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Annual Report - Appendix 5: Environmental Sustainability Development
Appendix 1Appendix 2Appendix 3Appendix 4Appendix 5Appendix 6Appendix 7Appendix 8Appendix 9Appendix 10Appendix11


The Department of Health and Ageing’s environmental performance in 2004-05 is discussed in this appendix against Section 516A of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Legislation Administered by the Department during 2004-05 which Accords with Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) Principles (Section 516A(6)(a))

Legislation administered by the Department which accords with ESD principles includes:
  • the Industrial Chemicals (Notification and Assessment) Act 1989, administered by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), provides for a national notification and risk assessment scheme for industrial chemicals. All chemical risk assessment activities undertaken are within an internationally agreed policy framework consistent with the principles of ESD. NICNAS risk assessments and risk management strategies operate within the framework for environmentally sound management of chemicals aligned with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development Agenda 21 (Rio Declaration). NICNAS risk assessment activity is undertaken through co-operative partnership arrangements with the Department of the Environment and Heritage. Further details can be found in the NICNAS Annual Report;
  • the Gene Technology Act 2000 protects the heath 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. Section 4 of the Gene Technology Act 2000 advises where there are threats of serious or irreversible environmental damage, a lack of full scientific certainty is not a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation; and
  • the NHMRC Act 1992 requires a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) to have knowledge of environmental issues. The Health Advisory Committee of the NHMRC includes a person with expertise in environmental health.

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

The portfolio’s nine outcomes are broadly aimed at sustaining the improvement of Australia’s health and supporting the needs of older Australians. In working to achieve these outcomes, the Department has undertaken a number of activities in 2004-05 that accord with ESD principles and have ESD relevance. They include 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.

Through the Public Health Education and Research Program (PHERP), the Department continued to administer funding to an innovations project advancing the adoption of the principles of sustainable development in public health education and research. A major achievement of this project was the publication of the Sustainability and Health: Supporting Global Ecological Integrity in Public Health report which provides a decision-making framework that can be used as a monitoring and development tool.

The National Collaborative Program on the Atmospheric Environment and Health, another PHERP innovations project, aims to build the knowledge and skills of the environmental health workforce. In 2004-05, the program delivered a workshop on air pollution exposure measurement, modelling and assessment and a short course on public health toxicology. The program also produced curricular material on climate change and its present and future impacts on health.

The Department considers environmental implications when supporting or undertaking measures to control hazards with human disease potential. In 2004-05, the Department administered funds to the Northern Territory Government for its mosquito eradication program in Tennant Creek. Under this program, the operators use chemicals with the least impact on the environment.

The NICNAS operates within a framework for the environmentally sound management of chemicals. NICNAS risk assessments comprise of hazard assessment, dose-response relationships, exposure assessment and risk assessment including risk management options. In recommending risk management strategies, economic and social benefits are balanced with the economic, political and social costs of implementing the strategies. In 2004-05, NICNAS finalised 30 investigations of breaches against registration requirements and as a result remedial actions were taken against companies to become compliant.

The Office of the Gene Technology Regulator supports the Gene Technology Regulator (the Regulator) in regulating certain dealings with live and viable genetically modified organisms (GMO). 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. In 2004-05, the Regulator conducted 178 inspections covering licensed sites.

In 2004-05, the Department administered funding for the Master Builders Australia National Lifestyle Housing for Seniors Awards as a way of influencing quality and ecologically sustainable housing for people as they age; and the 2004 National Awards for Local Government - Planning for an Ageing Community Award, an award for excellence in local government, which raises awareness of the need for planning for safe, accessible and adaptable built environments for Australia’s ageing population. The Department also worked with the Department of Environment and Heritage on activities to link ageing and the built environment as national initiatives under the Year of the Built Environment 2004.

The Department, through the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health’s Capital Works Program, provides health infrastructure that is built and designed to be durable, locally sustainable, and appropriate to the cultural and physical environment; encourages community development and ownership; and enables 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, separate male and female consultation rooms and the provision of artwork produced by the local Indigenous community. As at June 2005, 125 capital works projects were in progress across Australia.

In 2004-05, the NHMRC continued to provide advice on public and environmental health matters to the Australian community either directly through the preparation of NHMRC guidelines, or in partnership with other organisations responsible for the management and regulation of national environmental health policies.

