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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1786


Mr CAMPBELL(5.01) —I support the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1987 but not without qualification. I believe this Bill is on the right track and is going to make things a lot more workable than that they have been in the past. Having listened to the honourable member for McPherson (Mr White), who has just spoken for the Opposition, I find it a little depressing that this issue gets so polarised and that inaccuracies occur on both sides. It is my belief that in the long run we will have joint use of national parks. I think this will come to pass. It may not be that this is the appropriate time, but inevitably that will happen. It happens in other places in the world and I believe that such an outcome will ultimately be for the benefit of national parks. Throughout Australia we have a proliferation of national parks which in many cases are just lines on maps with no maintenance or work being carried out. In my own State of Western Australia we would be better served if we were to sell large portions of some State government parks and use the money to protect and enhance others. I have spoken about that sort of action in the past.

Part of the purpose of this legislation is to ensure that mining occurs in Kakadu National Park. The Government had the wisdom to recognise that it is essential that the gold occurence and more particularly, I suppose, the platinum and platinum group mineral occurrences be exploited in the proposed stage 3 extension of Kakadu National Park. It is essential that this be done in view of Australia's immediate current account requirements and also for international reasons. I think it is important that Australia become a world supplier of platinum group metals, which are presently concentrated in the hands of South Africa and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I am quite prepared to believe that those two countries will collude on supply and price fixing. So there would be a big advantage in allowing these metals to be mined. The legislation will also allow existing mines which are in place within the park, such as Ranger, to operate. There would have been some difficulties in this respect had we not included these amendments in the legislation.

I want to deal with some of the myths that are promulgated about the environment. Without a doubt the most important environmental problem facing Australia today is soil erosion. In fact, it is more important than all the other conservation issues in total. It affects every single person in Australia. Soil erosion and the joint problem of soil salinity are overwhelming in their magnitude and have been ignored by governments. This Government has done something along those lines. We now make a contribution of $3m a year. This very small contribution could be significantly increased with very good beneficial results for the whole of Australia. It is sad that this has not been done. It is sad that this problem has not been taken up by many of the conservation groups that abound in society today. As I say, it is an issue that affects everyone. Unfortunately, people cannot go out at the weekend and commune with soil erosion; they cannot go and walk amongst salinity. It is just not conducive to the feeling of well-being that these people are obviously looking for. However, this is an issue which Australia will have to come to grips with because it affects people in the city and the country equally. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table of salinity levels, the mineral contents and the radionuclide content of the waters of the Ranger containment areas.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

COMPARISON OF TYPICAL QUALITIES

Parameter

Units

RP1

RP4

Adelaide

Drinking

Water

Desirable

NHMRC

Drinking

Standard

Conductivity...

uS/cm

42

250

656

-

pH...

7.6

7.9

7.8

6.5-9.2

Turbidity...

NTU

5

10

n.a.

25

Sodium...

ppm

2.5

9

78

270

Potassium...

ppm

1

2.1

5.5

-

Magnesium...

ppm

2.6

40

20

150

Calcium...

ppm

0.7

3.8

23

200

Bicarbonate...

ppm

10

75

95

-

Chloride...

ppm

1.5

9.4

145

600

Phosphate...

ppm

0.02-

0.02-

0.08

0.2

Nitrate...

ppm

0.05-

0.05-

0.46

10

Sulphate...

ppm

5.3

62

28

400

Lead...

ppb

1-

1-

5

50

Copper...

ppb

1

3

320

1500

Manganese...

ppb

14

57

36

500

Zinc...

ppb

2

3

50

1500

Uranium...

ppb

2

60

(*USA) 100

Radium...

