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Minister for Primary Industries and Energy will continue to speak out in favour of sustainable development following rebuke from Prime Minister over his comments on decision to delay mining at Coronation Hill

PAUL MURPHY: Following his rebuke from the Prime Minister yesterday, the Primary Industries Minister, John Kerin, insisted today he will continue to speak out on development issues. The Prime Minister talked to Mr Kerin, yesterday, after his Minister's thinly veiled criticism of Cabinet's decision to delay mining at Coronation Hill in Kakadu National Park. Mr Kerin, who was in Melbourne to open a fishing industry training centre, told reporters that while he accepted the Cabinet decision, he'd be making a speech soon on the need for what he called sustainable development. Richard McGregor was there for P.M.

JOHN KERIN: I think I've said enough on that subject. There seems to be a consensus that I have said enough.

RICHARD McGREGOR: Could you have preached Cabinet solidarity?

JOHN KERIN: Oh, well, I make no more comment on that. I'm here to talk about fish today.

UNIDENTIFIED: Do you intend to resign, Mr Kerin?

JOHN KERIN: No.

UNIDENTIFIED: Your conversation with Mr Hawke last night - how did that go?

JOHN KERIN: I didn't have a conversation with Mr Hawke last night. Mr Hawke spoke to me about mid-day yesterday, about 12.20.

UNIDENTIFIED: Are you concerned about the Mining Council's campaign to advertise against this delay in the decision that that might affect the electoral chances of the Federal Government?

JOHN KERIN: Yes. I'm always concerned with any campaign waged for or against the Government, of course, but ....

UNIDENTIFIED: Particularly one using your words.

JOHN KERIN: Well, so be it.

UNIDENTIFIED: The Business Council has warned that Government unpredictability is affecting investment. Can Australia afford such inconsistent actions?

JOHN KERIN: Well, no, you are only trying to suck me into saying things that I don't want to. I'm not going to make any more comment.

UNIDENTIFIED: They came out quite strongly, yesterday, and said investment was being threatened and that businesses took it as a risk factor these days. I mean, that's pretty bad for Australia to be in that position.

JOHN KERIN: Yes. Well, I think it is about time we got on to this concept of sustainable development. I think the times when people can talk about less economic growth means better environment, or worse environment means more economic growth, are going, and I think what we've got to do is really try and get the debate turned round on to sustainable development and trying to look at economic growth in terms of economic development that is environmentally sensitive. And I'll be making a speech to that effect soon because I really do believe, with the Resource Assessment Commission and some of the things we are now putting in place, that we can get away from this sterile debate of environment versus the economy.

RICHARD McGREGOR: But was the Coronation Hill debate couched in those sterile terms?

JOHN KERIN: I don't know. I wasn't there.

RICHARD McGREGOR: Yes, but certainly you assessed it before you left and you've had reports of it since.

JOHN KERIN: No. I actually haven't talked about it in great detail since, to be quite honest. No, I don't think it was. Basically, I think it was a full discussion.

RICHARD McGREGOR: So you accept the Cabinet decision, do you?

JOHN KERIN: Yes. Yes, and I accepted the Cabinet decision before I made my remarks, but I'm not going to talk any more about this.

UNIDENTIFIED: Do think mining will damage the environment at all?

JOHN KERIN: It depends how absolute you are. Everything damages the environment according to some people. Even if you drop a piece of orange peel in the bush it upsets the microfauna. Governments have to balance up all those sorts of arguments.

UNIDENTIFIED: Have you seen the environment impact statement from the Department?

JOHN KERIN: I've got it in my bag. I haven't read it yet. I've got BHP's environmental impact statement. I haven't read, yet, the Department of Environment's assessment of it yet.

UNIDENTIFIED: What you know of it, are you satisfied that mining would not damage the environment?

JOHN KERIN: I'm not going to make any comment until I've read it.

PAUL MURPHY: A fairly relaxed Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, John Kerin, and our reporter was Richard McGregor, among other journalists.