Sustainable Australia—measuring sustainability
Sustainability indicators have been proposed for many years. Objective 14.1 of the 1992 National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development stated that Governments would:
request the Australian Bureau of Statistics [ABS], in conjunction with ABARE and the Industry Commission, to develop an initial set of sustainability indicators for ESD, including indicators which would enable Australia to measure the gender impacts of ESD policies and actions
In 2002, Environment Australia produced Are We Sustaining Australia? Report Against Headline Sustainability Indicators which listed 24 indicators against 21 values. The then Department of Environment and Heritage expected to produce a second report against the national headline sustainability indicators by 2007 but this has not eventuated.
Since 2005 the ABS has been producing Measures of Australia’s Progress, which is designed to address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?' The project reports on various indicators of social, economic and environmental progress.
The 2010 Sustainable Development Panel Report, appended to the Sustainable Population for Australia Issues Paper, proposed that ’Sustainability Indicators should be used as a basis of policy formation generally, including through the use of Sustainability Impact Statements to inform government policies and investments.’ The report includes a table of sustainability indicators divided into the categories of Environmental Sustainability, Sustainable Communities, and Economy.
It would appear that the Commonwealth has taken note of the report’s proposal and will provide the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities $10.1 million over four years to develop sustainability indicators and reporting for Australia, along with sustainability impact statements of new policy proposals.
Sustainable Australia—sustainable regional development
Sustainability plans or Local Agenda 21 plans were developed for many local government authorities in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2000 it was reported that 75 councils were developing Local Agenda 21 plans and in 2002 it was estimated that one-third of councils in Victoria would have an overarching Local Sustainability or Local Agenda 21 Strategic Plan. An example of a council involved in this process can be found on the Tackling Sustainability Progress page of the Western Australia City of Stirling website.
It appears that the Government’s proposed funding towards the development of seven sustainability plans will have a slightly different purpose from those of Local Agenda 21. The plans will be developed for regional and coastal high growth centres by state and local governments, and will be funded with $29.2 million over four years. Apparently one aim of these plans is to facilitate development in these centres by streamlining environmental decision-making under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The sustainability plans will be assessed under the strategic assessment provisions of the Act.
The Government’s $100 million ‘Suburban Jobs’ initiative is discussed in the Urban Infrastructure and Transport section of the Budget Review 2011–12.