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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3232


Mr COHEN (Minister for Home Affairs and Environment)(10.25) —Firstly, I thank the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Milton) for making way for me. He wanted to raise a local matter and he has been kind enough to give me his time. I appreciate that. The honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton) has raised in the last couple of days in Question Time and in the grievance debate tonight the issue of whether or not the Government has imposed new restrictions to prohibit people from taking photographs at Ayers Rock. I point out to the honourable member that the power lies in regulation 7 under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, which provides that any person wishing to carry on a commercial activity in a national park or reserve must obtain the permission of the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. That regulation was in place for the last seven and a half years of the Fraser Government. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) nodded assent and made it very clear that he strongly supported it. He, of course, was the Minister administering my portfolio before me.

I am sure that the honourable member for Higgins does not object to the regulation which requires photographers to obtain permission to carry on a commercial activity. We have no problems, of course, with any amateur photographers. They can take whatever photographs they wish, still or life. Theoretically, the honourable member is quite right when he suggests that a commercial still photographer should seek permission. However, commercial still photographers do not cause any disruption. There are no problems with them. They do not disrupt the activities of the tourists or the Aborigines within the park.


Mr Shipton —Where is that in the regulations?


Mr COHEN —The honourable member has asked his questions. I am now answering them .


Mr Shipton —You interjected on me all the time.


Mr COHEN —That is right, but I have five minutes in which to speak and you had ten. The problem lies with some commercial film crews, quite large crews, who have come forward with some unacceptable requests for the sorts of films they wish to take.


Mr Shipton —Selective regulation.


Mr COHEN —Yes, it is. It is not so much selective regulation as selective departmental action in the case of objectionable activity. Some of the requests have been as follows: One was to put a car on top of Ayers Rock so that it could be filmed; another was to run a marathon up and down Ayers Rock for two days.


Mr Shipton —We heard that the other day.


Mr COHEN —You are hearing it yet again. You obviously did not listen. Another request was for a ballooning exercise to drop parachutists on Ayers Rock, and Pro Hart wanted to paint the rock. They are the sorts of things that have been requested. Clearly, they are unacceptable. They would disrupt the activities of tourists and of all the other people in the park and the applications have been rejected. Most applications are not rejected. All people have to do is to apply to the National Parks and Wildlife Service which in turn will consult the Pitjantjatjara Council or the Central Land Council, which in their turn will consult the Conservation Council of the Northern Territory.

The honourable member mentioned in his speech that Paul Hogan was denied access to produce a film.


Mr Shipton —Yes, you were going to answer that.


Mr COHEN —I will answer it. On 19 November a crew involving Paul Hogan arrived with a few hours notice. This is what happens every time. Crews arrive at the Rock without having sought permission and demand to disrupt people's lives and the activites of the tourists.


Mr Shipton —So Paul Hogan was going to interrupt some people's lives?


Mr COHEN —The crew would have interrupted the activity of thousands of tourists there. In this case, there was frantic phoning around to get permission and within 24 hours permission was granted. A similar situation occurred some months ago. I was telephoned from Ayers Rock, told that a crew had arrived there and wanted permission to film and asked whether I could facilitate it. Within two hours, I think, I managed to get that permission. Film crews must go through that procedure. They must not just barge in and disprupt the activities of the tourists without seeking permission.


Mr Shipton —Selective permission.


Mr COHEN —Obviously the honourable member wants the restriction to apply to every photographer. We will do that if that is what he wants. The Italian crew did the same thing. They arrived at short notice. We did not have the opportunity to consult the Aborigines or the Conservation Council of the Northern Territory. The crew was told that there should not be any problem. They were given permission to film in Kakadu National Park. They have gone to Kakadu and we expect that if they want to come back to Ayers Rock there will be no problems. The honourable member is obviously trying to make an issue of this.


Mr Shipton —We raised it; that is why they got permission.


Mr COHEN —That is not correct. These things have been done over and over again without any problems at all.


Mr SPEAKER —Order! It being 10.30 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. on Tuesday next.

House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.