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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 128

Senator MASON —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment: Has the Australian Heritage Commission recommended that the Daintree rainforest be placed on the World Heritage list? Is such a recommendation imminent? If so, what steps have been or will be taken by the Government to protect the region immediately under section 6 (2) (e) of the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act? Finally, in view of the major and totally unjustified damage to this region through construction of the Bloomfield -Cape Tribulation road and the Government's declared policy of rainforest preservation, why has the Government delayed action as long as it has on this matter?

Senator RYAN —I do not know that I can agree that there has been a delay in the Government's handling of this matter. I am advised by the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment that the Australian Heritage Commission has commissioned a study of the conservation significance of the wet tropics of north-east Queensland. This report has been referred to eminent referees in Australia and overseas. Following receipt of advice on the study report, the Government will consider the matter of possible nomination of the region to the World Heritage Committee for World Heritage listing. This will include consultation with the Queensland Government. It must be stressed that there will need to be the most careful consideration of any World Heritage nomination by Australia to the World Heritage Committee of the Cape Tribulation, Daintree or any other region of Australia to ensure that the extremely high standards involved in this matter are maintained.

Even if the Government makes a nomination after satisfying itself that a nominated area has outstanding universal value to satisfy the stringent requirements of the World Heritage listing the final decision as to whether or not the area should be listed rests with the World Heritage Committee.

Senator Chipp —By then the road will be finished.

Senator RYAN —After receipt of a nomination for possible World Heritage listing from a state party the World Heritage Committee could be expected to take a full 12 months of careful scrutinising before accepting or rejecting it. I understand from the interjection that Senator Mason and Senator Chipp would wish to shortcircuit the process that the Australian Government must go through if it seeks to make a nomination to the World Heritage list. It seems to me that it is not possible for the Australian Government to do all that is required to uphold the stringent standards of the World Heritage listing in a shorter time than it is taking.

It seems to me, from the information that has been provided by the Minister, that a thorough and careful examination of all the issues involved has been undertaken speedily and will be processed as rapidly as possible, while still doing justice to the importance of the World Heritage listing.

Senator MASON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I listened carefully to what the Minister said. Would she agree this would probably mean that it might be anything up to 15 months, possibly even two years, before any action is taken on this matter? I think she should indicate whether the Government has any other action in mind or whether it proposes simply to allow this matter to slide for at least another year.

Senator RYAN —It is rather difficult to answer directly a question phrased in such a tendentious manner. I do not believe that the Government is letting this matter slide. I think the information I have just given the Senate shows that the Government has been active and conscientious in this matter. As to whether there are other steps that are open to the Commonwealth to take, I will refer that matter to the Minister and advise Senator Mason accordingly.