ENVIRONMENT, RECREATION AND THE ARTS
The Committee and its Predecessors
Since the establishment of the Senate Standing Committees in 1970, matters
presently covered by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation
and the Arts have fallen, formally, within the areas of interest of the
- Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment
(Appointed 11 June 1970; Fully Established 15 March 1971)
- Senate Standing Committee on National Resources
(Appointed 2 March 1976);
- Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment
(Appointed 2 March 1976; renamed 2 June 1983);
- Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment
(Name established 2 June 1983); and
- Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts
(Appointed 22 September 1987).
The membership of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation
and the Arts in December 1990 was as follows:
Senator R.A. Crowley (ALP, SA) (Chair)
Senator V.W. Bourne (AD, NSW)
Senator I.G. Campbell (LP, WA)
Senator A.W. Crane (LP, WA)
Senator N.A. Crichton-Browne (LP, WA)
Senator J.P. Faulkner (ALP, NSW)
Senator S. Loosely (ALP, NSW)
Senator S.M. West (ALP, NSW)
A full listing of membership and Committee Chairpersons on the Senate
Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts and other related
committees are listed in an attachment to this section. Other attachments
to this section include lists of committee secretaries and reports tabled
by the committees.
The Work of the Committees
Five areas of inquiry may be considered generic to the interests of the
Senate Committees established on science, the environment and recreation.
In broad terms, those areas are science and technology, natural resources
and wildlife, environmental degradation, the environment and human welfare,
In addition to conducting inquiries and preparing reports on these subjects,
the Committees have occasionally met with visiting parliamentary delegations
on those issues and also with subject specialists such as relevant government
By a resolution of the Senate on 14 December 1989 Standing Committees
are required to examine and report on annual reports. The Standing Committee
on Environment, Recreation and the Arts tabled the first report on this
matter, 'Examination of Annual Reports', on 31 May 1990. Other
Committee reports on the examination of annual reports were tabled previously
by the Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment
and the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment.
The first report of the Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation
and the Arts on a Bill referred to it by the Senate, 'Report on the
Consideration of the Australian National Maritime Museum Bill 1989 ',
was tabled on 13 September 1990. This was followed by a 'Report on
the Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill 1990' on 5 December
Science and Technology
The Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment tabled its
reports 'Progress Report on Physical Sciences' in November 1977
and 'Progress Report on Australian Marine Science' in May 1980.
The latter was followed by a further report, 'Australian Marine Science',
in June 1981. Recommendations in these reports recognised the need for
an expansion of Australian marine science and appropriate national policies.
Further, the 1981 report presented a detailed plan for the co-ordination
and future development of Australian Marine Science. In its response to
the latter report the Government described new administrative arrangements
for the Australian Marine Sciences and Technology Committee; the response
also accepted the need for coastal survey data and described how best
to achieve a development-free zone for coastal areas.
In June 1979 the Committee presented its report 'Industrial Research
and Development in Australia'. This report recommended that a clear,
national policy for science and technology receive urgent attention and
it made sixty other recommendations for the further development and application
of science and technology. The Government response to this report outlined
how its findings were supported by several other studies and how most
of its recommendations had been satisfied. The response also described
action in relation to particular recommendations concerning the role of
research and development in the offsets program and in the manufacture
of military equipment.
Agricultural research has also been the subject of inquiry. In November
1982, the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources tabled its report
'The Commonwealth's Role in Rural Research and Extension' which
recommended measures to facilitate and expand agricultural research through
Commonwealth programs and increased support. Following this report the
Government announced the establishment of a Bureau of Rural Resources
and a National Soil Conservation Program.
The Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment
reported on 'Technology Assessment in Australia' in April 1987
and recommended measures aimed overall at increased information and consultation
over the social consequences of technological change. In the response
to this report the Government outlined procedures for improved consultation
between management, employees and unions over the introduction of new
technology. Particular support was also given to representation of the
interests of women in this context.
The Senate Standing Committee on National Resources has also tabled reports
dealing with particular technical subjects. The Committee's report 'Solar
Energy', tabled in May 1977, was followed by the establishment of
a National Development and Energy portfolio and a National Energy Advisory
Committee. The Senate Committee tabled its report 'Plant Variety Rights'
in May 1984, calling for the introduction of a plant variety rights scheme
in Australia. In response the Government accepted that particular provisions
recommended in this report should be included in plant variety rights
legislation; these included a review after at most five years, the lodgement
of seeds in a national collection and clearer definitions and operating
criteria. The Government also announced a further examination of plant
breeding needs in Australia.
