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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2228

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (21:38): I rise today to support the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Amendment Bill 2011. I support this bill not only because the Antarctic is an important place in Australian history but because of its unique connection to my electorate of Macarthur. I am not so sure that any electorate can make such a claim. This connection involves Sir Douglas Mawson, who led the first Australasian Antarctic expedition more than 100 years ago in 1911. He established our first scientific research base in Cape Denison, where Australian scientists have developed a strong reputation for their Antarctic studies over the past century.

Sir Douglas Mawson was the brother of a Campbelltown local, Dr William Mawson. Dr Mawson was a highly regarded citizen who provided medical services to the Campbelltown community for 28 years. He also opened the Milby Private Hospital and built the Macquarie Centre in Campbelltown. In January 1938 a park in my electorate was officially named Mawson Park in honour of Dr Mawson. A pergola, shelter and entrance were erected and two plaques were placed on the pergola which read 'Commemorative pergola to William Mawson' and 'Erected by the citizens of Campbelltown in appreciation'. The park now has three service memorials for those who have fought for our country in the Army, Navy and Air Force and is home to many memorial services in Campbelltown each year.

Aside from this unique connection to my community, I also support this bill today so that we can ensure the Australian Antarctic Territory is protected for generations to come. This bill builds on the measures that the coalition put in place whilst in government to ensure this protection. Put simply, the aim of this bill is to ensure better control and coordination of Australia's Antarctic waters. It implements Australia's obligations under the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid protocol for the protection of Antarctica. It will provide this government with the ability to grant safety approval and environmental approvals for people operating in the Antarctic.

The coalition has always been a friend of Antarctica. We are proud to be part of this country's strong ties with the continent. Australia has played a leading role in the protection of the Antarctic environment, including an important ban on mining. The ban was incorporated into the Madrid protocol which protects the Antarctic environment. The Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Amendment Bill 2011 gives effect to our country's obligations under the Madrid protocol and the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals. The protection of the Australian Antarctic Territory is the responsibility of both sides of this parliament, and we need a bipartisan approach to protect this beautiful and pristine wilderness.

Australians should feel proud of this country's strong history of protecting this majestic place. We were one of the 12 original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed by the Menzies government in December 1959. The treaty was signed by the governments of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, the French Republic, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, the Union of South Africa, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America.

The treaty recognised that it was in the interests of all mankind for Antarctica to continue to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and that it should not become the scene or object of international discord. The treaty also acknowledged the substantial contribution to scientific knowledge resulting from the international cooperation in scientific investigation in Antarctica. I believe that what we are doing here in this place today follows on from that treaty and our country's proud history of protecting Antarctica for future generations.

The key aspects to the amendments to this environment protection bill include amending the long title of the Antarctic Treaty (Environmental Protection) Act to extend the scope of the legislation; providing the ability for the administrative grant of safety approval and environmental protection approval and to impose conditions on such approvals; implementing new offences and civil penalties regarding unapproved activities, activities carried on in contravention of the conditions imposed by an approval, and offences and civil penalties related to environmental emergencies; establishing a liability regime for environmental emergencies that occur in the Antarctic; the establishment of an Antarctic environmental liability special account to receive payments from operators for costs for response to action to an environmental emergency caused by their activities in the Antarctic; implementing new offences and civil penalties applicable to tourist vessels operating in the Antarctic; and making minor and technical amendments to the Antarctic Treaty (Environmental Protection) Act. These are positive amendments that will help Australia continue its strong leadership in the protection of Antarctica for the future.

Macarthur has another very unique connection to Antarctica. Our former federal member of parliament, Pat Farmer, recently raised the Red Cross flag at the South Pole after running two marathons every day all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole. One hundred years after my community's first connections was established with the region, Pat has returned to strengthen Macarthur's ties with the Antarctic. Pat set out from the North Pole in April last year to raise money for the Red Cross. He ran through Canada, the United States, Central America and South America to his final destination in Antarctica. The 21,000-kilometre trek saw him brave minus 40 degree snow blizzards; get lost in blazing deserts in Peru; dodge polar bears, snakes, crocodiles, armed bandits; and narrowly miss being wiped out by an out-of-control truck.

As you can imagine, Madam Deputy Speaker, Pat has suffered with severe dehydration and stress injuries after an incredible 80 kilometres every day to achieve his goal. His hope for the run was that the money he raised would inspire people from all over the planet to donate to the Red Cross's clean water and sanitary projects in the Third World to help save lives. My community has watched Pat's courageous battle very closely since April last year and has shown great support to Pat and his cause. I believe that this has resulted in a further strengthening of Macarthur 's ties to the Antarctic region.

It is clear that Antarctica will always hold a special place in the hearts of many residents of Macarthur, just like it does with many people around the nation. I am proud to support this bill today that will ensure the safety and protection of Antarctica for many years to come. It is with great pleasure that I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 21:4 5 .