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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1808

Mr IAN CAMERON(8.33) —It is a pleasure to speak to the package of Bills before the House tonight. Before doing so, I must tell the honourable member for Canning (Mr Gear), who seems to be very concerned about trees, that it always amazes me how the conservationists do not seem to want to eat or to get shelter. Three parts of the houses in Australia are built from timber. We have to clear land and grow crops, which we have done. There are five Bills before the House. The first is the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill, which seeks to prevent the exploration for and recovery of minerals within Kakadu. It is an absolute farce to think that a government should set out to stop the exploration for and mining of minerals in these areas. I believe that we now have the technology to do so. The mines existing have shown--

Mr Saunderson —What about Ranger?

Mr IAN CAMERON —There is nothing wrong with Ranger. Uranium has been mined there successfully for a number of years. Very little damage is being done. When the mining is finished, the land can be rehabilitated. That has been done in many areas. It has been done in relation to mineral sands and for all sorts of mines. We have been mining minerals for the past 5,000 years. We will continue to do so. It is an absolute farce to think that we should close up these areas when we are already mining them. The area which we are discussing has never been properly explored. It is one of the biggest uranium provinces in the world. Government members do not seem to want to use the natural resources which we are very lucky to have. Once the Bill goes through, we will not be able to mine and search for minerals at all.

I have had talks with Aborigines in the area. They wish to mine it. They wish to get some income and to have some sort of a living out of the area, and why should they not? The Aborigines in the Territory are as keen as anybody to get a mining lease and to get into the areas in question. With the strict controls that apply today, we are able to do the mining, take the uranium out, and clean up the area once the mineral has been extracted. The minerals are not finite. There is only a limited amount of metal in most mines. Most mines eventually run out. That has happened throughout Australia's history. Old gold mines are scattered right across this country. Most of those which have been worked out have reverted back to the bush. One would not even know where the mines had been, except for a few old rusty jam tins and equipment lying around. These days, with proper controls, we can force mining companies to clean up and put the area back to its natural state. That is happening with the coal mining industry in Queensland. I am a great believer in mining our mineral sands. I do not believe that we should be locking up that resource forever.

Mr John Brown —What about that bit of beach you own at Noosa? Do you want that mined.

Mr IAN CAMERON —It has already been mined. The bit of beach up at Noosa that I happen to control has already been mined for mineral sand. If the honourable member has observed what has been happening, he will be aware that I have been asked to remove the ilmenite tailings on the land, which are alleged to be radioactive-which is a lot of nonsense, but that is the story. The whole beach frontage there has been mined for mineral sands. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) was there the other day. I asked him what he noticed a bit different about it, and he did not pick that it had been mined. The area has been revegetated and one would not know that it had ever been mined. In many cases, the beach can be put back and made better than it was before nature had it. It can be built up higher and more sand can be placed there. It is a nonsense to say that such areas cannot be mined. It has been done on Fraser Island. One would not know that there had been a mining company on Fraser Island. It is being done already on Stradbroke Island. Plenty of mineral sand is being mined on Stradbroke Island. The whole area will be sifted through, put back and revegetated. After 10 years, one would not even know that there had been a mine there.

The same applies to the area which we are discussing. I worked there many years ago on the Mary River and the South Alligator River. We used to tranquillise buffaloes. The whole place is covered in wild animals. I might ask what honourable members think those animals have been doing over this period. Enormous herds of buffaloes have been introduced into the area. There are wild pigs, brumbies and wild scrubber cattle there. The whole area is inundated with livestock.

Mr Saunderson —Destroying the environment; that is what they have been doing.

Mr IAN CAMERON —They have been there for hundreds of years. The Aborigines themselves have continually fired the area. Parts of that country go up in smoke every year, although it can be argued that it is part of the process of the Aborigines; but they burn everything to trap the animals and so on that they are after. If one flies over that country or drives through it in the summer time, one cannot see more than 100 yards ahead for smoke.

The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill is a nonsense. It ties up the land. Gimbat and Goodparla are being purchased with taxpayers' money, handed back to the Aborigines in a land claim situation, and then the Aborigines will lease the land back to the Federal Government, which again is the taxpayer. So all in all, it is a tidy old deal for a few people which we, the taxpayers of Australia have to pay. We will continue to pay for it, and this area will continue to be leased back, the same as Uluru is. I believe that national parks are what the name says they are, and if that is the way the Australian Labor Party wants them to be why is it that we have to lease them back off the Aborigines? Why should they not be national parks for all Australians? I do not believe that either Kakadu or Uluru, the national park at Ayers Rock, should be given back to the Aborigines; they should be kept for all Australians.

