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Annual Report - Appendix 5: Ecologically Sustainable Development
Appendix 1Appendix 2Appendix 3Appendix 4Appendix 5Appendix 6Appendix 7Appendix 8Appendix 9Appendix 10Appendix 11

Appendix 5 – Ecologically Sustainable Development

The Department of Health and Ageing’s environmental performance in 2005-06 is discussed against Section 516A of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The Department is committed to reducing its environmental impacts and operating in an ecologically sustainable way while improving service delivery. The Department is working towards achieving this by applying a balanced best practice approach and greater strategic environmental, social and economic consideration.

The National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (NESD), endorsed by all Australian jurisdictions in 1992, defines the goal of Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) as:

‘Development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains the ecological processes on which life depends’.

Legislation Administered by the Department during 2005-06 Accords with Ecologically Sustainable Development Principles (Section 516A(6)(a))

In 2005-06, the Department managed in excess of 50 pieces of legislation. Examples of legislation that meet ESD principles include:
  • the Gene Technology Act 2000, administered by the Department in consultation with the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR). The aim of this Act is to protect the health and safety of people and the environment, by identifying risks posed by, or as a result of, gene technology and by managing those risks through regulating certain dealings with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The Act supports a regulatory framework which provides that where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation;
  • the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989, administered by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS). This Act provides for a national notification and risk assessment scheme for industrial chemicals. All chemical risk assessment activities undertaken by NICNAS are within an internationally agreed policy framework that is consistent with the principles of ESD; and
  • the National Health Medical and Research Council Act 1992, which requires a member of the Council to be a person with knowledge of environmental issues. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s (NHMRC) Health Advisory Committee includes a person with expertise in environmental health.

Outcome Contribution to Ecologically Sustainable Development (Section 516A(6)(b))

The Department’s 12 outcomes provide a framework to support the improvement of Australia’s health and meet the needs of older Australians. In working to achieve these outcomes, the Department undertook a number of activities in 2005-06 that addressed ESD principles and had ESD relevance. These included long-term strategic issues, such as the relationship between health and sustainable development, health and climate change, and improving the evidence-base for environmental health decision-making.

For example, in 2005-06, the Department supported an independent panel appointed by the Gene Technology Ministerial Council (GTMC) in the Statutory Review of the Gene Technology Act 2000 and the Gene Technology Agreement 2001. The review concluded that the objective of the Gene Technology Act 2000 should remain unchanged, which means the regulation of GMOs will continue to be consistent with ESD principles. The report of the review was presented to the GTMC (comprising Australian, state and territory representatives) and tabled in the Australian Parliament on 27 April 2006. The draft response to the recommendations of the review will be considered by the GTMC in late October 2006.

The OGTR continued to support the Gene Technology Regulator (the Regulator) in regulating certain dealings with live and viable GMOs. The Regulator’s work ranges from contained work in certified laboratories to general releases of GMOs into the environment to protect human health and safety, and the environment. The Regulator has extensive powers to monitor and enforce license conditions for licence holders and persons covered by licenses. In 2005-06, the Regulator received 38 licence applications; 11 for dealings involving intentional release of GMOs into the environment and 27 for dealings not involving intentional release of GMOs into the environment. In addition, the Regulator issued 22 licenses to deal with GMOs. Further details can be found in the Regulator’s 2005-06 Annual Report.

NICNAS risk assessments and risk management strategies operated within the framework for environmentally sound management of chemicals and were aligned with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Agenda 21 (Rio Declaration). Consistent with the NESD principles and policies, NICNAS risk assessments comprised a hazard assessment, dose-response relationships, exposure assessment and risk assessment including risk management options. In recommending risk management strategies for industrial chemicals, NICNAS sought to balance economic and social benefits afforded by these strategies with the economic, political and social costs of implementation.

The NICNAS Low Regulatory Concern Chemicals reforms implemented in 2005-06 include strategies which encourage the introduction of less hazardous chemicals that pose a lower risk to the environment. Promotion of innovative new technologies through direct financial incentives for chemicals that pose a lower regulatory risk will result in a more sustainable overall regulatory framework and chemical industry in Australia. NICNAS environmental risk assessment activity is undertaken through a cooperative partnership arrangement with the Department of Environment and Heritage. Further details can be found in the NICNAS Annual Report 2005-06.

