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Tuesday, 8 November 1977
Page: 3079

Mr NEWMAN (Bass) (Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development) - in reply- I will not speak for long, but I think I must respond to some of the half truths and exaggerations that were trotted out as usual by the two old faithfuls from the Opposition, the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren). If their concern for the truth half matched their concern for the environment, I think they would be a lot better off. Let me put the facts on this matter of the Government's concern for the environment and conservation. This Government's record in these matters is impeccable. We have a record of concern. We have a record of action. We have a record which shows a practical application of a range of programs and policies.

Let me go through them quickly. We have continued to subscribe in a very vigorous way to and have provided leadership for two councilsthe Australian Environmental Council and the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers. We have continued programs on air quality. We have continued programs on soil conservation. We have introduced new programs detailing the hazards of chemicals. The honourable member for Hughes, typically, has no concern for the voluntary organisations that run environmental centres for the conservation groups around the countryside. The arrangement for sharing, which I think is perfectly reasonable, will continue on the same basis as last year. For every $ 1 that they raise, we will give them $2. We are not reverting to the dollar for dollar basis, as the honourable member for Hughes suggested. It is also wrong to say that we will be going down to $300,000 this year. We will maintain the same level of programs as last year- $400,000. In addition to continuing support for those voluntary organisations, we have continued under the States grants legislation to provide money for those States which wish to acquire land for national 1 larks and so on. We have amended that legislation so that we can help the States with management facilities. We are doing that in Tasmania in the wilderness area known as the South West National Park.

The statutory bodies have a magnificent record. Again it is a vigorous record. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is surging ahead. I hope that in the near future we will be able to declare the first zone in that magnificent area in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The Australian Heritage Commission has proceeded to put thousands of places on the national list. It has been very helpful also in making recommendations, for example, about the national conservation voluntary groups and those who will be funded under the Australian Heritage Commission Act. In that respect we have increased the figures this year, not to the $ 1 .5m about which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was talking, but to $2.55m which will keep the Australian Heritage Commission Act moving along so that areas and places that need help will continue to receive it.

We come to the linchpin of our policies, the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. The honourable member for Hughes is either ignorant or just being provocative in this place, because the things he said are totally untrue. We began our inquiries with the Fraser

Island issue. We acted decisively, with determination and with courage. That island will become part not only of Australia's heritage but also of the world heritage. The honourable member for Hughes implied that by not putting money into the Budget allocation we therefore would not be looking at any public inquiries. There has not been a need for a public inquiry. I am sure the honourable member for Hughes knows that if there were a need money would be provided out of the advance to the Treasurer. It is as simple as that. The honourable member for Hughes claimed that there should have been inquiries into other matters. We have acted under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, whether the matter in question was the Concorde aircraft or wood chipping on the south coast of New South Wales. There is no question about that. Let me educate him a little about the Act, because obviously he does not know it. Under the Act there are two alternativeseither a public inquiry or administrative procedures with an environmental impact statement. I chose the environmental impact statement. That was legitimate and it was certainly the correct thing to do in those matters.

I will finish on the question of uranium in the Northern Territory. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition tried to pretend that the Government was going to ignore the environmental promises it had made in regard to the development of uranium mining in the Northern Territory and the declaration of the Kakadu National Park. He brought in the red herring of the Australian Atomic Energy Act. The Act has absolutely no bearing on this argument. We have made our position quite clear. I will go through those procedures again. We will declare the Kakadu National Park as soon as we can. There has been a delay because the matter has to be arranged so that the Aboriginals may get their land rights established and lease the land back to us. Already the Acting Supervising Scientist is working with a committee of specialists and the Northern Territory Administration on establishing the monitoring requirements that will precede the establishment of mines in the area.

In summary, let there be no mistake either in this House or among the people who may be listening to this broadcast. This Government is concerned with the environment and conservation issues. We can point to a history of action in the last 22 months. It is a record of action that was not matched by the Opposition when it was in government and had a chance to do some of the things about which Opposition members have been talking in this place this afternoon.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.

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