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Thursday, 30 March 2006
Page: 243


Senator Mark Bishop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 20 October 2005:

(1)   With reference to the discovery of unexploded ordnance in Princess Royal Harbour, which falls within the jurisdiction of the Albany Port Authority in Western Australia: has action been taken by the department to identify the types of ordnance that are in the harbour; if not, why not.

(2) (a)   What specialist advice has the department made available to the Albany Port Authority to investigate the ordnance find at Princess Royal Harbour; (b) how many specialists were made available by the department; and (c) what were their areas of expertise.

(3) (a)   What on site investigations have been carried out by departmental specialists at Princess Royal Harbour; (b) which specialists attended the site; (c) when did the investigations take place; and (d) what were the findings of the investigations.

(4)   What research, if any, has been conducted on the quantity and type of ordnance disposed of, and the area and route taken for its disposal.

(5)   What assessment has been made of the likely condition of the ordnance.

(6)   What steps have been taken by the department for the removal or disposal of ordnance from Princess Royal Harbour.

(7)   Has the department prepared or commissioned any legal advice in regard to its liability for the removal of, or damage caused by, explosive ordnance in Princess royal Harbour; if so, what was the substance of that advice.

(8)   Regardless of legal liability, what responsibility does the department have for such a task.

(9) (a)   On how many occasions has the Government attended mediation meetings with the Albany Port Authority and or the Western Australian State Government to resolve the issue of liability for the removal or disposal of ordnance in Princess Royal Harbour; and (b) when and where did the mediation meetings take place.

(10)   Was a case management Directions Status Conference held at the Supreme Court of Western Australia on 27 July 2005; if so: (a) did the Government argue against the matter proceeding to trial; and (b) what was the rationale for this decision.

(11)   (a) Is the Minister aware that consideration is being given to the development of the Southdown iron ore deposit by Grange Resources Limited and that, should this project proceed, it will increase port activity at Princess Royal Harbour and necessitate further dredging at the site; (b) what time frames have been put in place for the removal or disposal of ordnance in the harbour; (c) what agency within the department will oversee the removal or disposal of ordnance in the harbour; and (d) what is the estimated cost of the removal or disposal of ordnance.

(12)   What financial contributions will be made by the Government to meet the additional costs of dredging Princess Royal Harbour as a result of explosive ordnance found.

(13)   (a) In the past 5 years, on how many occasions has the department considered ordnance recovery; (b) at what sites; and (c) with what outcome and cost in each instance.

(14)   With reference to a letter dated 30 May 2005, in which the Federal Member for O’Connor (Mr Tuckey) states that he has made representations to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence requesting that the Navy Clearance Diving Team undertake clearing areas where it is anticipated further unexploded ordnance might exist in Princess Royal Harbour: has any consideration been given to this proposal; if not, why not.


Senator Ian Campbell (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   Apart from the unexploded ordnance found during dredging operations by the contractors for the Albany Port Authority in the period 2000 to 2002, there is no presently known unexploded ordnance in Port Albany.

(2) (a)   , (b) and (c) Members of the Army specialising in ordnance handling and disposal provided advice and assistance to the dredging and construction contractors engaged at Port Albany in the period 2000 to 2001.

(3)  

(a)   None. However, at the request of the Albany Port Authority, Defence conducted two examinations of the area of the Port comprising the former site of the old deep-water jetties.

(b)   Navy Clearance Divers.

(c)   3-7 April 2001 and 5-6 March 2002.

(d)   No ordnance was found.

(4)   No research was considered necessary.

(5)   All intact ordnance is regarded as potentially dangerous in respect of its handling.

(6)   All ordnance found in the course of dredging operations of the Port Authority’s contractors in the period 2000 to 2002 was removed by the Army and disposed of. On two occasions during the period 2000 to 2001, Navy personnel attempted to conduct an examination of part of the bottom of Port Albany, but the prevailing condition of the bottom rendered that action dangerous and it was consequently abandoned.

(7)   and (8) Information of the kind sought is subject to legal professional privilege in the Commonwealth.

(9)  

(a)   The Commonwealth attended two mediation meetings with the Albany Port Authority. These meetings were held pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. The Government of Western Australia is not party to the proceedings.

(b)   24 May and 18 October 2005 in Perth.

(10)   Yes.

(a)   Yes.

(b)   The Commonwealth has at all times been concerned that the matter be resolved expeditiously so that all attempts at mediation should first be exhausted.

(11)  

   (a)   Yes. Issues relating to possible increases in harbour use and further dredging are matters for the Port Authority.

   (b)   and (d) It has not been demonstrated that there is ordnance in the harbour.

   (c)   If ordnance is found in the harbour, Defence will address the appropriate resources for its removal and disposal.

(12)   This is a hypothetical issue.

(13)   (a), (b) and (c) The information sought in the honourable senator’s question is not readily available. To collect and assemble such information solely for the purpose of answering the question would be a major task, and I am not prepared to authorise the expenditure and effort that would be required.

(14)   Yes.