Bq/1

0.02-

0.19

0.4


Mr CAMPBELL —The table makes a comparison with Adelaide water. It is interesting to note that Adelaide water in most cases is far worse than the water in the retention ponds at Ranger. The other night I heard my good friend the honourable member for Dunkley (Mr Chynoweth) talking about the danger of the release of water from the catchment areas and what a disaster that would be for the Kakadu National Park. Quite clearly, this is not the case. It is not the case for very good chemistry reasons. Since the early 1950s geochemistry has been a very important facet of exploration. We know quite a lot about this very advanced subject today. It is a little sad that the environmental groups, unfortunately, have never sought to use this expertise.

The waters of the Magela Creek, when they leave the ranges, are quite rich in uranium and radium-these occur naturally-and they would probably have a very high content of these minerals. These heavy metals-in fact, all heavy metals-are precipitated by a process of what is called co-precipitation as they progress downstream towards the Ranger uranium plant. Co-precipitation occurs when the iron, which abounds in the water, and the manganese oxidise to form, say, iron oxide and manganese hydroxide. When these metals oxidise-which they do quite rapidly-they settle and take with them the heavy metals which are very readily attracted to them and which are therefore bound up within the structure of that deposit. They form very stable insoluble particles of grains of sand on the bottom of the creek.

By the time Magela Creek gets to Ranger its level of uranium and radium is in fact far lower than the level set out in world health standards and far lower than the level in the drinking water of most capital cities. If a spill occurred from the Ranger containment areas, co-precipitation would take up this problem further down the track. The same process would happen. This phenomenon can be checked out. It is scientifically well validated. It is an indictment of the conservation foundation that it does not take into account and accept this scientific evidence in this discipline.

I also think that what we read in the newspapers is an indictment of the Press in this country, which seems to be totally ignorant of the chemistry and the realities of what happens in respect of these minerals. I do not know why it is, but we find that journalists write the most utter bunk about the dangers. We saw this recently with the small accident that occurred at Lucas Heights, an accident which released into the atmosphere a minute, a minuscule, amount of radiation. The amount released was far less than that found in background levels. For all intents and purposes, the amount was totally imperceptible. Yet this was beaten up out of all proportions by the Press of this country. I might say that the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review were the only two papers that I saw that had anything like an accurate report of the dangers that were likely to occur. I think those papers put the position quite accurately. They held the view that there was in fact no danger.

I would like to make a couple of other points in the time that I have left. The honourable member for McPherson talked about Mudginberri. I guess he brought Mudginberri into the argument for exactly the same reason that I do. He did so for politics because it is not germane to the subject under discussion. I just point out that Mudginberri, which he supports so vigorously, in reality makes very little contribution to Australia. I am in the process of producing some figures which will demonstrate without doubt that many abattoirs operating in my electorate and working on the tally system have far greater levels of productivity than that occurring at Mudginberri. Those figures will also indicate that people in my electorate with low skill levels are getting paid better than people at Mudginberri and that the conditions they enjoy are far better than those at Mudginberri. I think Jay Pendarvis is one of those foreigners who manage to foist a myth upon Australia, a myth that was readily gobbled up by the limited imagination and intellect of honourable members opposite. They saw the dispute simply as a stick to beat the Government with. They have not looked at the long term effects of Mudginberri which, in fact, are very hard to find.

Access to national parks is vitally important in Australia, for if people cannot go to national parks in my opinion there is no point in having them. I do not have any desire to lock parts of Australia up into some pristine prison that cannot be visited by people because if national parks are not about people I do not believe they deserve to exist. Of course we must have access to parks and we must have better facilities and better road systems in them. We must have better communications generally. Some of the most beautiful spots in the world that I have visited are man made. Anyone who has visited Britain could not deny the beauty of that country. It has some glorious spots. Most of them have been made by man. I recently visited the New Forest, one of the most magnificent forests in the world, I believe. It was hand planted; in fact, that is why it is called the New Forest. We as a government and Australia as a nation must look to making national parks more accessible to all people, for when this occurs there will be a much greater acceptance in the society of the need for them and therefore a much greater readiness to accept the cost that goes with them.