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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 3995

Senator LEES —My question is to Senator Hill, the Minister for the Environment. Minister, can you confirm that you recently directed the environment protection group of your department to analyse the environmental impact statement on the billion dollar Century Zinc mine in only 24 hours? Do you believe that it was possible for them to do as they are supposed to do—that is, to ensure, to the greatest extent practicable, that matters affecting the environment to a significant extent are fully examined and taken into account—in such a short time?

Senator HILL —If that is the case, then I think it would be quite unreasonable.

Senator LEES —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, could you please check for us? Indeed, some suggestions are that it may even have been a shorter period of time. On a personal note, are you aware of the size of this project, the fact that in perpetuity we will have a hole some 300-350 metres deep and around five kilometres in circumference and that there is a real risk of de-watering Lawn Hill Gorge, which is a significant Aboriginal site as well as a major tourist attraction? Are you aware of the size of this particular project? If it was not 24 hours, what do you consider to be a reasonable time for examining such a proposal?

Senator HILL —If it was less than 24 hours, it would be even less reasonable. I have some idea of the size of the project and of the environmental issues involved. But the question is whether it has been designated and triggered in the first place.