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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2308

Senator FAULKNER (Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories) (3.26 p.m.) —I will respond to just a couple of points that have been made in this particular debate. There really is a misunderstanding here about what is going on. My responsibility in this matter—which just does not seem to be understood by honourable senators who represent the Liberal Party in this chamber—is to assure myself that world heritage values in this important area are not affected or impacted on by this particular proposal. That is what my responsibility is.

  Many honourable senators in this chamber, at least in the last contributions, I think, from Senator Coulter and Senator Chamarette, have indicated that they do understand that particular responsibility. If values are threatened, I believe that I have a responsibility to act appropriately. I can only say to honourable senators that, clearly, in order to establish any impact on world heritage values, I have had my department appoint a consultant to provide me with a report. That report will come forward in draft form I expect, in fact, by tomorrow and certainly in final form by the end of July.

  To go to the substantive point that was raised by Senator Reynolds in her original question and reinforced by Senator Chamarette in her contribution as to the concern that this particular development may begin before the assessment is completed, I can only say this: I have indicated to Mrs Robson, who is the Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage, that I will make the draft report and certainly the final report of the consultant available to her so the Queensland government has available to it all the information that I am privy to. That means, of course, any action undertaken by the Queensland government will be undertaken with the value of all the information I have at my disposal.

  I obviously reject the comments that have been made in relation to some sort of factional power play. I think, with the exception of perhaps one or two honourable senators who sit in this chamber, every other Australian would know that that is not my approach to politics on this matter or any other. My actions are not governed, even remotely, by any political considerations. It is not even a matter of any significance whether this is a conservative or a Labor state government. My responsibilities go only to the question of world heritage values in the Hinchinbrook Channel, but I say again: they are not responsibilities that I intend to shirk.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.