Further, in September 1980, the Committee reported on 'The Replacement
of Petroleum Based Fuels by Alternative Sources of Energy', and drew
attention in particular to Australia's approaching problem of liquid fuel
supply and the importance of a world parity pricing policy for crude oil.
The Government response to this report outlined how recommendations for
particular work were encompassed within the National Energy Research Development
and Demonstration Program. Initiatives were also described in relation
to recommendations covering fuel economy in the haulage industry, publicity
for fuel conservation and standards for liquid petroleum gas vehicles.
Natural Resources and Wildlife
Some matters referred to the present Committee and its predecessors have
involved particular attention to natural resources and wildlife. In 1976-78
the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment examined
woodchipping and tabled 'The Impact on the Australian Environment of
the Current Woodchip Industry Program - Interim Report' in December
1976 and 'Woodchips and the Environment' in May 1977. The latter
report was followed by a supplementary report 'Woodchips and the Environment',
tabled in November 1978; this report examined action taken in response
to recommendations in the May 1977 report. In November 1981 the Senate
Standing Committee on National Resources also tabled its report 'The
Development of the Bauxite, Alumina and Aluminium Industries'.
A report on 'The Preservation of the Abbott's Booby on Christmas Island'
was tabled by the Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and
the Environment in November 1983. Recommendations in this report recognised
the importance of monitoring the bird, and the need to extend and improve
its environment in concert with land rehabilitation after mining and an
examination of alternative industries on the island. The Government, in
its response, outlined action to extend funding for the Abbott's Booby
Monitoring Program and to investigate land rehabilitation, the extension
of the Christmas Island National Park and alternative industries to mining.
In February 1985 the Committee tabled its report on 'Land Use Policy
in Australia' which recommended, inter alia, that the Australian Environment
Council establish a Standing Committee to draft a National Land Use policy.
In the response to this report the Government accepted the need for management
guidelines and an inventory for Commonwealth land. The response also described
initiatives in line with the recommendation for a national land use policy.
Subsequently, in December 1985, the Senate Standing Committee on National
Resources reported on 'The Natural Resources of the Australian Antarctic
Territory'. Recommendations in this report supported continued Australian
sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory and recognised the
need to protect the Antarctic environment from expeditions or tourism
and any mineral exploitation. In particular the report recommended that
Australia ratify the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals,
maintain support for the Antarctic Treaty and support minerals negotiations
within the Treaty system. The report led to agreement by the Government
to ratify the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals. The
Government also reaffirmed its commitment to maintain Australia's sovereignty
over the Australian Antarctic Territory and to support the Antarctic Treaty
In December 1986 the Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the
Environment tabled its report 'Shelburne Bay'. Following the recommendation
in this report, and an environmental impact assessment, the Government
announced in March 1987 a decision not to approve a proposal for silica
sand mining at Shelburne Bay.
More recently, in November 1988, the Standing Committee on Environment,
Recreation and the Arts tabled its report 'The Potential of the Kakadu
National Park Region'. The Committee's report contained thirty-nine
recommendations which addressed the use and the management of the park
region, in order to ensure that the region's potential benefits were realised
without damage to its natural beauty and environmental integrity.
In response to the report the Government referred to inquiries begun
by the Resource Assessment Commission, which would be considered prior
to discussions concerning land use. In its response the Government also
described the establishment of a Board of Management for the Park and
it outlined how other recommendations relating to the Australian National
Parks and Wildlife Service and the Office of the Supervising Scientist
had been addressed in reviews of these agencies. The response supported
a recommendation for a long range tourist strategy for the Park and described
consideration being given to a recommendation for an Aboriginal Cultural
Centre in the Park.
In June 1976 the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment
tabled its report 'Review of the Report of the Senate Select Committee
on Air Pollution'. The report recommended the enactment of legislation
by the Commonwealth to control air pollution within its territories and
it made other recommendations to advance relevant research, including
the establishment of a Bureau of Air Pollution. The report also recommended
that urgent consideration be given to the control of motor vehicle emissions.
The Government response to this report included details of action to establish
a National Air Quality Data Centre; the response also described the application
of Australian Design Rules to reduce motor vehicle emissions.
In August 1978 the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources tabled
its report 'Australia's Water Resources - the Commonwealth's Role'.
