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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2528

Mr WEBSTER (11.15 a.m.) —This morning we have heard a number of viewpoints expressed on the proposed amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Antarctic (Environment Protection) Legislation Amendment Bill 1992. Perhaps there has been a bit of oversensitivity on the part of some with regard to what they have heard, what they think they should have heard, the things that have been done and the things that have not been done by both sides. All of these matters are probably relevant in debates in this House, but when it comes down to talking about the most pristine, magnificent and beautiful area left in the world today, we need to be as bipartisan as possible about this whole area in the final outcome. I am not suggesting that either party on either side has any less desire along those lines.

  This Bill amends the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Act 1980 to meet Australia's obligations under the Madrid Protocol prior to ratification. I regret that I have to speed up a bit due to the fact that the time allocated to this very important Bill has been dramatically reduced by the guillotine, as has the endangered species legislation, which is very important legislation. I am sure the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment and Territories (Mrs Kelly), who is at the table, is not happy—at least I hope she is not—that these Bills have been cut back because they cover vital issues.

  This legislation involves three very critical concepts: fragility, interconnectiveness and human stewardship. I will not be able to enlarge on them at all. Human stewardship is perhaps the key point in the debate on the amendment today, however short the period might be. I bring to the attention of the Minister the fact that there has still been no response to the very detailed and excellent report tabled on 31 May 1989 by the Standing Committee on Environment, Recreation and the Arts entitled Tourism in Antarctica, which touches on a number of these things.

  The purpose of this Bill is to make provision for environmental impact assessment in the Antarctic, a new system of protected areas in the Antarctic, greater protection of Antarctic fauna and flora and their habitat, the making of regulations providing for environmental impact procedures and waste management and waste disposal. We need to take into account that, whilst there are a lot of important areas of consideration, the scientific work that is being done down there has come in for some criticism. Even though we are talking about tourism in the Antarctic, the preservation of species and things like that, according to some articles I read recently, the activities of scientists in the Antarctic and the results of their work in some areas has been causing concern.

  I did not have the privilege of going to the Antarctic, as did the honourable member for Throsby (Mr Hollis) and others. I was going to go and it was one of the great disappointments of my life that, at the last minute, I could not. The former member for Maranoa went instead. Those who have come back have emphasised the tremendous need for governments, citizens and communities to become deeply involved and concerned with the need to protect the last great pristine piece of environment in the world. No other place in the world matches in any way, shape or form the excellence and the pristine environment that we have in the Antarctic. Australia has a tremendous role to play in protecting that environment. I commend the amendment to the House.

  Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Dubois)—Order! The time allotted for the second reading stage of the Bill has expired.

  Question put:

  That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Carlton's amendment) stand part of the question.