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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3950

Senator BROWN(10.18 a.m.) —We are caught between a rock and a hard place here, because ultimately we are asked to determine whether the mining industry should be the protector of the environment or whether this government should be the protector of the environment.

Senator Parer —Which minerals? Come on, tell me which minerals.

Senator BROWN —We even have a minister here who does not know which minerals are involved. He might go to his advisers and get advice about that, because it is quite clearly indicated by the regulations which he is promulgating. But that is not unusual. He does not know what a wilderness is and he does not know a lot about the checks and balances there are to protect the environment from untoward resource extraction industries.

The problem for the Senate is that we are left to disallow these regulations and fall back on the wan hope that Senator Parer—or even Senator Hill, for goodness sake—will use the licence mechanism to act in the best interests of the environment. I suppose what we are really doing is retaining that power for some future government which will be responsible about the environment. In the meantime it is left to the Senate to a degree in this parliament and to the community watchdog organisations to fight as best they can against the excesses of those corporations which do the wrong thing in the pursuit of profit, when the environment must be taken into account as well.

There are a goodly number of mechanisms for the government to protect the environment. I think both the Labor and Liberal parties have fallen well short of utilisation of those mechanisms. But, in a way, this debate comes down to whether the government should divest itself of one of its arms of power as far as environmental protection is concerned and hand that across to the stock exchange. It is the wrong way to go in a democracy and I endorse the motion for disallowance of these regulations.