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Tuesday, 9 October 1984
Page: 1449

Senator MACKLIN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment. It concerns the so-called road through the Daintree Rainforest. Is the Minister aware that on 12 September this year Mr Cohen, at a Press conference, announcing the Australian Labor Party Government's refusal to save the rain forest, stated: 'I am informed it is now negotiable by most conventional vehicles'? Given that during the victory parade by those who had destroyed the rain forest to build a road a vast majority of vehicles were bogged, one had its axle broken, two overturned and a tourist party of pensioners were so terrified they refused to go back down the road, will the Minister now publicly declare that the road is not passable by most conventional vehicles and even by most four-wheel drive vehicles? Is the Minister concerned that when heavy rains come vast amounts of the road will end up being deposited on the Great Barrier Reef, an area over which the Federal Government has a responsibility and in respect of which it has a duty to prevent such an environmental disaster? Is the Federal Government monitoring the impact on the Great Barrier Reef of those early rains and the washaways of the so- called Daintree Road? If so, what are its conclusions?

Senator RYAN —I read in the newspapers of problems with the passability of the road through the Daintree area to which Senator Macklin's question referred, but I have no idea whether the attention of my colleague Mr Cohen has been drawn to that or whether he is in a position to assess the consequences of the flooding of that road in terms of damage to the Great Barrier Reef or anything else. I presume that Senator Macklin would understand that the condition of the road or the access to the road is not the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Clearly, the protection of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is, so I will draw the Minister's attention to any possible dangers to the Barrier Reef Marine Park arising from flooding of the road.

I also remind Senator Macklin that our Government is committed to developing a conservation plan in co-operation with the Queensland Government for that area. Obviously any threat to the remaining rain forest is something of concern to us. I will draw all Senator Macklin's beliefs about what will happen as a result of the road being flooded to the attention of Mr Cohen and ask him to assess their consequences in the areas where the Commonwealth has a responsibility.