New federal government agency

20 September 2010

A new federal government department has been created – the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. The matters to be dealt with by the Department are:

  • environment protection and conservation of biodiversity;
  • air quality;
  • national fuel quality standards;
  • land contamination;
  • meteorology;
  • administration of the Australian Antarctic Territory, and the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands;
  • natural, built and cultural heritage;
  • environmental research;
  • water policy and resources;
  • ionospheric prediction;
  • co-ordination of sustainable communities policy;
  • population policy;
  • housing affordability; and
  • built environment innovation.

Tony Burke has been sworn in as Minister in charge of this new agency with the title of “Minister for Sustainable Population, Communities and the Environment”.

The federal government’s responsibility for urban affairs had previously been fragmented between four ministers, responsible variously for housing, infrastructure, environment and sustainable population.

Mr Burke’s appointment collapses three of these ministerial jobs into one. Mr Burke’s appointment removes the need for the appointment of a distinct Housing Minister and a separate Minister for Environmental Protection.

It means that between them, Tony Burke, and Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese are now the key Commonwealth Ministers on urban development issues.

In many senses Tony Burke is now the federal equivalent of state planning minister, with responsibilities for population strategic planning, housing supply and affordability as well as statutory approvals (where the Commonwealth has jurisdiction).

The challenge for Mr Burke, in this new role, is to go beyond the traditional role of a pure “environment” minister and embrace his responsibilities to pro-actively address the shortage of housing and other urban development across Australia.