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Friday, 7 September 1984
Page: 877


Mr MILTON(4.24) —It was reported in the Age newspaper some little time ago that a subsidiary of the mining company, MIM Holdings Ltd, is objecting to the proposed addition of 6,726 square kilometres of the Gimblat and Goodparla pastoral leases to the 13,000 square kilometre Kakadu National Park. A letter from the Carpentaria Exploration Co. Pty Ltd was reported as stating:

The proposals are incompatible with the community and national interest and with present Government policies to encourage competitive industry in Australia.

Such a statement is complete nonsense when it is appreciated that the tourist attraction of Kakadu National Park means that it has the potential to become a big money spinner for the people of the Northern Territory, whilst at the same time preserving a valuable area of great environmental beauty as part of the world heritage. Mining companies are, of course, vitally interested in an area which has the same geological formation as the Ranger, Nabarlek, Koongarra and Jabiluka uranium mines. But the area is also an integral part of the total environment of river, bush and rocky gorges, which teams with a rich flora and fauna.

The present leadership of the Northern Lands Council is also attracted by the promise of many millions of royalty dollars from the uranium mining deposits of Jabiluka and Koongarra, despite the fact that the total desecration of the land caused by open cut and underground mines is a complete denial of the birthright of the Aboriginals who have peopled the area for many thousands of years. However, I do not want to be too moralistic but rather draw the attention of honourable members to the dynamic growth of the tourist industry in the Northern Territory. In this speech I do not have the time to cover the statistics but even a cursory check will show how the tourist facilities at Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Darwin and Kakadu are rapidly expanding.

Of course, it has to be admitted that Kakadu National Park must be managed with an adequate ranger service and this is the declared aim of the Commonwealth Government in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government. However, what the advocates of the mining industry fail to understand or do not want to understand is that in areas of great natural beauty, such as Kakadu, the tourist and ranger services provide great opportunities for employment. In a country such as Australia, which has an official unemployment rate of over 8 per cent, surely this is a factor we cannot ignore. One has to ask how much of the profits from mining operations actually benefit the unemployed, where the capital cost for each employed person is at a very minimum 10 times the cost of capital investment for each employee in the management and tourist services provided in national parks. Let it also not be forgotten that the capital infrastructure of mining causes a desecration to the flora and fauna of a park such as Kakadu. I quote from a statement by the Vice-President of the Australian Conservation Foundation:

Kakadu is the most important natural area under the control of the Australian Government. This is the area where the National Parks Act could set a standard of park management which would be an example to the States, but management of Kakadu is already prejudiced by uranium prospecting.

A road system unrelated to park needs, a proliferation of vehicle tracks, airstrips, extensive clearing, cutting and burning, constant movement of automobiles and planes, permanent camps, mobile camps, abandoned drums and other debris, and interference with Aboriginal sites are all to be seen in the area.

There are, in fact, over 120 Aboriginal sites and a large number of the most anthropologically significant rock paintings in the whole of Australia in the Kakadu National Park. Conservationists are, of course, always challenged about their knowledge of an area they wish to protect. I am able to say that I have been all over Kakadu National Park on a number of visits over the years. I noted with much misgiving that the site of the Jabiluka uranium mine is close to one of the most prolific of migratory bird haunts in Australia. The danger from the spillage of low level radioactive waste and other pollutants from mining and milling operations was most evident to even the most casual of observers. The Koongarra uranium mine is situated in the heart of one of the most visually attractive areas of previously unspoiled wilderness. It is criminal to consider mining in such areas of great natural beauty, particularly when the mining companies have many other valuable mineral sites to exploit in both the Northern Territory and Western Australia.