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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2058

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(11.27) —We had to make a judgment as to whether the area could be fully assessed within that time frame. It is the advice of the Bureau of Mineral Resources that, provided there is a robust exploration campaign by a number of companies operating simultaneously, and provided the exploration lease areas are divided in such a way as to encourage that kind of activity, a pretty reasonable assessment can be made within that period. Geologists, being geologists, will not rest content unless every last possible lead has been followed up. In an ideal world, probably a longer period than that would be thought desirable.

Senator Durack —In the real world, it would be.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I say to Senator Durack that an ideal world is one in which compromises never have to be made and in which all objectives can be reached simultaneously without the necessity to trade one off against another. But in the world that we inhabit it is necessary not to prolong the uncertainty about the status of this area any longer than is strictly necessary. We genuinely believe that the five-year program, which will start from the time of the implementation of the regime-it is not as though months are now ticking away while we are setting up the whole thing-will be sufficient to enable full assessment to be made, bearing in mind that exploration licences are normally issued for only a six-year period, and that is without any particular pressure on licensees to embark upon the kind of exercise that we are, or will be, pressuring them to embark upon.