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Tuesday, 31 March 1987
Page: 1798

Mr TICKNER(6.06) —Before I deal with the substance of the point that I seek to make in the debate tonight I would like briefly to trace the substance of the legislation before the House. The National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill and cognate Bills represent the implementation of the Government's landmark decision taken in the latter part of last year concerning Kakadu National Park and the adjoining Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases. That decision is a very important one for the future of the environment of the Northern Territory and indeed Australia, because the Commonwealth decided to prohibit mining in the Kakadu National Park, to incorporate 65 per cent of the leased area into the park as soon as possible and to establish a conservation zone over the remainder of the lease areas so that a carefully controlled program of mineral exploration and resource assessment can be undertaken.

We are dealing with five Bills. The first is the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill which will enable some 4,000 square kilometres of pastoral reserves to be included in the Kakadu National Park and for a conservation zone to be declared over the remainder of the leased areas. The Bill will ensure that the mineral activities in the conservation zone will be managed in accordance with sound conservation principles. The second Bill to give effect to the Government's decision is the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill (No. 2) which, when passed, will prevent exploration and mining in Kakadu National Park.

The third Bill is the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Amendment Bill which will enable the role of the Supervising Scientist to be extended to include the provision of advice to the Government on environmental aspects of exploration and mining in respect of all minerals in the conservation zone. The fourth Bill is the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill (No. 2) which will ensure that the Gimbat and Goodparla areas are available for Aboriginal land claim and further that any part of those reserves which is successfully claimed and required for park purposes will be the subject of a lease-back arrangement with the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The fifth Bill is the Lands Acquisition Amendment Bill. It will enable exploration and mining rights to be granted in the conservation zone after lodgment of a land claim and it will also allow such interests to be granted if that land should become Aboriginal land.

I, together with, I think, just about all honourable members of the Government, will be vigilant in watching over what happens to stage 3 of the conservation zone area in particular to ensure that the environment of Kakadu is not harmed as a result of any activities that might occur in that region. I would have thought that such an important package of legislation would have commanded the support of all members of the House because the area is an important region. It is an area of outstanding beauty and grandeur and it is of great significance not to just Australia but to the world. I am very proud to have had the opportunity to have visited this region twice before I became a member of parliament. In 1975 and in 1979 I was deeply moved by what I was able to see on my visits to Kakadu.

My own involvement in environmental issues and the concern of environmental protection is not a new-found discovery or a conversion on my part. It has been one that I have been proud to have all my political life. Therefore, when I speak on the issue I do so not as a result of any hasty conversion but because of a deep-seated and life long adult convictions.

I wish to refer to the comments made by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell). He suggested that it was important that national parks be places for people and that these important areas of national heritage be accessible to people from all walks of life. I agree with the substance of the honourable member's comments. I believe that it is the responsibility of governments at all levels to facilitate the development of programs that will allow people from all walks of life to have access to those areas. They ought not to be the preserve of those who are fortunate enough to be able to afford interstate air tickets and Range Rovers. They ought to be parks for all the people of Australia and I encourage the Government to initiate programs to give effect to those sentiments.

I welcome the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill and the package before the House and the legislation that came before the House last week concerning the forests of Tasmania. I particularly welcome them because they afford to this House and to the people of Australia an opportunity to compare the very deep divisions that exist between the Australia Labor Party Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the extremist, divided and increasingly discredited Opposition that we are confronted with.

If there is any one issue that demonstrates to young Australians just what the Opposition parties are about, it is their stand on environmental issues. When we ask ourselves who speaks for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) in relation to environmental issues, who speaks for all those Liberal Party candidates across Australia and who speaks for the back bench members of the Opposition on the environment, it is not even a member of the Liberal Party of Australia. Their spokesman is a member of the National Party of Australia and not just any member of the National Party but Senator Collard, one of the members of the National Party who, all of Australia knows, acts at the behest of Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Sir Robert Sparkes of the Queensland National Party. It has been shown that when they tell Senator Collard to jump he complies willingly with that command. I do not seek to make any personal attack on Senator Collard because I have a polite and courteous relationship with the Senator, but I do seek to savage, in a very critical way, the role of the Opposition on environmental protection and that of Senator Collard, the Queensland National Party senator who speaks for all the Liberal Party in relation to environmental issues.

If honourable members want to know where the Liberal Party stands on the environment, they have only to examine in detail what Senator Collard says because his political line on the environment is the line that the Opposition is putting forward in relation to this Bill. Essentially, that policy is a hands off approach by the Commonwealth of the Parliament of Australia. It is a total abdication of Federal Government responsibility for environmental protection-let us have no doubt about this-and not just on issues of peripheral relevance to this country. It is a hands off, total abdication of any Federal involvement in protecting the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, the forests of Tasmania or the rainforests of north Queensland. It is open season. What Sir Joh wants in Queensland or what Mr Gray wants in Tasmania is open for them to take; it is open season. The environment is up for grabs because of Senator Collard's policy statements on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition and every Liberal Party member.

If there is any fear that what I am saying is some exaggeration, let me turn to the damning documents themselves and to the pronouncements of Senator Collard on the environment and we will see precisely why the Opposition takes the view it has taken today in this debate supporting mining in Kakadu National Park, a world heritage area. Perhaps the gem of Senator Collard's contribution to debates about the environment is contained in a memorable speech which was delivered in north Queensland-how appropriate-called `The Environment in Perspective'. It was delivered to a seminar entitled `Nationals in the north' and was held on 20 September and 21 September last year. The National Party put forward the Liberal Party position on the environment. Senator Collard stated:

. . . the Federal Government should not use powers it holds to override legitimate decisions of sovereign states. As a conservative politician I find such trampling of our political and social heritage totally insupportable.

