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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 1964

Senator JESSOP(11.25) —I was very impressed with my colleague Senator Puplick in his contribution. He has obviously given a great deal of thought to this matter, and what he said was sensible and constructive. Most Australians would, I think, regard themselves as environmentalists or conservationists--

Senator Sanders —Oh!

Senator JESSOP —That is, with the exception of Senator Sanders, who is a prohibitionist. That is the problem with the conservation movement in Australia-the minority somehow come to the top of, for example, the Australian Conservation Foundation, and cause problems throughout the whole of Australia for the sensible development of our resources. Senator Sanders is typical of the prohibitionist type that happens to prevail in such organisations, which themselves are largely funded by the Commonwealth and, therefore, the taxpayer. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) quite properly commented last year on such people, who are hell bent on preventing export income and sensible development in Australia. They obtain money from the taxpayers of Australia and then bite the hand that feeds them. We must try to get some sense into their heads.

I have been to the Kakadu National Park area on more than one occasion-indeed, on eight occasions. The first time was before mining had commenced. There were a few exploratory drill holes--

Senator Zakharov —I wish I had been there.

Senator Sanders —It must have been lovely.

Senator JESSOP —I am far more informed on the subject than either of the honourable senators. Following my visit, I went to Lucas Heights to determine what work had been done on the environment in that area. I was pleased to learn that an eight-year study had been carried out into background environmental levels. That study even went to the degree of investigating in both wet and dry seasons. It also went to the trouble of carrying out biopsies on the livers of fish, feral buffaloes, birds and so on. It found that during the dry season-for example, in the billabongs that were almost completely dry-the fish had very heavy levels of lead and mineral pollution in their livers, as did the buffaloes and birds. However, somehow or other within the cycle of the year during the wet season the levels returned to normal.

It is also interesting to note that in some areas in the vicinity of Kakadu National Park there is heavy metal pollution in the sea. Uranium, of course, is leeching--

Senator Sanders —Do you want to add to it?

Senator JESSOP —No. I suggest that removing uranium from the soil tends to correct the problem of natural leeching that has been taking place for millions of years. Of course, that is an argument that the honourable senator would not have thought of. Subsequently, as Chairman of the Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment, I visited the area on several occasions to monitor the environmental measures being taken by the various companies there. Peko-Wallsend Ltd, for example, has the most sophisticated environmental laboratory in the southern hemisphere, with former members of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in charge--

Senator Sanders —Wow!

Senator JESSOP —Well, this renegade from the United States of America comes here and tries to frustrate the development of this country. He is trying to inhibit our ability to gain export income--

Senator Button —A spy.

Senator JESSOP —That is an interesting comment from the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Button —Senator Sanders knows that I am joking.

Senator JESSOP —I am never quite sure about Senator Button. Whatever he says has an element of sincerity in it. I have always regarded him as a sincere person, and one whom we should assist in his onerous portfolio. I am sure that we encourage him in the work he is trying to do. Mention was made of the Olympic Dam project. Senator Puplick put it into perspective. The decision was made-I was happy that it was made-to proceed with that project, which means that South Australians and others will find employment. Ultimately we will see some results from the sale of the products, which will increase our export income.

These Bills can be criticised. The Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones) gave an indication, for example, of the monetary worth of the Coronation Hill mineral deposits in the Kakadu area. He said:

Assuming the 1985 unit export value for Australian uranium oxide, 1985 unit ex-mine value for gold, lead and zinc, and 1985 refined metal values for platinum and palladium, the value of deposits listed above is about $32 billion.

That is not an insignificant amount. We should recognise the importance--

Senator Sanders —Rough figures, I'm sure.

Senator JESSOP —I know that Senator Sanders does not worry about export income, but I believe that it is a significant--

Senator Sanders —Talk about slippery figures.

Senator JESSOP —We are talking about the Minister for Science, Mr Barry Jones. I imagine that he would have researched these matters quite strenuously. The shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Connolly, indicated that stage 1 of Kakadu National Park contains not only geomorphological formations and splendid natural flora and fauna but also magnificent Aboriginal cave paintings which are found in much of the escarpment. I was able to visit those areas with my Committee some years ago and I can vouch for the fact that there are some very attractive Aboriginal paintings in the caves there. There are sacred sites identified by the traditional owners of the area. I had a look at the Mount Brockman area, which is a sacred site.

Senator Button —Did you feel comfortable in the caves?

