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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 1404

Cape York: Heritage Listing


Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:44): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Senator Conroy. Given that the Wilderness Society has sought emergency National Heritage listing over the South of Embley bauxite project, what consultation has the department or the minister had with the Wik people in relation to this application, and will the minister seek the consent of the Wik people before proceeding with any National Heritage listing in this area?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:45): I thank Senator Boswell for his question. The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has received two requests for emergency National Heritage listing of Cape York Peninsula, and the minister has asked the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities to examine these applications.

The minister has not yet received advice from the department on these applications. I am advised that before the minister can include a place in the National Heritage list under the emergency listing provisions under the EPBC Act, he must believe that:

(a) a place has or may have one or more National Heritage values; and

(b) any of those values is under threat of a significant adverse impact; and

(c) that threat is both likely and imminent;

I am also advised that emergency heritage listing of a place is rare in Australia. The minister has made it clear that traditional owner consent is critical for any Heritage listing of Cape York.


Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:46): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. What Commonwealth funding has been provided to Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, organisations or councils, either directly or through the state government, in relation to World Heritage and National Heritage listing of Cape York, and to which groups, organisations or councils has this funding be provided?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:46): The government has committed $3 million under the Caring for Our Country initiative to support Indigenous engagement and consultation on a World Heritage nomination. This process is ongoing.

The Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has not provided funding to any environmental NGO or conservation group through the consultation process on the proposed World Heritage listing of Cape York Peninsula.


Senator BOSWELL (Queensland) (14:47): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. What consultation has the Commonwealth undertaken, or intends to undertake, with the Cape York people in relation to World Heritage listing or National Heritage listing?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:47): The minister has repeatedly said that a World Heritage nomination would not proceed without the prior consent of traditional owners. A World Heritage nomination will only be submitted for Cape York once a comprehensive assessment of values has been completed and the community has been consulted, and it is subject to traditional owner consent.

The government is committed to hearing the full range of views. I am advised that Queensland government officials have been consulting through their community and scientific advisory committees, which are guiding the engagement and assessment process. The Queensland government are also undertaking a process of country based planning with Indigenous communities in the Cape York Peninsula to engage directly on identifying heritage values. I am advised that the department expects to take part in this on-ground consultation with Indigenous communities by developing a World Heritage nomination in the coming months. (Time expired)