Capital work projects funded in rural areas by the Department included feasibility studies that took into account environmental issues. For example, the Department commissioned a feasibility study to investigate local environment, economic, culture, operational and aesthetic issues involved in providing a swimming pool to the Waturru Community in the APY Lands of South Australia. The study confirmed the project was viable and sustainable from an environmental perspective and ensured key issues such as water, power, waste disposal, aesthetics and cultural safety were adequately considered in the design.

In 2005-06, the Department published the Management of Asbestos in the Non-Occupational Environment (2005) to support decisions by environment and health authorities in avoiding new asbestos exposures from existing materials containing asbestos. The guide covers asbestos detection, risk assessment and risk management.

The Effect of Departmental Activities on the Environment (Section 516A(6)(c))

The Department’s continued commitment to the environment is reflected through its Environmental Management System (EMS), based on AS/NZA ISO 14:0001:1996. In 2005-06, the Department reviewed EMS action-plans to moderate the effects of departmental business activities and adjusted performance indicators to continue process improvement for 2006-08. Through the initiatives undertaken and the regular monitoring regimes implemented under the EMS, the Department was able to identify areas for further discussion to ensure that it can continue to reduce the environmental footprint of its activities.

Identified key impacts from departmental office-based activities included the consumption of energy and goods, and the generation of waste.

The Department, through the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health’s Capital Works Program, provided health infrastructure that is built and designed to be durable, locally sustainable, and appropriate to the cultural and physical environment. It also encouraged community development and ownership, and enabled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to deliver high quality health care services that meet the changing needs of their communities. Capital works guidelines include requirements for passive solar design principles, shaded buildings and adequate wall and ceiling insulation to reduce heating and cooling requirements. As at 30 June 2006, 166 capital works projects were in progress across Australia.

The NHMRC continued to provide advice on environmental health matters through its guiding documents: the Community Water Planner – A Tool for Small Communities to Develop Drinking Water Management Plans User Manual 2005; and community resource Water Made Clear. These publications aim to assist local authorities and agencies to minimise the impact and affect of their services on the environment, to improve community awareness of what constitutes safe drinking water, and to provide a safe quality of drinking water to the Australian public. These publications are available on the NHMRC web site.

Measures the Department is Taking to Minimise the Impact of Activities on the Environment (Section 516A(6)(d))

In 2005-06, the Department worked to operate in an ecologically sustainable way and to reduce negative environmental impacts through its EMS. Since its initial development in 2003, the Department’s EMS has focused on the ESD principles. Examples of the Department’s achievements this year include:
  • Reduced Energy Consumption
    The Department continued to pursue energy efficient initiatives with the refurbishment of Scarborough House for Central Office and the co-location of staff into six buildings.
Table 1: Greenhouse Gas Reductions from Energy Use – Central Office 2002-2006

Central Office





Leased sq meters (per annum) 45,830 45,410 44,900 52,300#
Energy use (kWh) 8,120,400 7,061,000 5,998,600 5,575,156
Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (tonnes) 7,999 6,955 5,791 5,161
Continuous annual reduction in GHG emmissions n/a -1,044 -1,164 -630
% reduction in GHG emissions (per annum) n/a -13% -17% -11%
REduction in GHG emissions commpared to 2005-03 -35%

Source: The Department of Health and Ageing.
# Reflects the rolling termination of leases from October – December 2005 and the occupation of Scarborough House from September 2005.

Scarborough House is the ‘greenest’ building the Department occupies. The refurbishment has an overall (base building and tenant light and power) energy consumption target equivalent to a 4 star rating by the Sustainability Energy Development Authority. The building represents the largest single space occupied by the Department and, as Table 1 demonstrates, has delivered significant energy savings. The average monthly energy consumption is 110,000 kWh, equivalent to another Health building which is only 55 per cent of its size. The major contributor to the reduced electricity consumption is the installation of an energy efficient lighting system.

  • Increased Green Power Purchases Saving Greenhouse Gas Emissions
    In line with the Australian Government Energy Policy and the National Greenhouse Strategy, the Department purchased eight per cent green power for most of its Central Office buildings under the whole-of-government energy supply contract managed by the Department of Defence.