In relation to the Tasmanian forests that have been referred to in the course of this debate he said quite clearly that Cabinet should not worry about the issue and should spend its time attending to Australia's enormous economic difficulties and not pander to the anti-development section of the environment movement. He said it was up to Mr Gray to decide the future of those world heritage areas.

I turn now to the issue of Fraser Island. Let me pay tribute to the former Prime Minister, Mr Fraser. I do so in a spirit of bipartisanship because it was Malcolm Fraser who initiated the Commonwealth power using the export controls to stop sand mining on Fraser Island. Such is the turn of events in this country, such is the betrayal by the Liberal and National parties of environmental concern and protection, that Senator Collard has gone on public record opposing Mr Fraser's intervention and opposing any Federal Government restrictions over sand mining on Fraser Island.

Those honourable members who want to see the processes of Senator Collard's mind at work ought to have regard to an article in the National Times of 14 to 20 February. It stated:

Meanwhile, Queensland National Party Senator Stan Collard, Opposition spokesman on the environment, has pledged that a coalition government would go ahead with sand mining on Fraser Island.

Senator Collard replied to that comment by making, I respectfully suggest, two rather bizarre points. First of all he stated:

The Federal Opposition does not believe any Federal coalition government should be in the business of sand mining, as your paragraph would indicate!

That is quite bizarre. He went on to say:

. . . `we believe in the necessity to exercise Commonwealth export control powers only on the grounds of national security and where the industry as a whole seeks government assistance'.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Rocher) —Order! The honourable member will be aware that I had to ask the previous speaker, the honour- able member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran), to address the Bills. I have allowed the honourable member to go on knowing that he could very well lead his remarks into the subject matter of the Bills. I hope the honourable member is doing that. I ask him to do so.

Mr TICKNER —Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your guidance. I assure you that I am about to do that. I will make one other point and I do so because I am setting the scene for what the Opposition is about. It is about the abdication of Federal Government involvement. In relation to the Great Barrier Reef, which I would have thought was a sacrosanct part of our National Estate, Senator Collard put out a statement on 23 March which stated:

We in the Opposition take the view that land use decisions are the responsibility of State governments and it is for the States to justify them, not the Commonwealth.

There are no mistakes, no ambiguity and no doubts. Senator Collard says that it is up to Sir Joh. All Australians ought to understand the enormity of what Senator Collard says on behalf of every single Liberal Party member who sits in this House. In relation to Kakadu National Park-I thank you again for your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker-Senator Collard and Senator Durack, the shadow Minister for resources and energy, put out a joint statement. It is No. 82 of last year. It states:

The Hawke Government's decision to legislate to prevent any mining or mineral exploration taking place in Stages 1 and 2 of Kakadu National Park is a body blow to Australia's need for higher export earnings.

They oppose that decision; they support mining in Kakadu National Park and they are consistently opposed to every single intervention by this Government in the interests of future generations to protect Australia's national parks.

In relation to the issue of Kakadu, let there be no doubt that Australia has certain obligations under the World Heritage Convention. Under that Convention, Australia has an obligation to take appropriate measures for the identification, protection, conservation, preservation and transmission for future generations of areas of World Heritage; that is, those parts of our national and cultural heritage that have `outstanding universal value'. Stage 1 of Kakadu National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981. I commend the Fraser Government for its initiative. It is a tragedy that the Opposition parties have become so conservative, so extreme and so dominated by outside forces-those forces of darkness in the New Right-that they are unable even to embrace the conservation policies of the former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser; but those are the brutal facts. They have denounced Mr Fraser's concern for the environment, in the same way that they denounced his stand in relation to South Africa. To the Opposition now, Malcolm Fraser is an extremist. That is the extent to which the Opposition has betrayed the policies of the Liberal Party that once was, at least in many respects, a small `l' Liberal Party, not a Tory conservative and extremist party which acts at the behest of the New Right influences outside this Parliament.

When we talk about world heritage areas and about Kakadu, we are not talking about a local park or areas of local significance; we are talking about areas that the eyes of the world are upon. We are talking about places such as the Pyramids area in Egypt, the Grand Canyon in the United States of America and the Great Barrier Reef. These are the world heritage areas that Australia has committed itself, by international treaty, to protect. Although it is a fact that legal action last year caused the Kakadu stage 2 nomination to the World Heritage List to be deferred, there is no doubt that it has world heritage status. At the World Heritage Commission meeting the representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources said that stage 2 nomination would increase the viability and integrity of the Kakadu National Park. He considered the area to be superb and commended the Australian Government for adding it to the list. The Australian Government therefore has international obligations to protect stages 1 and 2 of Kakadu National Park. These Bills, in part, are intended to give effect to these international obligations.

I conclude with an appeal, because it is not my role in this House to promote divisions. It is an appeal to the more moderate members of the Liberal Party, the ones who are prepared to distance themselves from the extremists, to bring their Party back into line, back to supporting at least a semblance of concern for the environment-a concern which at least Malcolm Fraser, in part, was proud to wear as a badge of honour. By their opposition, the Opposition parties have betrayed everything that the Liberal Party stands for. If it comes to a vote, a determination by the people of Australia at the next Federal election, and the Opposition goes to the polls representing the mining companies, the extreme forces of the New Right, and the Australian Labor Party goes representing the interests of the majority of the people and the future generations of young Australians, I have absolutely no doubt that the principles of idealism and integrity will override and triumph over the forces of darkness.