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Precaution: Principles and practice in Australian environmental and natural resource management

Conference paper

This paper by Deborah Peterson was presented as the Presidential Address to the 50th Annual Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society Conference in Manly, New South Wales on 8-10 February 2006.

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  • Contents

1   Introduction

2   Origins and development of the precautionary principle

3   The meaning of precaution
3.1   Definitions of the precautionary principle
3.1.1   Weak formulations
3.1.2   Moderate formulations
3.1.3   Strong formulations
3.2   Options for precautionary action
3.3   'Principle' or 'approach'?

4   Criticisms of the precautionary principle
4.1   Excessive discretion
4.2   Reversal of the burden of proof
4.3   Distortion of regulatory priorities
4.4   Stifling of development and technological innovation
4.5   Costs of precautionary measures
4.6   Perverse consequences
4.7   Misuse as a protectionist barrier
4.8   Avoiding the shortcomings of the precautionary principle

5   Application of the precautionary principle in Australia
5.1   Australian provisions for the precautionary principle
5.2   Australian definitions of the precautionary principle
5.3   Absence of Australian implementation guidelines
5.4   Merits review of Australian applications of the precautionary principle
5.4.1   The precautionary principle as ‘common sense’
5.4.2   Balancing of competing factors
5.4.3   Decision maker discretion
5.4.4   The threshold test

6    Implementation guidelines
6.1   Questions for implementation
6.2   International guidelines for implementing precaution
6.2.1   EC and UK guidelines
6.2.2   US guidelines
6.2.3   Precautionary Principle Project guidelines
6.2.4   Other guidelines
6.2.5   Findings
6.3   Modified cost-benefit analysis

7   Conclusions


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