If Kakadu National Park is so wondrous and so worthy of being placed on the World Heritage List, why should we not all have a piece of the action? We are all paying for it, as taxpayers; we put the money in to buy these two cattle stations and we are going to put the money in to continually pay the Aboriginal land council there a certain lease payment each year. Why they should be the people who own this area is beyond my comprehension. There is plenty of land in Arnhem Land-millions of square kilometres of it. Past generations of Aborigines have not been wandering around there; there have been cattle stations there for a hundred years. Mount Bundey and such places-the whole area-are overrun with wild buffalo. As Gareth Evans says, it is just clapped out buffalo country. He is 100 per cent correct.

The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill (No. 2) creates stage 3 of Kakadu National Park. As I have said, 65 per cent of that area involves the Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases, and mining will be allowed in the other 35 per cent of that zone. There will be controlled exploration, which I believe is the way it should be. Apparently at Corporation Hill the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd has discovered quite a large deposit of gold. Of course there are many other minerals in the area.

Mr Saunderson —How do you know? It has never been explored.

Mr IAN CAMERON —The area has only been explored over the past 10 or 15 years.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) -Order! If the honourable member for Aston continues to interject I will deal with him.

Mr Tim Fischer —Hear, hear!

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Members on my left do not assist, either.

Mr IAN CAMERON —The Australian Mining Industry Council has found that the drafts and regulations are not workable, and of course the Council does not seem to have had any input into this; the Government has just gone ahead and drawn up this legislation. The Government wants to retain the right to choose who should explore the area.

The Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Amendment Bill extends the jurisdiction of the Office of the Supervising Scientist for the Alligator Rivers Region to cover the inclusion of stage 3 of Kakadu in the conservation zone. Here we have a public servant, the Supervising Scientist, who will close down any mining inside the park if he so chooses.

Mr McGauran —He has 76 in that office.

Mr IAN CAMERON —There we are-more public servants which the taxpayers of this country have to pay for. The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill (No. 2) is retrospective legislation. The Goodparla pastoral lease is owned by the Gunn rural company, and Ian Lewis is going up there. The Government is presently negotiating with this company to purchase these two pastoral leases. So far negotiations seems to be proceeding at a reasonable pace. The Department of Local Government and Administrative Services controls the purchase of all land in Australia, and that Department is carrying out negotiations with these people for the sale of the lease. I imagine the same thing applies to Gimbat.

One wonders how many more pastoral leases the socialists in the Labor Party will buy up across Australia. If land is not being bought up for national parks, it is being bought up for Aboriginal land leases. We have an allotment of money put down every year-it is now $90m-to buy up leases across Australia. One wonders where it will stop; one wonders why we do not want a cattle industry. This whole area has been grazed by thousands of head of cattle over the last 100 or so years, and I do not see why it should not continue to do that.

The Kakadu area is not unique in Australia. I refer to three areas in this category-the Blue Mountains area, the Carnarvon area in my electorate, which I would argue is even more spectacular than the Kakadu area, and Kakadu. There is nothing unique about Kakadu. It is nonsense to say that it should be entered on the World Heritage List. What is the World Heritage List, anyway? It is a lot of nonsense. The Blue Mountains, the Carnarvon area and Kakadu are all similar sandstone escarpment areas. The Blue Mountains are more spectacular than Kakadu; it is a nonsense to say anything else. All the valleys around Carnarvon, covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometres, are just as spectacular, just as full of Aboriginal caves and have just as many waterholes and things as the Kakadu area, but because Kakadu happens to be controlled by the Commonwealth Government the Government does not seem to be satisfied until it has ripped most of the area off the people of the Northern Territory. It is high time it stopped.

The park itself is really beyond any sort of manageable size, as it covers 17,000 square kilometres. One wonders why the Aborigines need that amount of land in that area. It is beyond me. Most of it is no good. I think there is quite a deal of escarpment area around Oenpelli, and of course the wetlands probably should be preserved. I reckon the rest of it should be turned back to grazing cattle, as it has been used for years past. The Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill will prevent the Aboriginal veto of exploration and mining. That is the 35 per cent of the two pastoral leases that I spoke about.

