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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2218


Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (20:53): The Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Amendment Bill is an important bill. The bill amends the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 to align the legislation with Australia's revised obligations pursuant to three measures under the Antarctic Treaty and the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, the Madrid protocol. The first of those measures is Measure 4 (2004) which relates to insurance and contingency planning for tourism, because there is a lot of tourism now going on in that part of the world, not so much on the Australian coastal areas but certainly on the South American side. The Insurance and contingency planning for tourism and non-governmental activities in the Antarctic Treaty area was adopted at the 27th Antarctic Treaty consultation meeting in Cape Town on 4 June 2004. Measure 1 (2005), annex VI to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty: liability arising from environmental emergencies, was adopted at the 27th ATCM in Stockholm, on 17 June 2005. Measure 15 (2009), Landing of persons from passenger vessels in the Antarctic Treaty area, was adopted at the 32nd ATCM in Baltimore, on 17 April 2009.

The approval of all 28 consultative parties to the treaty, including Australia of course, will be required before each measure comes into force. Everybody has to basically agree to it. That is how the treaty is set up. It may be some years before this occurs. Currently, 10 consultative parties have approved Measure 4 (2004). Five have approved Measure 1 (2005) and only one has approved Measure 15 (2009). So I think it will be a long process.

The Antarctic Treaty is a multilateral agreement that requires the parties to ensure that Antarctica is used exclusively for peaceful purposes. It guarantees freedom of scientific research all over Australia's claim, which is a very large part of Antarctica. Many bases of other sovereign nations are doing research. A lot of collaboration goes on between all those nations that have bases down there in Antarctica. It is a wonderful thing for peaceful and scientific purposes.

The agreement requires the parties to also promote international scientific cooperation, which certainly occurs. It allows for inspection of facilities between the parties and I think that goes on quite regularly. I was talking to some scientists a short time ago in the base in Kingston, Tasmania, where they have been doing that. The agreement sets aside the question of territorial sovereignty in Antarctica and provides for regular meetings of the parties, which occur in different parts of the world, mostly in, I think, the Southern Hemisphere.

Climate change and the science of climate change in the Southern Ocean is a significant factor. Only tonight, in talking to the University of Tasmania, to the top governing body of that institution, here in Parliament House with Tasmanian MPs of all sides, it was mentioned they had just put on a new professor, dealing with the acidisation of the Southern Ocean. He is one of three top scientists in the world dealing with that significant matter. He will come to the University of Tasmania—UTAS, as it is known in Tasmania—and work with CSIRO and the Antarctic Division's collaborate area at the University of Tasmania.

That is generating an enormous amount of world interest. When somebody of that calibre is brought to Tasmania to do that research—and he, along with many other people, will most probably be taking trips to Antarctica to do that sort of research—it is critical that that information gets out there in the world of science so that people can use it to better the world and also to counter climate change.

Article IX of the treaty states, 'Measures for the governance of Antarctica may be adopted by the representatives of consultative parties at the annual ATCM for recommending to their governments.' The Madrid Protocol is a multilateral agreement under the treaty. It commits parties to the comprehensive protection of the Antarctic environment and its dependent and associated ecosystems, bans mining in Antarctica and designates Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science. Under Article 9 of the Madrid Protocol additional annexes to the protocol may be adopted and become effective in accordance with Article IX of the treaty.

This legislation is consistent with Australia's strong support for the Antarctic treaty and for the protection of Antarctica. Australia has been in the forefront of this and certainly does its work—a lot of people do a lot of work to make all that come together at world conferences. And you will remember, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the former Prime Minister Bob Hawke led the campaign 20 years ago for banning mining in Antarctica and to protect the continent from exploitation. That, of course, is still the case with this treaty. I think that over the next five or 10 years this treaty will need to be renegotiated with all the parties. One would hope that can only be built on into the future. We are dealing here with bringing out commitment to pulling together some protocols for the pointy end in the amount of tourism that is going on down in Antarctica.

Of course there have been some disasters with ships sinking in that part of the world. I understand that only because it was a very calm day for the open boats that everyone had to abandon ship into—a ship of some great size—and that another ship was in very close proximity that no lives were lost, as that ship went to the bottom of the Antarctic waters. So, there are a lot of issues there.

The other issue that has come up in my work on the external territories committee is the issue of private yachts visiting Antarctica. They do not know if they have any obligations to a sovereign government or not, and therefore if they have some responsibility to the treaty—responsibilities when visiting Antarctica to protect it and not to harm it in any way.

Those are the important points. I would like to also mention the importance of the Antarctic base in Tasmania. There are the scientific gains we make from having such a large body of people coming and working in Kingston and also the wharfage in Hobart, where supplies are put together and loaded onto the ships.

I would also like to mention an old friend of mine, John Coates, who was the member for Denison in 1972. It was a turbulent time in Australian politics—he went from 1972 to 1975. John was the one who really worked very hard and established the that the Antarctic division would move to Hobart and have its base there. John needs to be commended for that, and I am sure he is watching this bill with some hope that it will pass. He did a lot of work and deserves to be recognised.

The supplying of ships of other countries in Hobart is also always going on. You see ships from other countries come in, and of course some of them tie up in Hobart over winter and stay there instead of sailing back to the other side of the world.

As I mentioned, the science of the CSIRO and the Antarctic Division and the links to the university are big and growing, dealing with matters like climate change and the acidisation of the Southern Ocean. In Antarctica this includes drilling through the ice and gaining cores from a long way down. I think the Chinese are drilling to get a mile-long sample. Being able to look at the bubbles that exist in the sample and go back an awful long time will give them more idea of the changing climate of the world. This is a vital bill to meet everything we want to do with the Antarctic Treaty. We will continue to meet our obligations and play a very important role in the Antarctic Treaty and the environmental protection act. This treaty is vital to the long-term importance of Antarctica and keeping it in its present state and using the science it can give us. Over the years, many people have given us a great base of science knowledge from Antarctica, especially about the weather.

The speaker before last mentioned the book about Mawson by the author Peter FitzSimons, which I am currently reading. It is a very interesting book. It gives great coverage of the Australian input into that scientific community in the early days of the Antarctic territory and all the brave men who went there then, which laid down the basis for what we do there now and those who go there now to bring back knowledge for us.

This is a very important bill. It brings our legislation up to date with we want to do, including the world conferences that we are part of, and therefore puts Australia where it should be. I commend the bill to the House, and I certainly hope the opposition will give it their full support.