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Wednesday, 8 June 1994
Page: 1550

Senator MARGETTS (7.21 p.m.) —I would like to make some brief comments on the report by the parliamentary Joint Committee on Public Works relating to the further development of HMAS Stirling on Garden Island in Western Australia. At the outset I would like to express my concern at the lack of proper process in relation to consideration of the proposed development. The fact that so many community and conservation groups managed to provide submissions to the parliamentary committee on public works is more than an indication of the commitment of those groups than of the time allowed by the committee for community groups to provide submissions.

  In addition, and of greater concern, is the fact that the navy admitted to the committee that it had commenced preliminary work on some of the facilities. This displays a remarkable arrogance and a disregard for the proper review process that should be pursued for development proposals such as that at Garden Island. I am reminded of the comment made by Senator Ray during the estimates committee hearings. He said, `Why should I need to consult the community for something that Defence needs to do?'

  Another issue of great concern is the apparent duplication of facilities that are inherent in the development proposal for Garden Island. It is pleasing to see that the committee has acknowledged this in its recommendation No. 4, which states:

The Committee has yet to be convinced that a need exists for a small arms range at HMAS Stirling.

I trust that the navy takes note of this comment and eliminates any plans for the small arms range on this island. Finally, I would like to express my concern that the environmental and cultural concerns outlined in the various submissions have not been properly considered. The four species of fauna which are rare and vulnerable, that is the Tamar wallaby, the carpet python, the lion skink and the brush bronze wing, require maintenance of habitat integrity. In addition, there is a particular need to protect the Rottnest Island pine forest and the cheesewood forest on the island. In that context I am concerned that assurances from the Department of Defence concerning environmental management are insufficient and require scrutiny by independent experts in ecosystem management.

  Therefore, I would like to propose that a comprehensive conservation plan as outlined in the proposal by the National Trust of Australia WA and supported by the Australian Heritage Commission that addresses the ecological and cultural issues on the island is prepared as part of an open process with review by independent experts. This will avoid any criticism from the community that the Department of Defence is auditing its own plans in this regard.