The national parks Bill and the land rights Bill are retrospective. One wonders why that is necessary, but it seems that it is. It was the Labor Party that howled and cried at us when we introduced retrospective legislation into this House, and here it is doing exactly the same thing. Property rights are effectively null and void. The package creates a precedent for confiscating property while significantly denying compensation. That is a terrible state of affairs in this country of ours because we have always had a system whereby adequate compensation is paid. I just hope that the people who presently own these pastoral leases will get adequate and proper compensation. They have been up there for years running their cattle stations, trying to earn export income for this country while the Labor Party down here in Canberra just continues to borrow funds and spend them on unnecessary things.

The Hawke Government is the greatest borrowing and greatest spending government we have seen since Federation. No government has borrowed more money or has spent more money than the Hawke socialist Government. The Hawke Government has borrowed $16 billion a year, and it is continuing to borrow huge amounts of money in order to do things like buying up land and locking up more and more of Australia in national parks.

Obviously the Government is out to capture the vote. There must be an election coming on. There is no rational conservation reason for the way the boundaries have been drawn up. Straight lines have merely been drawn around the pastoral lease boundaries. There is nothing scientific about that. Of course Harry Butler says the same thing about this area. He says it is not worth preserving an acre of it. Most of it is just whipstick and low ridgy country which is only good for grazing cattle. I do not know what the Aborigines think they are going to do there, but I guarantee that they will not be sitting out there among the whipsticks; they will all be in town.

Mr Saunderson —Come on; you can't say that.

Mr IAN CAMERON —It is true.

Mr Saunderson —They do not.

Mr IAN CAMERON —We supply food for them; we give them this land but they do not use it. That is the sad thing about it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Aston will cease interjecting. He might also bear in mind that as he is the next speaker he will obviously be expecting the Chair to allow him to be heard in silence. His behaviour at present does not set much of an example.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Obviously most of the original or natural owners do not spend any time on these land grants; they basically live in town.

Mr Saunderson —Come on!

Mr IAN CAMERON —It is true. Aborigines do live on some areas permanently but they do not live on most of the areas for which they have claimed land rights. There are very few Aborigines living in this area. If the honourable member cares to go there and have a look, he will see that that is true. Not only have I been there as a member of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs of this House but also I worked through the area as a young fellow, capturing buffaloes and shooting crocodiles. My mate the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment says that that is fairly true. Years ago I did spend quite a deal of time on the South Alligator River. Of course, the original plan for Kakadu was to have multiple land use with significant sites being protected. I wonder where those sites are. I never saw any when I was there, but I believe there are some quite good rock drawings up in the caves on the escarpment. The escarpment is nowhere near this area, but there might still be a few rock paintings about. I certainly never saw any.

Much of stages 2 and 3 is of very doubtful value as a national park. Many conservationists have said that these areas are not worth preserving. I wish the Government would lash around in the Carnarvon Gorge area the sort of Commonwealth funds that it is lashing around in the Territory. I would be very happy to have additional funding in my electorate to look after the Carnarvon National Park. It is a very beautiful area and I recommend to anybody listening tonight and to the members in the House that, if they have time, I would be only too happy to show them around. Both the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer) and the honourable member for Gilmore (Mr Sharp) have stayed at the lodge at the Carnarvon Gorge. They had a most enjoyable time. There is no doubt that it is a very spectacular area to visit. There are no crocodiles there, so that is something that visitors do not have to worry about. There are a few black snakes but no crocodiles. I invite all Australians who might be getting ready for the school holidays and Easter, if they enjoy camping holidays, to head up to the Carnarvon Gorge in the electorate of Maranoa.

Mr McGauran —And drop into your office.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Yes, and drop into Dalby on the way through. Much of stages 2 and 3 is of very doubtful value. There is no commitment in the future for mining operations outside of Kakadu. Stage 3 includes gold and platinum deposits. I have mentioned the deposits at Coronation Hill. Obviously there is no need to continue the administrative stage. These Bills will damage the mining industry by locking this area up forever. Once a national park is created, that is it. It seems terribly difficult for people to then get into a national park and take out some of the resources that should be available to all Australians. That is the other thing about mining: Royalties are paid, resources are taken out and the wealth obtained is spread throughout Australia. If we are to continue to grow and expand as a nation, we ought to be sensible enough to have the proper management controls in place so that we can go into these areas and mine them. I thank the House.