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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2057

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(11.21) —It is not a matter of ignoring the Northern Territory legislation. It is a matter of picking it up and applying it to what is essentially Commonwealth land. We had the choice of legislating an entire Commonwealth mining code and creating a new part of the bureaucracy to administer that mining code. Manifestly, that makes no sense and we have not gone down that track. What we are working out are co-operative arrangements with the Northern Territory whereby we will apply their standard rules, regulations and conditions-but add a body of our own to deal with the environmental protection side of this-with the assistance of Northern Territory Government officers, working out appropriate administrative expenses and compensation arrangements to reflect that input. That is not a preferred position so far as the Northern Territory Government is concerned. That Government would prefer to have its own legislation applied directly, not indirectly through this Commonwealth filter, and it would prefer to have its officers administering the whole area without any Commonwealth involvement. But I am sure Senator Kilgariff will be aware of the kinds of policy considerations that have led the Commonwealth to take this approach in relation to these areas. It reflects the peculiar and great significance, both nationally and internationally, of this whole area and our desire that the regime be put in place and applied with regard to national and international criteria, standards and circumstances rather than those that are normally applicable simply at the local level.

I am not saying anything in criticism of the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy or of the way in which in recent years it has set conditions and monitored projects. Right around the country mines departments are much more sensitive to the necessity to balance out conservation and mining interests than has been the case in the past. These days it is inconceivable that any jurisdiction in the country could allow a Rum Jungle situation to happen again. The reasons are essentially policy ones and I repeat that we are applying the Northern Territory legislation for all practical purposes, subject to the overriding conditions that we have already discussed.