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Wednesday, 20 August 1980
Page: 566

Mr Humphreys asked the Minister for Science and the Environment the following question, upon notice, on 17 April 1980:

(   1 ) Do exploration permits still exist for mining in the near vicinity of the eastern boundary of the Capricornia section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

(2)   If so, what protective measures exist to prevent the spread of oil slick pollutants in the event of a blow-out if oil drilling is permitted there.

(3)   In this connection, has his attention been drawn to the consequences of weathering and the elusive quality of oil slicks in Mexico's Gulf of Campeche from the broken IXTOC 1 wellhead, as noted by the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr Thomson - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(   1 ) and (2) Yes, petroleum exploration permits Q/4P and Q5/P, the work and expenditure conditions of which have been under suspension since 1971, following the establishment by the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments of Royal Commissions into Exploratory and Production Drilling for Petroleum in the Area of the Great Barrier Reef.

Following detailed consideration by the Government of the Royal Commissions' findings, the Prime Minister announced on 4 June 1979 that there should be no further exploration for petroleum, and no renewal of petroleum exploration permits, in the Great Barrier Reef Region until the results of both short and longer term research are known. The Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland further announced, in a joint statement of 14 June 1979, that it is the policy of both the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to prohibit any drilling on the Reef or any drilling or mining which could damage the Reef.

(3)   An officer of my Department visited the region of the U.S. coast impacted by oil from the IXTOC 1 oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in August 1979 and on his return provided a report to my predecessor, Senator Webster, on the matter.

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