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Tuesday, 3 May 1994
Page: 8

Senator CHAMARETTE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, and I ask: has the minister received submissions that MIM Holdings and McArthur River Mines are in breach of the conditions placed on the project by Treasury? If so, what action will the minister be taking to enforce these conditions? Has the McArthur River Mine project received full Foreign Investment Review Board approval? Is the minister aware that national estate listed seagrass beds stand to be destroyed by the project and, if so, did the FIRB or the Treasurer refer the project to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories and the Australian Heritage Commission for a recommendation? What steps did the minister take to investigate prudent and feasible alternatives? If not, when will the minister make the referral and what steps will he be taking to investigate any transport alternatives?

Senator COOK —I have to inform Senator Chamarette that some of the answers to her questions are already on the public record. But, taking her questions as they have been asked: I have not received any personal representations. I understand that the Treasurer has, and I understand as well that the former minister for the environment, former Senator Richardson, has received representations, too. Probably the most significant representation, without editorialising about the others, was from the Northern Territory Environment Centre. In responding to that representation, I am advised that former Senator Richardson informed the Northern Territory Environment Centre that Mount Isa Mines was complying with the foreign investment conditions, that no breaches had occurred and that no review of the barge loading operation was necessary. Former Senator Richardson indicated in his response that a review was not required as the environmental impacts of the project were adequately considered as part of the environmental impact process. Furthermore, the draft environmental management plan associated with the dredging addressed the environmental impacts on the seagrass beds.

  I can advise Senator Chamarette that the project received foreign investment approval in August 1992. Lastly, in terms of examining alternatives to the barging option, again I am advised that former Minister Richardson indicated in response to Senator Chamarette, as recorded in Hansard on 16 March this year, that the environmental concerns were adequately addressed during and as a result of the EIS process. Further studies are to take place and these issues are addressed in the draft dredging environmental plan.

Senator CHAMARETTE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Does the government intend to place export licences on the lead zinc concentrate so that it can exert more control over prices for that commodity and start-up and operational practices of the company? In other words, is the government's involvement finished or does it have the power to intervene?

Senator COOK —There is a residual power in the Commonwealth to intervene, although it is not the policy of the Commonwealth to do so. If matters arise that cause us concern, we have that residual power, but it is not something that we have practised. In order that I can give Senator Chamarette an authoritative answer, I will check her question with the Treasurer and reply in due course.