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Wednesday, 19 November 1986
Page: 2544


Senator KILGARIFF(10.01) —During the Estimates Committee D hearing relating to the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment, a number of matters arose in relation to Kakadu National Park. I will not retrace the arguments and debates that took place during that hearing, but Senator Sir John Carrick, Senator Puplick, Senator Durack and Senator Collard had much to say about the matter. Of course, the questions were: What is the future of Kakadu stage 2 and the possibility of Kakadu stage 3? Is there going to be multi-use? Will there be an opportunity to test for the presence of what is to be a national asset-the minerals in the ground?

Following those discussions during the Estimates Committee hearing, I wish to ask some questions which relate specifically to the Federal Government's intention to seek World Heritage listing of stage 2. Following the failure of the Federal Government to consult the Northern Territory Government over World Heritage listing, the Northern Territory Government has taken a delegation to Paris-this is public knowledge, of course-hopefully, to appear before the World Heritage Committee to put its own case on the matter.

The first question which arises is in relation to whether the Federal Government considers the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers agreement of 1984 regarding World Heritage listing requires it to consult. I would appreciate the Minister's response to this: Does the Federal Government stand by the agreement reached at that meeting that the Federal Government will consult relevant State and Territory governments before seeking to add areas to the World Heritage List? Apparently it does not, but I and many others would be interested to have the Government's intention in regard to this matter made known. If so, what steps specifically did the Federal Government take to consult the Northern Territory Government over the listing of Kakadu? What meetings were held? Who was present? What papers or submissions were sought from the Northern Territory Government? Given that the decision has been taken by the Federal Government to proceed with World Heritage listing, in spite of the Opposition of the Northern Territory Government, does the Federal Government intend to assist the Northern Territory in putting its case to the World Heritage Committee? Given that the Federal Government offered the Tasmanian Government an opportunity to put its case in relation to the Franklin River, does the Federal Government regard the Northern Territory's right to put its case as any less valid than Tasmania's right in the Franklin case?

If, as the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has stated, he believes that article 34 of the World Heritage Convention means that the Committee can deal only with national governments-this was stated in a telex to the Northern Territory Government-but under article 10 (2) the Committee is able to ask for the views of interested parties, will the Federal Government agree to support the Northern Territory Government's right to put its case in accordance with article 10 (2), as I have said, in keeping with the spirit of the Convention, giving the Territory and interested parties a fair go? If the Federal Government is not prepared to give this support, can it say whether that is because it is concerned that a delegation from the Northern Territory Government would show up the fact that much of Kakadu stage 2 is not worthy of World Heritage listing? It has been said-and, I believe, substantiated-that up to 75 per cent, according to eminent conservationists Harry Butler and Professor Kenneth Mellanby, is not worthy of listing, as I have indicated. Has the Federal Government adopted the operational guidelines set out in the World Heritage Convention which require each party to submit tentative inventories of properties which it intends to nominate during the following five to 10 years?

I think these are reasonable questions to ask following the debate which, of course, has occurred not only during Estimates committee hearings; it has proved to be a national debate among many people in all parts of Australia and in the media. People have put forward their viewpoints. I ask the Minister: Will the Federal Government give an unequivocal undertaking to assist the Northern Territory Government in putting its views to the World Heritage Committee, as I have just said, bearing in mind the Territory's right to make representations as an interested party in accordance with article 10 (2) of the World Heritage Convention? We have heard much from the Prime Minister in the last few weeks, with his toing and froing. My final question, of course, is this: Has the Prime Minister now reconsidered his stance on the matter?