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Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Page: 375


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (15:04): I seek leave to incorporate an answer to a question taken on notice from Senator Siewert on 22 November 2011 concerning protection of sites in the Pilbara in Western Australia.

The answer read as follows—

Questions

1. When did the minister become aware of the skeletal remains on this site?

2. Was he aware of them before he received that emergency application?

3. If he was not aware, what processes did the department or the minister use to understand his portfolio and those very important heritage related issues?

4. The Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation recently publicly released a letter from the principal archaeologist hired by FMG raising concerns about the veracity of a March 2011 archaeological report. Is the Minister aware of this letter?

5. If so, what steps, if any, is he taking to address the issues raised in the letter?

6. How effective are the Western Australian heritage system and our national heritage system if mining can take place and actually disturb sites?

The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator's questions:

Answer

1. The Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities advises that information on this matter was included in the application made under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 on 18 November 2011.

2. No.

3. All applications under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 are processed in accordance with the Act.

4. The Federal Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities advises that this letter was included in the application made under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984.

5. The Minister has met with applicants, another group of Aboriginal people who oppose the application and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. He has asked the Department to provide its advice as soon as possible.

6. Under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 the Minister must consider applications to stop activities that could injure or desecrate areas and objects that are of particular significance in accordance with Aboriginal tradition.