  • Improvement in ‘Greenness’ of Leased Vehicle Fleet
    As of June 2006, 35 per cent of the pool fleet and 31 per cent of the entire leased fleet was rated between 10.5 and 17 according to the Green Vehicle Guide (GVG). This marks a steady progress towards the Australian Government target of 38 per cent for pool vehicles. The Department’s preference for higher-GVG rated vehicles reduces the potential impact of air pollution and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

  • Expansion of Office Recycling to Reduce Waste Going to Landfill
    In 2005-06, the Department recycled 78-85 per cent of its office paper waste and continued to expand its recycling activities. Old and broken mobile phones were recycled through the mobile phone industry collection service. Used toner cartridges were also recycled through a specialist manufacturer that reuses or breaks down components for remanufacture or other sustainable waste stream recycling. By 2008, the Department aims to reduce the amount of office waste going to landfill by a further 25 per cent.
Table 2: Minimising Impact of Activities – Central Office 2005-06

Central Office


Environmental Impact Minimised

Office paper recycled 169.8 tonnes Paper can be recycled eight times, reducing the demand for virgin material. In addition to saving 425 tonnes of GHGs, the reuse of 170 tonnes of office paper saves 83 trees, 425 barrels of oil, 700,000 kWh of electricity, 680 cubic metres of landfill and 5.4 megalitres of water (footnote1).
Old mobile phones and batteries recycled 87 items Mobile phones contain highly toxic materials (cadmium, lead, nickel), which have the potential to leach into the water-table and contaminate the environment (footnote2).
Used toner cartidges recycled 1,152 items Printer inks and toners contain potentially hazardous materials (such as carbon black and cadmium-based phosphors) which may pollute the environmental. Used toner cartridges also take up valuable space by being deposited in landfill (footnote3).
Commingle recycling/ reusing stationery, including: paper/card; metal; and plastics 4,075 kg Manufacturing products from recycled materials uses up to 95 per cent less energy than is required to make these products from virgin materials. This figure includes 175 kg off office stationery recycled for reuse internally (footnote1).

Source: The Department of Health and Ageing.

  • Increased Use of Recycled Office Products
    Large quantities of vinyl folders, plastic and metal goods, and cardboard items are recycled by the Department. In 2005-06, 74 per cent of office paper used was recycled stock, manufactured in Australia from 60 per cent recycled pulp and 40 per cent sourced from sustainable managed plantations.

  • Continued Implementation of Initiatives to Moderate the Consumption of Office Paper
    In 2005-06, the Department continued to moderate its paper consumption and increase the use of recycled paper stock.

Table 3: The Department’s Paper Consumption



2 004-05


Total reams 92,040 63,200 60,036
% change in consumption n/a -31% 8%
% white paper with recycled component 64% 66% 75%

Source: The Department of Health and Ageing.

The steady move towards the provision of electronic information continues. In 2006-07, the Department plans to rollout a print production portal to save 25 per cent in consumerables, for example 12 pallets and six facsimile toner cartridges per annum.

The Therapeutic Goods Association’s (TGA) EMS has been in place since December 2003 and complies with the relevant Australian Standard AS/NZS ISO 14004:1996. Since 2002, the TGA has also promoted environmental procurement when undertaking refurbishment programs.

    Mechanisms for Reviewing and Improving Measures to Minimise the Impact of the Department on the Environment (Section 516A(6)(e))

    The Department continually improves its environmental performance through its EMS. The EMS incorporates regular review and audit schedules and an evaluation process to ensure that objectives, targets and plans are met. The EMS’s 2005-08 targets seek a 10 per cent improvement on 2004-05 achievements.

    The Department reports electricity and fuel consumption t light and power consumption and fuel annually in the Energy Use in the Australian Government's Operations Report, highlighting progress against government and internal targets in relation to electricity and vehicle fuel consumption.

    In 2005, the Department contributed to the Australian National Audit Office survey on Green Office Procurement. The survey and recommendations were published by the Australian National Audit Office in December 2005.

    Footnote1 - Source: www.visy.com.au/divisions/category_page.aspx?did=1&sid=3&cid=89
    Footnote2 - Source: www.dcita.gov.au/ict/publications/data_magazine/issue_5/mobile_phone_recycling
    Footnote3 - Source: www.facilities.unsw.edu.au/recycling/toner_reuse.htm

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    Produced by the Portfolio Strategies Division, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.
    URL: http://www.health.gov.au/internet/annrpt/publishing.nsf/Content/appendix5-ecologically-sustainable-development-2
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