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Thursday, 12 May 1994
Page: 756

Senator CHAMARETTE —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. I refer the minister to his answer to a question from Senator Reynolds yesterday regarding the proposed skyrail project in the wet tropics world heritage area. Has the minister, in his capacity as the minister responsible for heritage matters, received legal advice on any native title interests or implications for the project? If not, why not and if so, what was that advice? Is the minister aware that a native title claim over the area has been or is today going to be lodged over the area in question?

Senator FAULKNER —Yesterday in my answer in the Senate I indicated that there was a caveat on those matters according to the advice I received from my department. Senator Chamarette's question is much more properly addressed to the minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs in this chamber, but to my knowledge no legal advice has been received by my department going to that particular point. Given that this development began in 1987 and given the fact that I have been the minister for but a few short weeks, I will inquire of my department whether any other advice has been received in relation to that. If there is, I will report it to the Senate at a later stage.

Senator CHAMARETTE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. While I understand it is not the minister's role to protect unidentified Aboriginal areas, nonetheless the fact of native title claims being lodged by the Djabuky people over a world heritage area gives him as a minister a responsibility. Since the Djabuky people oppose the skyrail, what action does the minister intend to take?

Senator FAULKNER —I have indicated that I will check departmental records to establish whether there is any advice that has been given to my department previously. If there is an issue that requires my communicating with the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, I can say categorically to Senator Chamarette that I will do that, and that that issue will be appropriately progressed. But I can say to Senator Chamarette that to my knowledge at this stage there is no such reason for me to make such a communication with the minister.