Page 2134 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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the only voice for the most marginalised people and for our environment—because do remember that our environment is unable to be its own advocate; it relies on human voices to speak for it—is more, not less, important.

Civil society is the only forum we have left for dialogue in dissent. The peak organisations, such as the Conservation Council of the South East Region and Canberra, must be in a position to contribute to and contest the analysis and policy decisions on environment. Indeed the future of our environment, and ultimately ourselves, depends upon those voices remaining strong.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.21): The government is happy to support Dr Foskey’s motion. In relation to the environment, this government is absolutely committed to supporting crucial policy debates that need to occur. This government’s record on the environment and the commitments we have made are up in lights for everyone to see. Respecting and protecting the environment are key priorities. The ACT community is more concerned about environmental issues than anywhere in Australia. Our use of environmentally friendly products is higher and we have dramatically increased the amount of what we recycle. The response by Canberrans to the current drought and water restrictions has shown that the ACT is very receptive to measures to improve the sustainable use of resources.

This government’s environmental policy objectives are very ambitious and require the support of the community. In particular, the government is committed to increasing community awareness of the size and impact of the ecological footprint made up by the Canberra urban environment; undertaking research to better understand possible risks for the ACT resulting in climate change; continuing to reduce the amount of waste generated and promoting recycling; protecting our threatened species and ecological community, ensuring that key biodiversity assets are identified, protected and managed through the preparation of conservation strategies; developing and implementing measures to increase the water and energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings; and finalising the water resources strategy.

In order to progress this ambitious agenda the government needs help and input from the community and from key community groups, including those with peak responsibilities, to help protect the environment. The role of the Conservation Council of the South East Region and Canberra is absolutely critical in helping to deliver this policy agenda. The problem is that the commonwealth government does not share this view and does not want to hear any other views on the environment, other than its own. That is why they have cut funding to the conservation council and other groups like them across Australia who provide support and advocacy on environmental issues.

The conservation council is Canberra’s peak non-government environment organisation. As an umbrella organisation the council represents the interests of nearly 40 community and conservation organisations in the ACT and Australian capital region, as well as the broader environmental interests of all citizens of the ACT. The council’s mission is to achieve the highest quality environment for Canberra and the surrounding region.

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