The NHMRC published the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines in December 2004 and also approved the Australian Guidelines for Recreational Use of Water in June 2005.

Over the past decade the Health Advisory Committee has developed advice on environmental health matters.

The NHMRC is formally consulted by the Gene Technology Regulator each time the Regulator considers an application for a licence to release a GMO. NHMRC input to this consideration focuses on health aspects of licences for international release of GMOs.

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

The Department’s continued commitment to the environment is reflected in the sustained implementation of our Environmental Management System (EMS). This key management tool (based on AS/NZA ISO 14:0001:1996) enables the Department to measure and continually improve our performance in reducing energy consumption, minimising waste and reducing the consumption of goods. The EMS is based on seven Environmental Management Plans which deal with:
  • consumption of energy (lighting, office appliances and motor vehicles);
  • consumption of goods (virgin paper and purchasing stationery); and
  • generation of waste (office products, and hard waste and chemical discharge).
The TGA has a similar EMS to comply with the relevant Australian standard (AS/NZS ISO 14004:1996). TGA has had an EMS in place since December 2003.

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

The Department continues to work to reduce negative environmental impacts and operates in an ecologically sustainable way. For example, the Department is undertaking a pilot to assess the feasibility of providing administrative guidelines and manuals in easy-to-use, interactive electronic formats. The pilot is being managed under Outcome 3 and has the potential to significantly reduce the amount of printed material required by approved aged care providers.

Achievements in 2004-05, include:
  • Reduced Energy Consumption
The upgrade of office lighting control systems in four buildings has resulted in a reduction of 743,973 kilowatt hours (kWh) during 2004-05. This is a reduction of 784 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The Department previously purchased green power for a number of its leased buildings under the whole-of-government energy supply contract with the Australian Capital Territory. This was in line with the Australian Government Energy Policy and the National Greenhouse Strategy. In 2005, the management of this whole-of-government contract was passed to the Department of Defence from the Australian Greenhouse Office. The new contract negotiated by Defence provides 10 per cent green power to the buildings instead of the current 5 per cent. This will significantly increase the saving of greenhouse emissions for the Department’s buildings.

The TGA has maintained detailed records on energy usage in the Symonston building since it was occupied in December 2002. Since 2002, TGA has also promoted environmental procurement when undertaking refurbishment programs.
  • Minimised Waste
In 2003-04 and 2004-05, the Department performed waste audits on two central office buildings. The results highlighted that the introduction of commingled recycling by the Department in 2003-04 reduced the amount of waste being sent to landfill and improved the Department’s efficiency in recycling. Information obtained from the audits has enabled the Department to implement improved waste management facilities and procedures. These improvements have been incorporated into Scarborough House, which has been refurbished to consolidate the Department’s central office accommodation.
  • Reduction in the Consumption of Goods
In June 2004, the Department established an ‘excess stationery store’ which allows staff to return excess stationery items to storage. Excess items are recycled by staff which reduces the quantity of stationery being ordered by the Department, in particular expensive items. When excess items occur, the Department can block these items from the stationery catalogue and draw from existing stock.

In September 2004, the Department introduced duplex printing as the default setting to all duplex printers in Central Office. This initiative has substantially reduced the consumption of paper by the Department. The table on page 392 shows a 27 per cent decrease in paper consumption from 2003-04.

The staff relocation to the refurbished Scarborough House and the subsequent realignment of staff into a smaller number of Central Office buildings will also achieve efficiencies in office accommodation and energy consumption.

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

The Department’s EMS aims to continually improve our environmental performance. The Department reports annually to the whole-of- government Energy Use in Commonwealth Operations Report which is collated by the Australian Greenhouse Office and indicates that the Department is progressing well against the electricity and fuel consumption targets.

Overview of the Department of Health and Ageing’s environmental performance - 2003-04 and 2004-05

  2003-04 2004-05 % change
Energy Use 9,309,378 kWh 8,419,069 kWh -9.6
Greenhouse Gas Emissions 9,812 tonnes 8,864 tonnes -9.6
Paper Consumed 84,740 reams 63,187reams -27.1

The Department will incorporate water usage and waste disposal into the above table for future reports.

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-environmental-sustainability-development-1
If you would like to know more or give us your comments contact: annrep@health.gov.au