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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 788

Mr HAASE (7:56 PM) —I rise this evening to speak to the motion in my name and I do so with great justification. I would remind members of this place that Australia is a relatively recently European populated nation on this planet. We have done a great deal as a nation during our 200-plus years in this place, but more and more it would seem that there is a philosophy beginning to emerge today that would lock up this nation. It would stop development. It would cease the very enterprises that have made this nation a great place. Most recently, over the quiet media Christmas-New Year break, Ningaloo Reef and some terrestrial environs were, firstly, declared national heritage. Then, secondly, a declaration was made that they would be listed for World Heritage. This was done, almost, by sleight of hand—not quite in the dark of the night, but almost—and I believe that the motivation for this action is rather difficult to determine. I strongly suspect, however, that these declarations are made and these propositions put forward by people with scant regard for the continued development of mankind as a species. I suspect that they are far more concerned with getting their own name and personal short-term endeavours up into the media spotlight, because I cannot for the life of me reconcile the idea of locking up productive resources and natural environments of Australia with a declaration that they have the interests of Australians at heart.

I am all for protecting the environment. But I am all for protecting the environment for the human species. I am all for making this planet a better place for humans to live. I am not at this stage interested in abdicating my part in that endeavour to cockroaches or Rattus rattus. Maybe other people’s objectives are to simply vacate this nation and leave it to the natural environment, and I am sure that will be a wonderful attribute to make as Australians to the global economy. Perhaps not; perhaps more we should be inclined to consider that we need to sustain the natural environment with humankind as part of it. I like to think of humankind as being at the top of the food chain rather than, as I see others being more concerned with, at the bottom.

The Kimberley region of Western Australia is vast, and much of it is still almost wilderness. I say ‘almost’ because there is a thriving pastoral industry which exists in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. However, it is proposed that much of that active pastoral region—which is providing employment for Australians and export dollars for the benefit of Australians—be listed for National Heritage, as a forerunner to World Heritage listing. Seventeen million hectares—that is a huge tract of country, rich in resources, rich in diamonds and rich in nickel. It is a vast area for agriculture and horticultural development. And, as I have said, it exists as a great resource for the pastoral industry—for the export of livestock to hungry mouths overseas. Those hungry mouths, I am sure, are not quite as concerned as some here in Australia are with locking up as wilderness that Kimberly region. Rob Gillam, President of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia, has made a couple of comments about the idea. He said:

… a National Listing precedes a World Heritage Listing, which virtually ensures that a region is locked away from future development, and that existing industries are severely curtailed.

He is referring of course to the pastoral industry. He went on to say:

If you wanted to preserve the vast riches of the Kimberly for peoples other than Australians into the future, this would be the best way to do it.

He said:

The Minister is either totally naive, or he has been instructed by his friends in the conservation movement to use National and World Heritage listings to deny any development benefits to both the Aboriginal and broader communities of the Kimberley region.

AMEC, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, say: ‘Heritage list the Kimberley, and lose mining.’ Darren Brown of AMEC said:

Adding more red tape by applying National Heritage status to such a vast area would be the last straw for many companies who would consider moving their investments to other jurisdictions.

Traditional Owner Advisory Group member Mr McCarthy said, ‘We are simply throwing a blanket over the whole of the Kimberley.’

We cannot afford to simply let this sleight of hand go on. The people of the Kimberley, especially the Indigenous population of the Kimberley, deserve a future. A future with income, genuine training, jobs and self-esteem, a future that includes making a contribution to the Australian economy, will only come with development.

The Northern Development Taskforce has reported today that the Kimberley ought to be providing more employment—a little sleight of hand about how much employment by pastoralism, agriculture and horticulture—but they say the Kimberley population needs employment. They allude to the fact that tourism will be the great salvation for Indigenous population in the undeveloped Kimberley. Think for a moment of the underdeveloped population and wilderness of Sumatra or Africa—there are some wonderful tourist destinations in Africa. There are still some wonderful trips to be had into the darkest centres of Borneo. And of course, there is our own Papua New Guinea. Look at those wonderfully exotic destinations and the icons they present for global tourism and then think of the standard of living of the locals. Think how close Sumatra is to the population of Europe. And think how its standard of living has gone through the roof as a result of global tourism because it is a wilderness area. Not a lot. Not a very high standard of living. But many whose philosophy would tie up the Kimberley would dictate that that is the future for our Indigenous population—taking pennies from tourists, the occasional job as a guide. What sort of a future is that?

Compare that with a future, an absolute future equal to any that we enjoy as members of a real workforce. Compare that with resource development—export dollars for Australians to maintain the standard of living that we enjoy today. Compare it with the pastoral industry developing fodder crops for cattle that can be mustered during the wet, close to bitumen roads for export to feed the world. Think of the real dollars, the real jobs and the real opportunities that would come and imagine the much better future the Indigenous population of the Kimberley would enjoy if we continued to develop the Kimberley in a sustainable way—subjected to modern regulation and enjoying modern technology—rather than, as has been suggested here, simply locking it up for the future and converting it back to wilderness.

No-one involved in this proposition suggests who is going to manage the country. Right now, pastoralists are the only affordable land managers we have. More importantly, they are the only reliable, affordable land managers we have. That ought to be kept in mind, because the government agency that will be responsible for managing a World Heritage listed area in the Kimberley will be the Department of Environment and Conservation in Western Australia, which is already so poorly resourced that they cannot manage the country already under their control. Other members in this debate will raise the issue of what happens to the pastoral country when it is vacated. I simply say again that this area of the Kimberley must remain sustainable and productive and not be tied up as wilderness. (Time expired)