House of Representatives Committees

Contents

Foreword
Membership of the Committee
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations

Introduction
Funding for Australia’s Antarctic Program
Operations and logistical support
Australia’s obligations under the Antarctic Treaty System
Conservation and protection of the Antarctic environment
Australia’s Antarctic science program
Additional Comments—Senator Stott Despoja
Appendix A – List of submissions
Appendix B – List of exhibits
Appendix C – List of witnesses appearing at public hearings

Foreword

On behalf of the Committee, I am pleased to present this unanimous report on the adequacy of funding for Australia ’s Antarctic Program.

Prior to conducting a review of Australia’s Antarctic Territory as part of a general monitoring of the nation’s external territories, the Committee sought a briefing from the Australian Antarctic Division as the lead agency for Australia’s Antarctic Program.

The ensuing briefing provided a fascinating insight into the positive nature and scale of the work being carried out by Australian researchers in Antarctica. However, during the briefing, it also became clear that the critical issue confronting Australia’s Antarctic Program was the question of whether the Antarctic Division was receiving adequate funding to achieve the Government’s stated goals for the frozen continent.

The issue of the adequacy of funding for Australia’s Antarctic Program therefore became the focal point of the Committee’s inquiry.

The inquiry lapsed with the dissolution of the 40 th Parliament, but, was recommenced by the new committee in the 41 st Parliament.

The Government’s goals for Antarctica reflect Australia’s status as a major player in Antarctic affairs. The goals promote participation in the Antarctic Treaty System and enhanced influence within that System, protection of the Antarctic environment, an understanding of the role of Antarctica in the global climate system and, the undertaking of scientific work of practical, economic and national significance.

Meeting these goals and consolidating Australia’s leading reputation in Antarctica requires substantial financial support. Operating in such an unpredictable, hostile environment is an expensive exercise, but one which is critical if Australia is to preserve its sovereignty over its Australian Antarctic Territory.

During the inquiry, the Committee heard of the fundamental need to establish an inter-continental air link between Tasmania and the Australian Antarctic Territory. It was suggested that an air link would attract a wider spectrum of researchers to the continent. Currently, researchers are reliant predominately, on the research and resupply vessel Aurora Australis which necessarily requires that a significant amount of its time be spent at sea.

Obviously, the Committee was pleased to learn of a commitment in the 2005-06 Budget to fund an inter-continental air link from Hobart to Antarctica. However, in the Committee’s view, the introduction of the air link does not diminish the need for additional funding to be invested in Australia’s Antarctic Program. The Australian Antarctic Division has continued to develop new initiatives in spite of a generally static budget through the implementation of innovative cost-saving measures. Yet the evidence the Committee received suggested the Division now has exhausted all avenues for creating meaningful savings.

Australia’s contribution to Antarctic science is considered world-leading by scientific peers and the efforts of our researchers should receive greater domestic recognition, particularly given that much of the science being undertaken has implications for the region as well as global relevance.

The Committee is grateful to those who participated in the inquiry. As always, I also very much appreciate the cooperative way that the Committee invariably works on inquiries and the subsequent report.

 

Senator Ross Lightfoot
Chairman

Membership of the Committee

41st Parliament

Chair

Senator Ross Lightfoot

 

Deputy Chair

Senator Trish Crossin

 

Members

The Hon Ian Causley MP

Senator John Hogg

 

Ms Annette Ellis MP

Senator Kerry O’Brien

 

Mr Paul Neville MP

Senator Nigel Scullion

 

Ms Sophie Panopoulos MP

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

 

Mr Patrick Secker MP

 

 

The Hon Warren Snowdon MP

 

40th Parliament

Chair

Senator Ross Lightfoot

 

Deputy Chair

Senator Trish Crossin

 

Members

The Hon Ian Causley MP

Senator John Hogg

 

Ms Annette Ellis MP

Senator Kate Lundy

 

Mr Michael Johnson MP
(to 19 February 2004 )

Senator Nigel Scullion

 

Mr Paul Neville MP

Senator Natasha Stott Despoja

 

The Hon Warren Snowdon MP

 

 

Mr Cameron Thompson MP

 

 

Dr Mal Washer MP
(from 19 February 2004 )

 

