Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 11 March 1999
Page: 2770

Senator MARGETTS (3:28 PM) —It is interesting to follow Senator Chapman because I was on that same committee, and the Greens and the Democrats did indeed find a lot to be concerned about in relation to the outcomes. We did write dis senting reports, and the dissenting reports make a much better read than the majority report. They were actually put together much better.

I would like to read from the proceedings of the World Heritage Committee at Kyoto last year, just to put in context what the minister has been saying and what the opposition have been saying about the government's endless attempts to frustrate the reports of this bureau. The proceedings read:

The Chairperson outlined a brief chronology concerning the preparation of the report. He noted that the mission was originally scheduled for 4 to 10 October 1998, had been indefinitely postponed by the Minister for the Environment, Australia—

that is Senator Hill—

in September and then rescheduled for 26 October to 1 November 1998. He noted that the first draft of the report was prepared on 1 November 1998, the second on 16 November and the final comments were received on 23 November and were immediately incorporated and the final report sent to the Australian authorities on 24 November. He informed the Bureau that the Terms of Reference had foreseen the preparation of a report over a period of a full month but that this had not been possible because of the postponement of the mission.

What we are hearing here is that the government of Australia, who knew well what the deadlines were for the reporting of this report, made a complaint to this chamber that they had not been given enough time to look at the report before it was released. The reading of the proceedings in Kyoto will tell you that the issue was not an unwillingness by the bureau to share their information but that they were put into an almost impossible position by this government and this minister. The document goes on:

The Chairperson informed the Bureau that he had received a request from the Minister for the Environment and Heritage in Australia dated 24 November 1998 that `the item be withdrawn from the agenda of the Bureau and Committee'.

So here we have it: the idea of postponing, indefinite delay, stop them from coming, blah blah, was basically to stop them from giving a report. How dare this minister come into this chamber and talk about his complaints about the bureau when he did everything he could to make it almost impossible for them to report. I will continue the quote:

His request refers to the lateness of receipt of the report which he regarded as making it now `physically impossible for the Australian Government to read and reach a considered view on the report' prior to the Bureau and Committee sessions.

The Chairperson referred to his reply to the Minister's letter in which he stated `it is imperative that the mission fulfils its mandate by presenting the Bureau with the report which was requested last June'.

The chairperson noted that the mission had met the minister and the Secretary to Environment Australia in Canberra briefings and the document goes on:

. . . he had also reminded Senator Hill that he himself had asked for the delay in the mission being fielded and noted `this certainly made the preparation of the report much more difficult time-wise . . . '

All of this was put to the bureau. The members of the bureau considered the evidence they had seen. They considered the urgency of the issue in relation to the threat to the world heritage values of Kakadu. Given that a representative from Australia was given the right to speak at this time, to put the case of the Australian government to stall the whole process and take it off the agenda, all in all, the members carefully considered the situation and decided that they needed to hear the report.

The actions of the Australian government have been shameful on this issue. I hope that the world community will continue to put appropriate pressure on the Australian government to remove its proverbial digit and to make sure that it sees that the issues of world heritage—at the very least—have to be taken seriously and it can no longer fiddle, fool and sham on this matter. (Time expired)

Question resolved in the affirmative.