Senator JESSOP —I am a naturalist, an environmentalist. That sort of cave life has some appeal for me, particularly when I see the historic paintings by the Aboriginal people which depict in a very clever way the history of the area, the lizards, the fish and so on. When I observe Australian Broadcasting Corporation and other media programs which deal with mining in Kakadu I find that the backdrop pictures the most beautiful sections of the escarpment in stage 1. They rarely show the so-called clapped out buffalo plains, to which Senator Puplick has referred, contained in much of stage 2 and stage 3 of the park. The Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Evans, referred to that.

I have said before that there is a difference between a true conservationist on the one hand and Senator Sanders and the people who make up the ruling elite of the Australian Conservation Foundation on the other. I call these people, who I believe are a minority, prohibitionists. Most Australians are conservation-minded, with the objective of preserving the things in our environment that are good. They certainly would want to exploit the resources we have in a responsible way.

I was interested to hear the other day a statement that the desertification of Africa is increasing by up to 50 square kilometres per day. By the turn of the century 45 per cent of the African continent will be desert. At that stage the population of Africa will have doubled. I am very concerned that we manage our environment much more sensibly than our early history describes. When our committee was in Western Australia, for example, we were concerned that most of the rivers there are saline simply because of indiscriminate farming practices in earlier days. We must remember that the future of Australia is quite significant. We cannot afford to denigrate our environment as was done in earlier days. These days all companies, including mining companies and other development companies, are conscious of the need to build into their capital requirement some provision for rehabilitation.

Senator Sanders —A small provision.

Senator JESSOP —It is not small. Ten to 15 per cent of the capital estimates of the mining companies I have had anything to do with is devoted to the regeneration of the environment.

Senator Zakharov —Only after it was enforced by legislation.

Senator JESSOP —I visited Fraser Island. In many respects I regret that development there was stopped by the Fraser Government. I observed that the regenerated area of Fraser Island was far better than the natural environment. The company took the trouble of identifying the natural vegetation. It planted seeds in the same proportion as existed in other parts of the island. When I was there the regrowth of the regenerated area was quite commendable and far better than the original vegetation. I pay some compliment to these companies for their consciousness of the need to rehabilitate these areas.

Another question is forestry operations. Rumours have been going around that the Hawke Government has done a preference deal with the Australian Democrats-I do not know whether that would be on at all; far be it from me to be categoric about it-in order to delay or prevent the formation of a nationally based green party. I know that some power brokers within the Australian Labor Party have given this some consideration. I have noticed in the past few months how the Government not only has closed off most of the Kakadu area from mining but also has stopped sand mining at Shelburne Bay in Queensland and logging in the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests of Tasmania, and has indefinitely delayed the extension of wood chipping export licences to the Eden forest industry in southern New South Wales. The Government has deliberately threatened jobs in the so-called blue collar industries by pandering to the prohibitionists amongst the greenies of Australia.

The union movement has supported the forestry industries in Eden and Tasmania. I have with me a document entitled `A Trade Union Position: The Facts About Eden'. The following unions, it states, are totally behind responsible forestry operations in Australia: The Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, the Australasian Society of Engineers, the Australian Timber Workers Union, the Australian Workers Union, the Electrical Trades Union of Australia, the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen's Association, the Federated Furnishing Trades Society of Australia, the Federated Iron Workers Association of Australia, and so it goes on. There are about another half a dozen significant unions listed which are very much in favour of responsible forestry operations in Australia, operations which contribute tremendously to the export earnings of this country. The forestry industry has responsible management techniques.

Senator Sanders —Why do they have to keep going into new forests all the time? Why haven't they been regenerated?

Senator JESSOP —I have plodded through more forests in Australia than Senator Sanders has, and I have seen how forest management has changed over the years in recognition of the need to preserve the environment. Foresters are, and have to be, conservationists, otherwise they would cut themselves out of work.

Senator Sanders —And they have.

Senator JESSOP —Oh, do not be ridiculous. The forestry industry employs some 90,000 people throughout Australia. Its total annual earnings including exports are of the order of $7 billion. It is desperately trying to provide Australia with forestry products and to save the necessity of importing.

It seems to me that what we are talking about here is a very serious matter, particularly in view of the fact that the trade unions of Australia are in favour of responsible development. I notice that a survey of the membership of the Conservation Foundation was broken down as follows: Blue collar workers, one per cent; tradesmen, less than 3 per cent; managerial, about 5 per cent; and academic and professional, over 50 per cent. That is where these bright, academic people, who have no idea at all about practical matters, are supporting the movement against the development of Australia. As far as I am concerned, it is a disgrace. I think these people, who do not recognise the need to develop our resources for the benefit of employment, for the benefit of the trade union movement-which is in favour of these projects-and for the benefit of export income, are unAustralian and ought to be ashamed of themselves.