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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3973


Senator BROWN(12.34 p.m.) —I agree with Senator Margetts: the illogic is flawless. We should not have this diesel fuel rebate, this billion dollar handout to the mining corporations. When Goliath Portland Cement from Railton in Tasmania came to see me about this, I made it clear to them that the Australian Greens were opposed to this rebate. However, the government has the support of the opposition and therefore the numbers to enable this rebate to continue. That being the case, I find it quite an artificial cut-off that limestone mining in Tasmania, for the purpose of that company, should not get the same largess that the government is offering to the other mining corporations.

One could expect a very tenuous flow-on, trickle-down effect. Of course, most of this money will bounce straight out of Tasmania into the pockets of shareholders elsewhere. That is the way this rebate works. However, as a Tasmanian senator, I stand by a commitment to that company that I would support this particular amendment because it is logical to do so.

That said, I want to say I was also impressed by the efforts of Goliath Portland Cement to address the environmental problems involved in mining operations. I got an assurance from them that they would not expand beyond their general vicinity of mining at the moment and in particular would not be involved in the hum at Dogs Head Hill at the western end of the Mole Creek valley. This is one of the most outstanding geological formations in the country, but it has been eyed off by limestone miners for some time. It is quite a rare geological phenomenon. It is a limestone hill with caves in which owls, amongst other things, are nesting, is incredibly important and should be in a national park.

Contrast that with the history of Central Queensland Cement, a company in Rockhampton which was involved in one of the most deplorable episodes in Australian environmental history, let alone mining history, when in the mid-1980s it fought tooth and nail to continue mining Mount Etna, 30 kilometres to the north of Rockhampton. Mount Etna was a similar limestone hill with caves in it which were the habitat of a range of bats including the ghost bat, the largest carnivorous bat in Australia—in fact, it was the southern-most range of the ghost bat—and the earliest wintering brooding site of that bat because of their north-easterly aspect.

The very important caves which were the habitat for that species of bat were the target of Central Queensland Cement. As the mining corporations so often did, the company yelled, `Jobs,' from the treetops. When speleologists went into the caves and had a sit-in to protect the caves from being destroyed, the company had alarm loudspeakers dropped into the cave to flush the speleologists out, some of whom emerged with blood dripping from their ears. The cave sitters were then arrested and their supporters were put under threat of huge legal action and damages.

The day after the speleologists were brought out, Central Queensland Cement dynamited the pivotal elephant's tube cave and destroyed it, again yelling, `Jobs.' Within 24 months, it packed up, left Rockhampton, left the destruction behind it, left a trail of joblessness, thumbed its nose at all the things that it had claimed it was doing and left yet another black mark on the mining industry's so-called avocation for environment and civic responsibility in this country. It is one of those things that everybody involved in the industry ought to hang their heads in shame about. It is just a disgusting episode in the mining industry's history of treatment of the environment in this country.

No doubt any reparations as far as what can be done to ameliorate the impact of that company's dynamiting of those caves would be done at public expense, as so often is the case. However, having put that on the record, I support this amendment for the self-invested Tasmanian interest that I have. But I make it clear that I oppose the whole idea of this billion dollars going across on a platter to the mining corporations.