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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 3618


Mr CHYNOWETH —Can the Prime Minister, in view of the recent developments in relation to the Government's move to seek listing of the existing Kakadu National Park on the World Heritage List, inform the House of the Government's intention in relation to mining in the park?


Mr HAWKE —I want to take this opportunity to repeat the categorical undertaking I gave in the Parliament on 10 October that the Government will not countenance any mining in Kakadu National Park stages 1 and 2. The action taken in the courts by Peko-Wallsend to delay the processing of the World Heritage listing application for Kakadu stage 2 cannot and will not succeed in its basic objectives. The Government will legislate to make it clear beyond dispute that no such activity can or will take place anywhere in the existing Kakadu National Park. It will do this regardless of the course taken by the company in its present legal action, based on its alleged--


Mr Sinclair —I rise on a point of order. Madam Speaker, I am not sure of the degree to which the sub judice rule is normally applied in this House, but you will be aware that there is at present an appeal, before the High Court of Australia, as I understand it, on the matter that is the subject of the present question. I suggest to you that any comments pertaining to that matter, therefore, are within the sub judice rule and should be ruled out of order.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.


Mr HAWKE —Madam Speaker, I can assure you and the Leader of the National Party of Australia that, if he will contain himself, he will see that I direct myself precisely to this question.


Mr Sinclair —Madam Speaker, it is for you to make the ruling.


Madam SPEAKER —I gave the ruling that there was no point of order on the topic.


Mr Tuckey —On the point of order: Is this case to be heard in the courts and in this Parliament? I would rather have another advocate, if I were the Government.


Madam SPEAKER —I call the Prime Minister.


Mr HAWKE —As I said, we will do this regardless of the course of action taken by the company in its present legal action, based on its alleged right to engage in mining activity under the present terms of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. It is the Government's intention to introduce such legislation at the first available opportunity. In the meantime, even if the World Heritage listing process is not completed this week, I want to make it quite clear that the park will not be in jeopardy in any way. The mere seeking of World Heritage listing for the park, which occurred on 17 September, provides the foundation under the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act upon which the Governor-General can issue a proclamation that has the effect of prohibiting any action that he has reasonable grounds to consider threatens the values of the park. Moreover, Peko-Wallsend has already given a formal undertaking to the Northern Territory Supreme Court not to enter the park for exploration or mining purposes pending the determination of its court action under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act, which will take some time to finalise.

Going directly to the point that has been raised in this intervention, I want to say that the Government is giving consideration to introducing its proposed overriding legislation later this week as the clearest possible demonstration of our intention to prevent mining in the existing park. It would be inappropriate, however, to introduce such legislation before the High Court has indicated its attitude to the application now before it for special leave to appeal. As a further practical matter, it would not be possible to pass the necessary Bill through both Houses before the World Heritage Committee has completed its present meeting. If such legislation is introduced this week it would be the Government's intention that it lie on the table until the new year and be debated in the first week of the autumn parliamentary session.

Even if the final listing of stage 2 is delayed until the 1987 meeting of the Committee, the protection of the park will not be jeopardised in any way. The Commonwealth Government has ample legislative power fully to protect the park in every respect and we are determined so to act. The Government will continue to meet any challenge that may be made to its decisions in relation to Kakadu by the Northern Territory Government, Peko-Wallsend or anyone else. We will not be diverted from our clear and unequivocal commitment to preserve for future generations of Australians the unique natural and cultural heritage of Kakadu, and we are fully confident of our capacity to honour that commitment.