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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1150


Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (11:39): I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this debate on the Completion of Kakadu National Park (Koongarra Project Area Repeal) Bill 2013. Unfortunately one of the realities is that the fact that we have all agreed means that most people will not know what we have done, but the decisions that the parliament is about to make now are some of the most significant environmental decisions this parliament will ever be part of. Kakadu is world class, it is World Heritage and it is one of the most extraordinary places on our planet. This bill completes Kakadu National Park by taking away any future option for uranium mining.

I am particular pleased that the final speaker in the debate was the member for Banks. He is gone now, so now that he is not here I will say something nice about him. The member for Banks is a perfect example of what has brought us to today. As a shadow minister, he gave up his frontbench career because of the importance of respecting the dignity of self-determination for Indigenous Australians. It is a story known well by people who were around at the time. I only know it because I was from a similar local area to the member for Banks, but what he did, at the level he was at at that point in time, was no different to what Bob Hawke did when he stood up his own cabinet, and no different to what Jeffrey Lee has done when he turned down being a multi-multimillionaire in order to protect his land. The reason we are here today is that a series of people, over decades, have been willing to make great personal sacrifice because they believed that here is a piece of our country that needs to be preserved forever.

The thing that I am particular pleased with, in the process that has led us here today, is that Jeffrey Lee could have made the opposite decision had he wanted to. The ball was firmly in his court as the last traditional owner of the Djok clan. When told by the company, as he says, that they were 'willing to make him the wealthiest person in Australia', he responded with the words, 'No, I have a job to do.' The job that Jeffrey Lee wants to do is to make sure that the lifelong work of his ancestors is continued long after he has passed.

As a result of this resolution—and how good that we are concluding the debate on the same day that we heard the extraordinary speeches we heard from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs—what we do now is that we respect as a parliament. The Parliament of Australia says to the traditional owner Jeffrey Lee, 'It was your call; you've said you want this land protected forever; therefore it will be.' I commend the bill to the House.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.