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Notice given 31 August 2001

3864  Senator Allison: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Heritage—

(1) What are the reasons for determining that the building of a pipeline by GPU Gas Net (EPBC referral 2001/275) through the Merri Creek wildfire grasslands and wetlands (including O’Herns Wetland, Curly Sedge Creek and Merri Creek) is not a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

(2) Why is it that the request seeking reasons for the decision, dated 27 June 2001, has not been answered, despite further letters from objectors and despite the requirement under the Act that an answer be provided within 28 days.

(3) In making the decision, did the Minister take into account the fact that:

(a) the route goes through an important breeding site for the Growling Grass Frog which is federally listed as vulnerable;

(b) the wetland is also habitat to birds listed under CAMBA (the Chinese migratory bird agreement) and JAMBA (the Japanese migratory bird agreement); and

(c) Curly Sedge Creek is considered critical habitat for Curly Sedge which is federally listed as endangered.

(4) Why did the Minister’s decision specify that the pipeline must be built ‘in the vicinity of Merri Creek’ in September.

(5) Is the Minister aware that September is almost certainly the breeding season for the Growling Grass Frog.

(6) Is it the case that the Minister determined that the airport rail link in Broadmeadows, Victoria, was a ‘controlled action’ on the basis that it would cross a bridge over a pond used by the Growling Grass Frog for basking and that the bridge would shade the pool.

(7) Why is it that shading is a more serious threat to the Growling Grass Frog than trenching through its habitat for the construction of a gas pipeline.

(8) Did the Minister inquire of the proponent why the pipeline could not go along Cooper Street which is about to be widened and would appear to provide a less invasive route.

(9) Is it the case that an alternative route is currently under consideration that would take the pipeline even further into the wetland and have a greater impact on the environment.

(10) Given the failure of the Minister to provide reasons for his decision and the uncertainty about the pipeline route, will the Minister call for a halt to commencement of work on the pipeline until these matters are resolved; if not, why not.

3865  Senator Allison: To ask the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources—

(1) What is the total amount spent by the Commonwealth on legal matters relating to nuclear testing compensation, broken down as follows:

(a) Comcare cases, including awards;

(b) common law cases, including breakdowns for:

(i) judgments or verdicts, including any costs assessed against the Commonwealth,

(ii) settlement amounts, including any costs borne by the Commonwealth,

(iii) all costs associated with Commonwealth witnesses,

(iv) all studies and reports prepared for the Commonwealth as part of or associated with the litigation,

(v) all barrister costs, and

(vi) an estimate of costs associated with government lawyers already on the payroll involved in the action; and

(c) schemes such as the Act of Grace Scheme or any other similar scheme involving payments or benefits to those exposed to nuclear tests, including breakdowns for:

(i) all payments made under any scheme involving payment to persons exposed to nuclear testing including, but not limited to, the Act of Grace Scheme,

(ii) the costs associated with review of claims made under the scheme, and

(iii) the costs associated with the day-to-day operation and administration of the scheme.

(2) Was there a contribution from the British Government for this compensation; if so, how much; if not, was the British Government asked to make a contribution; if not, why not.