluded in the post UNCED period. This point is very pertinent to the work of CSD4 as we review issues with respect to fisheries and climate change.
Mr Chairman, the new Australian Federal Government is committed to sustainable development. Central to this commitment is making informed decisions based on environmental, social and economic criteria. Under this overarching policy framework, decisions also need to be made as to priorities for implementation. I would like to take this opportunity to present some of the features of my government's new agenda, particularly as it related to the sustainable management of the oceans.
Australia has one of the longest coastlines of any nation. As a way of ensuring the long term future of this unique resource, Australia has developed a coastal policy with was built on a framework of sustainable development.
Major components of Australia's approach to the integrated management of our coastal zone include enormous opportunities for local communities to become directly involved in management initiatives and a focus on combating coastal pollution hot spots and significant threats to Australia's marine biodiversity. Australia has also reformed commercial fisheries legislation in line with the principles of sustainable development.
By signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Australia will be responsible for an expanse of coastal water that is approximately one and a half times our land mass, In response, my government will develop, in consultation with all major stakeholders, a comprehensive and integrated oceans policy.
How we are funding these and other initiatives my also be of interest to this meeting. We are all aware that governments are under increasing pressure to function in a fiscally responsible manner. The Australian Government, like may others, must examine alternative funding arrangements to taxation or borrowing.
My government will provide additional funds towards investment in Australia's environmental future through the establishment of a Natural Heritage Trust, the A$1.5B trust will be financed by the partial sale of the government owned telecommunications utility. What we are essentially doing is transferring funds from a single government asset to perhaps our most important asset, our environment. The financial returns from the sale will establish a long term investment - an investment for future generations.
Australia has developed cooperative relations on sustainable development and environment programs with may nations in our region. My government believes that natural trust investments will also have significant benefits for our regional cooperative efforts.
When government ownership of a public utility is balanced against a long term strategic approach to ensuring sustainable development outcomes, it is my view and the view of the Australian Government that our responsibilities clearly lie with our long term future.
Mr Chairman, turning attention back to this session of the Commission, the opportunity to review follow-up to the Barbados Program on Small Island Developing States is timely. Australia is committed to the SIDS program of action and we would be concerned if international momentum on the Barbados initiative was allowed to slow. Australian strives to reflect the Barbados priorities in our overseas development program and accordingly, Australia encourages other donors to provide resources for implementation of the program of action, particularly in the Pacific Region.
I am pleased to see that the International Coral Reef Initiative has been highlighted by the Commission. I also welcome the outcomes of the Intersessional Workshop on Consumption and Production Patterns, held in Seoul, which have aided the Commission it its work on this important issue.
Mr Chairman, government sponsored intersessional activities have become an integral feature of the work of the Commission. Along these lines I would commend to you the upcoming meeting on certification and labeling of products from sustainably managed forests to be held in Australia later this month. A number of complex challenges remain for the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests before CSD5 and my government hopes that the upcoming Brisbane meeting will provide valuable input to the deliberation of the Panel.
Mr Chairman, this high level segment presents a turning point in the follow-up to UNCED. As we now look towards the 1997 Special Session of the General Assembly, it is critical that we embark on an evaluation and prioritisation exercise. The review process must not attempt to rewrite Agenda 21 or redefine the principles and objectives of sustainable development.
It is now the CSD's opportunity to identify priority sectoral issues that require follow-up at the international level. Australia would not support another complete cycle of reviewing Agenda 21. As part of the prioritisation process, it is critical that we take into account the outcomes of other UN conferences that have concluded in the post UNCED period. It is also essential that the issued being considered remain directly relevant to the broader community.
At the institutional level, it is important that we use the review process to reassess the role of other ECOSOC Committees and Commission with the view or removing duplication and making more efficient use of resources.
It is critical that sustainable development must remain firmly in the hands of member governments and that future institutional follow-up to UNCED is participatory, transparent and accessible to all stakeholders including major groups.
Mr Chairman, a crucial element to the future implementation of Agenda 21 is an ongoing political commitment to sustainable development. Central to this political momentum at the international level is that we remain firmly wedded to global partnership. This partnership must be inclusive of local communities and their industries, for without commitments to the principles of sustainable development in the daily lives of individuals then international efforts are made less meaningful.
I would commend to this meeting that the 1997 review process needs to be built on a partnership basis both for current and future generations