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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1039


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(10.13) —Despite Senator Sanders's very musical rendition of the Australian Democrats' amendments, we do not agree with his view that they are eminently sensible. In fact, the first three would really change the whole complexion of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Amendment Bill. The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, Mr Cohen, addressed this concern at some length in his second reading speech. He pointed out that, after careful consideration, the Government decided that it was reasonable to place the responsibility for determining environmental significance on action Ministers. At the same time, the Government directed the preparation of memoranda of understanding to ensure guidelines and consultations for carrying out this responsibility. In accordance with the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, the Government has directed that MOUs be agreed between Ministers as quickly as practicable and that progress be notified in departmental annual reports to Parliament. I understand that the Opposition shares our view on this matter.

Amendments (2) and (3) proposed by the Democrats have a similar purpose and similarly are unacceptable. I point out too that, if the Minister were to be responsible for the preparation of all environmental impact statements, rather than the action Ministers, that would impose a huge resource burden on the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment. For that reason alone we regard it as not sensible. As to the cost of inquiries, there have been only two inquiries-one concerning the Ranger uranium mine and the other concerning Fraser Island. In both cases the Government bore those costs.

The final amendment, on which I do not think Senator Sanders made any comment but which seeks an appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, is not acceptable to us. The AAT is not the appropriate tribunal--


Senator Sanders —At the moment there is no tribunal.


Senator RYAN —Well, we do not think it is necessary, given the processes that are set out in the Bill. In conclusion, none of the amendments moved by Senator Sanders is acceptable.