Committee Secretariat

41st Parliament

Committee Secretary

Ms Beverley Forbes

Inquiry Secretary

Mr Justin Baker

Principal Parliamentary Officer


Dr Sonia Palmieri

Administrative Officers

Mr Andrew McGowan

 

Mr Robert Nicol

40th Parliament

Committee Secretary

Mrs Margaret Swieringa

Inquiry Secretary

Mr Quinton Clements

Research Officers

Ms Bronwen Jaggers

 

Mr Justin Baker

Administrative Officer

Mr Daniel Miletic

Terms of reference

Resolved 10 September 2003:

That, on the basis of the annual report of the Department of the Environment and Heritage for 2001-02, which has responsibility for the Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Program, in relation to the Australian Antarctic Territory and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands, and which stands referred to the Committee by the House of Representatives for any inquiry it may wish to make, the Committee conduct an inquiry and report on the adequacy of funding for the Australian Antarctic Division to meet the four goals set for advancing Australia’s Antarctic interests:

Resolved 26 November 2003:

That the basis of the inquiry into the adequacy of funding for the Australian Antarctic Program be extended to include the Annual Report of the Department of the Environment and Heritage for 2002-03, which was presented in the House of Representatives on 4 November 2003 and stands referred to the Committee for any inquiry it wishes to make.

Resolved 8 December 2004:

That the basis of the inquiry into the adequacy of funding for the Australian Antarctic Program be extended to include the Annual Report of the Department of the Environment and Heritage for 2003-04, which was presented in the House of Representatives on 17 November 2004 and stands referred to the Committee for any inquiry it wishes to make.

List of abbreviations

AAD or the Division

Australian Antarctic Division

AAP

Australian Associated Press

AAT

Australian Antarctic Territory

AFFA

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

AFMA

Australian Fisheries Management Authority

AGSO

Australian Geological Survey Organisation

ANARE

Australian National Antarctic Research Expeditions

ASAC

Antarctic Science Advisory Committee

ATCM

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting

BoM

Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology

CASA

Construcciones Aeron áuticas S.A. ( Spain)

CCAMLR

Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources

CCAS

Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Seals

COMNAP

Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs

CRC

Cooperative Research Centre

CSIRO

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation

EEZ

Exclusive Economic Zone

EMS

environmental management system

EPBC Act

Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organisation

GSDC

Great Southern Development Commission

HIMI

Heard Island and McDonald Islands

IASOS

Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies

ICSU

International Council for Science

IGY

International Geophysical Year

IPY

International Polar Year

IUU

Illegal, unregulated and unreported (fishing)

IWC

International Whaling Commission

JACARA

Joint Australian Centre for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica

JSCNCET

Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories

NCAR

National Committee on Antarctic Research

SCALOP

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Logistics and Operations

UAV

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

UNSW

University of New South Wales

 

 

List of recommendations

3 Operations and logistical support

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government makes funding available in the 2005-06 financial year to enable a scoping study to be conducted to determine the need for a new dedicated marine research vessel to advance marine science in general and, the Australian Government's goals for Australia's Antarctic program in particular. (para 3.53)

4 Australia’s obligations under the Antarctic Treaty System

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government makes an appreciable investment commensurate with Australia’s significant involvement in polar activities to support Australian programs planned for the International Polar Year 2007-2008 and ensures that Australia plays a leading role in International Polar Year activities. In addition, the Committee notes the need for additional funds to be made available immediately for this purpose. (para 4.25)

5 Conservation and protection of the Antarctic environment

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government allocate an additional $50 million to the budget of the Department of the Environment and Heritage over a ten-year period, to be administered under Australia’s Antarctic Program, specifically for the remediation of past work sites in the Australian Antarctic Territory. (para 5.50)

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that additional funding be provided to enable the Australian Antarctic Division to comply with its responsibilities under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999) for its work with the cultural heritage management of Mawson’s Huts. The Committee also encourages the continuation of partnership links with community sponsors to continue the restoration work of Mawson’s Huts. (para 5.73)

6 Australia’s Antarctic science program

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the current appropriation for the Australian Antarctic Science grants scheme administered by the Australian Antarctic Division be doubled from the current level of approximately $700,000 per annum for the remainder of the Science Strategy 2004/05-2008/09 and be reassessed after that period. (para 6.24)

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