Subsequently in the period 1979-1981 the Senate Standing Committee on
Science and the Environment examined pollution of the Murray River and
tabled three successive reports entitled 'Progress Report on the Continuing
Scrutiny of Pollution - The River Murray', in June 1979, September
1980 and November 1981. The reports highlighted the need for the River
Murray Commission to have more power and the urgent requirement for co-ordinated
management of water quality, involving the Commission and State Departments
and authorities responsible for water supply, pollution control and environmental
quality. In its response, the Government described the introduction of
the River Murray Waters Bill in October 1982 and the establishment of
a National Water Research Council.
The Environment and Human Welfare
Inquiries by the present Committee and its predecessors have given particular
attention to factors deriving from the natural and social environment
which affect human health and welfare. Inquiries have covered the social
effect of environmental conditions and development, and have also examined
pesticide use, quarantine provisions and sports drugs which are of direct
relevance to human health and welfare.
In 1972 and 1974 the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment
presented progress reports on 'The Environmental Conditions of Aborigines
and Torres Strait Islanders and the Preservation of their Sacred Sites'.
This matter was subsequently referred to a Senate Select Committee for
More recently the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation
and the Arts examined the attention given to environmental considerations
in multilateral development assistance and Australia's bilateral assistance
program; its report 'Environmental Impact of Development Assistance'
was tabled in December 1989. Recommendations in this report were designed
to give effect to Australia's concern over the environmental impact of
multilateral development assistance and to ensure the adequate integration
of environmental considerations into Australian development aid planning.
The Government, with minor exceptions, accepted the Committee's recommendations.
The response to the report announced in particular the provision of environmental
assessment training for staff of the Australian International Development
Assistance Bureau and the inclusion of environmental issues and controls
in aid project documents. Overall the response described evaluation and
review measures to ensure that Australia's aid would promote environmentally
responsible development; it also described arrangements to permit the
Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act to be applied to bilateral
In June 1978 the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment
tabled its report 'Herbicides, Pesticides and Human Health' and
in November 1982 the Committee reported on 'Pesticides and the Health
of Australian Vietnam Veterans'. The Government response to the latter
report foreshadowed the subsequent establishment of a Royal Commission
to examine the health effects of exposure to toxic chemicals in Vietnam.
Quarantine provisions were the subject of the two reports, 'The Adequacy
of Quarantine' and 'Adequacy of Quarantine in the Torres Strait
Area', which were tabled in November 1979 and November 1986 respectively
by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources. The first report
called for a new Australian Agricultural Health Service and increased
legislative powers and surveillance resources for the quarantine service.
The report also recommended measures to increase research and public information
on quarantine, and to increase consultation with industry and overseas
governments on these matters.
In its second report the Committee recommended in particular a review
of provisions and arrangements concerning quarantine under the Torres
Strait Treaty. Other recommendations identified the need to increase quarantine
awareness among islanders and examine plant control measures, resources
for quarantine and related disease monitoring and contingency controls.
The first of these reports led inter alia to the announcement by
the Government of an upgrading of quarantine surveillance and attention
to strengthening coastal surveillance. The report also resulted in the
establishment of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service. In
response to the later report the Government outlined action to improve
the operation of quarantine in the Torres Strait area and also drew attention
to the CSIRO program for biological control of screw-worm fly.
More recently, human health and welfare was a central theme for an inquiry
into the use of performance enhancing drugs by Australian sportsmen and
sportswomen; this inquiry was conducted by the Senate Standing Committee
on Environment, Recreation and the Arts. The Committee's Interim and Second
Reports 'Drugs in Sport' were tabled in June 1989 and May 1990
respectively. The reports recommended measures to detect the use of sports
drugs and restrict their overall availability. In particular cases of
drug use, the Committee was also concerned that government agencies and
sporting bodies demonstrate a commitment to prevent the use of drugs.
Even prior to the formal Government response to these reports, the Government
took action, following the Interim Report, to control the availability
of sports drugs and to detect their use by sportspersons. That report
led to the establishment of the Australian Sports Drug Agency and restrictions
upon the importation of particular drugs for personal use. On 7 November
1990 the Government responded to both Drugs in Sports Reports. In addition
to supporting the Committee's major recommendations that an Australian
Sports Drug Agency be established, it also agreed that the Australian
Sports Commission issue a revised Doping Policy and that both ASDA and
the Australian Sports Commission adopt the International Olympic Committee's
List of Doping Classes and Methods as their guide for prohibited drugs.
Nevertheless, several significant recommendations were not accepted by
the Government. These included the types of powers to be allocated to
the ASDA, and the establishment of an independent tribunal to adjudicate
drug test penalties. Further, the Government's response to the Drugs in
Sport inquiry did not support action against individual sportspeople named
in the Reports.