History and purpose of the committee
The terms of reference for the Committee were passed on May 24 2001 and the members appointed on June 28 2001. The Committee consisted of seven members of the Legislative Council. The Committee was essentially an amalgamation of two previous committees from the Thirty-Fifth Parliament, the Standing Committee on Ecologically Sustainable Development and the Standing Committee on Constitutional Affairs.
The functions of the Committee were to inquire into and report on public or private policies, practices, schemes, arrangements or projects in Western Australia which affected or may affected the environment, as well as any bill referred by the House and petitions.
The Committee’s terms of reference provided that, where relevant, it was to assess the merit of matters or issues arising from an inquiry in accordance with the principles of ecological sustainable development and the minimisation of harm to the environment. The concept of ecologically sustainable development was adopted as a goal by Australian governments, including Western Australia, in 1992 following the Earth Summit in Rio. Ecologically sustainable development is a philosophy defined by the National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development as "development which aims to meet the needs of Australians today while conserving our ecosystems for the benefit of future generations."
The previous Standing Committee on Ecologically Sustainable Development inquired into topics such as forest management in Western Australia, the western rock lobster fishery and Perth’s water quality.
The Committee also considered petitions that were tabled by a member of the Legislative Council on behalf of a person or groups within the community. The Committee's object in reviewing petitions was to provide a forum for public discussion on matters of community interest and to allow interested persons, or groups, to have their concerns brought to the attention of the Legislative Council.
The previous Standing Committee on Constitutional Affairs inquired into and reported on petitions. That committee considered a wide range of issues which included a request that community based midwifery be included in State health services, the erosion of private property rights, proposed amendments to the Metropolitan Region Scheme, support for voluntary euthanasia and issues concerning attention hyperactivity disorder.
The Committee was terminated and replaced on August 17 2005 by the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs.