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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1811

Mr SAUNDERSON(8.52) —I must say that the contributions of the last two honourable members from the Opposition to some extent fired my degree of interjections during their speeches. This legislation will look after the environment of Kakadu National Park, an area recognised by everybody throughout the world-other than apparently the members of the Opposition in this House-as a natural wonder that needs to be protected absolutely. The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill (No. 2), the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Amendment Bill, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill (No. 2) and the Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill will ensure the preservation of the area.

It annoys me to listen to contributions such as that made by the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron), who stood up and denigrated the Aboriginal people in the sense that he said that they do not look after the land they are given. Anybody who has been to Kakadu can see what the Aboriginal people looking after the place there have done in ensuring that visitors who go around can see what it is that gives them such a close attachment to the land that they own and belong to. But he did not talk about that or how well the area has developed since they have had control of the land, since they have been looking after it and since proper conservation techniques have been applied. He did not talk about that; he just tried to denigrate them. It is the typical sort of attitude one would expect from the National Party of Australia.

Mr McGauran —Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to raise a very serious point of order. I would not think that there would be any more serious charge that an honourable member could level against another member in this place than that he is denigrating one or another sector of the community.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —There is no point of order.

Mr SAUNDERSON —Mr Deputy Speaker, I recognise your judgment. I was only telling the truth about how others have spoken in a debate. I am sure that all the people in Australia have heard what was said, so they know that it was nothing more than a direct denigration of some people in Australia that is quite unjustified.

We are talking about an area that was recognised by the previous Government as an area that needs to be preserved. It has already been placed on the World Heritage List. Stages 1 and 2 were part of the area when it was considered for world heritage listing. All we have done with stage 2 is to formalise that arrangement and we are now proceeding to list it. The acquisition of pastoral leases for stage 3 is a necessary step to complete the catchment areas to ensure that the whole environment around Kakadu has a buffer zone and a protective area. The honourable member for Maranoa talked about the fact that the acquisitions follow straight lines. He well knows that that is simply because we are acquiring pastoral leases and that that is the way that those boundaries are drawn. He tried to make out that the acquisition of the pastoral leases has really no relevance to the environment of Kakadu. He knows that that is an absolute falsehood. He knows that in reality the reason the Government is buying the pastoral leases is that within those pastoral leases are the catchment areas and the areas that we need to acquire to ensure the absolute protection of Kakadu as a total environment area.

I really must say that I was put out by the contribution of the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) because he stood up and deliberately lied to the community because he said that there would be a loss of jobs.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Aston will withdraw that remark.

Mr SAUNDERSON —I withdraw the comment that he lied.

A quorum having been called for and the bells being rung-

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Will the Serjeant-at-Arms please bring back the honourable member for Maranoa, who just left the chamber. (Quorum formed)

Mr Ian Cameron —I must apologise for my departure from the House.

Mr SAUNDERSON —Mr Deputy Speaker, as you know, I withdrew my comment that the honourable member for Denison had lied, but I must say that he deliberately told mistruths in this House about what our legislation did to the Lemonthyme in Tasmania. He said that our legislation would create unemployment for 7,000 people. He knew that statement to be totally untrue and without foundation. He deliberately attempted to use scaremongering tactics in the hope that Tasmanians would continue to support him. He avoided talking about the Opposition's policy on the environment because he knows that it does not have any.

Mr Connolly —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I suggest that the honourable member be brought back to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill. This legislation has nothing to do with the Lemonthyme. It has nothing to do with Tasmania, either.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The debate has been a wide-ranging debate. Many issues have been canvassed on both sides. I call the honourable member for Aston.

Mr SAUNDERSON —Mr Deputy Speaker, I knew that you would have been listening to the debate and that you would have known that the honourable member for Denison was allowed to talk at length about the Bill on the Lemonthyme when he was addressing himself to this Bill. The honourable member for Denison knows that what he was saying was totally untrue. The legislation was introduced to protect the Lemonthyme forest because the State Government was incapable of addressing the environment in a correct manner. We had to act in order to preserve the environment. He used a typical tactic of attempting to create division within the community-that is all he does.

It is all right for him; he stands up in here and calls us Moscow corner; he calls us socialists. That is okay, but if we start addressing Opposition members as fascists, Hitlerites and use those sorts of denigrating terms, they get upset. But we do not do that. We know that the people understand what we are talking about. They understand the difference between proper economic policies and airy-fairy, witch-doctor voodoo medicine type cures. They know when people are truly concerned about the environment. They know those who are prepared to bring forward responsible legislation to protect areas such as Kakadu-one of the world's greatest environment areas to which people are flocking from all over the world-certain areas of Tasmania and the Great Barrier Reef. When we came to office only 14 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef was declared. We have declared 98 per cent of it. We have protected the whole area. Tourists come to see the natural wonders in one of the last frontiers of the world. We protected the reef; we have looked after it.

There is a need to declare and acquire stage 3, not just because of the catchment area but because of the fact that there are wild buffalo and other wild animals wandering around creating havoc. There is a need for proper conservation management in that area in order to eradicate some of those problems. The environment must have an opportunity to recover and to return to its true and natural beauty. That will happen once we have acquired the land. Within the conservation zone we will allow some exploration to see whether there are large deposits of gold and other minerals as some people claim. We are prepared to consider whether there is a need to allow mining. If that does happen it will be very much with conservation in mind; conservation and the protection of the area are the key.

We heard the honourable member for Maranoa say that mining has taken place in that area and that there are no problems, but as any honourable member on this side of the House would know--

Mr Milton —It is not true.

Mr SAUNDERSON —Absolutely; as the honourable member for La Trobe says, it is not true. It is another untruth from Opposition members. They are full of them when they talk about these issues. We only have to look at the Ranger uranium mine to see that it has had nothing but problems. Only in the last few days the Government has had to take another firm stand in relation to the release of slightly polluted water from the Ranger uranium mine. The company came to us and said: `We've got a problem; we've got too much water'.

Mrs Darling —Where's that?

Mr SAUNDERSON —At the Ranger uranium mine which is within the Kakadu National Park area. It came to see us and we found out that it has problems because of poor management and poor planning. We said: `We will not contemplate the release of water. We want you to take further steps to ensure that you will not put at risk the environment within Kakadu'. I find it pretty disheartening that Opposition members still come in here with a Luddite mentality, which one would have hoped would have disappeared after four years of our Government. In that time they would have seen that it is possible to take measures to protect the environment and at the same time look after jobs, to create more jobs with the exploitation of the tourist trade and actually to do more than we have in the past. Rather than concentrate on dying industries in some areas we have been able to say that there are better things that we can do. We can build an industry, we can create jobs by looking after the environment and creating a tourist industry. I commend the Bills to the House. I know that they will be carried by this House because fortunately for us, the sane and rational attitude which the Government possesses is a majority attitude. The irrational and the irresponsible attitudes we find in the Opposition benches are minority attitudes. When this legislation goes to the Senate it will have the same result. Rational, free-thinking people will support these Bills because they preserve what is a wonderful treasure, a natural beauty. This area will be preserved not just for us, for tourism or for people overseas, but for the generations to come. I know that the majority view in this House and in the Senate will carry that through.