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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1518

Senator MASON —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment. I refer to an article in Monday's Sydney Morning Herald and, indeed, to an editorial in today's Sydney Morning Herald concerning rain forests. Those articles very accurately indict the Federal Government for its weak and inconsistent attitude, particularly towards the rain forests in the Daintree area in Queensland and in New South Wales. I ask the Minister: How long does the Federal Government intend to wait for the Queensland Government to agree to nominate the Daintree tropical rain forests for World Heritage listing? In the light of the Queensland Premier's continuing refusal to co-operate-obviously that is happening-does the Minister agree that World Heritage listing of the wet tropical rain forests, including Daintree, is not likely to occur before the Queensland Government has completely destroyed them by milling? Is this the case also for important sections of the Great Barrier Reef? Further, will the Minister advise whether the delay in nominating New South Wales rain forests for World Heritage listing is because the Federal Government lives in an unnatural fear of the Queensland Premier because of his rejection of proposals for a joint New South Wales-Queensland nomination covering rain forests in both States?

Senator RYAN —I do not have any specific information on the matter raised by Senator Mason's question. I remind Senator Mason that the Government has a pretty good track record in respect of Tasmania and the rain forest there, which was preserved at considerable financial cost to the Commonwealth. In the case of the Daintree rain forest, the refusal of the Queensland Government to co-operate has proved an obstacle in taking effective steps to protect that rain forest. Although I will have to refer Senator Mason's question to the Minister for further information, it is my understanding that negotiations are still being pursued by the Commonwealth in order to ensure that the rain forest as it now exists-I understand that there has been some damage-will be preserved and protected. Whether that will happen by way of a World Heritage listing is a matter on which I cannot comment at this stage. Certainly my colleague the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment continues to be very assiduous in his efforts to achieve some sort of protection for what I think we all regard as a most valuable area of Australia's natural heritage.

Senator MASON —Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I find it difficult to accept that the Minister who represents the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment cannot give us a clear indication of just what the time scale is. Surely the Government has considered to some extent whether it is going to do something this year, next year, in 10 years time, or in a century's time. Can she give us some idea of the degree of urgency with which the Government sees this?

Senator RYAN —I will try to get some more specific information for Senator Mason from the Minister.