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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1868

Mr SLIPPER —My question is to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment. In his joint statement with the Treasurer and the Prime Minister dated 20 March 1987 regarding the Federal Government's export control powers and their use in relation to silica mining at Shelburne Bay it was stated that mining would be contrary to the national interest, chiefly because of its impact on the environment. The statement went on to say that the Government's decision followed detailed and careful consideration of the proposal. I therefore ask the Minister: First, who were the environmental experts who advised the Government on this project; second, when was the investigation carried out; third, was the investigation carried out on site; and, fourth, will the Government make public the report that it received on the environmental impact?

Mr COHEN —The Government received a range of advice on Shelburne Bay from its own departmental experts, through the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and others. I remind the honourable member that although the decision was based on environmental grounds, there was also strong opposition to the Shelburne Bay project from economic interests who saw the situation emerging where we might have gained some small benefit because of the few jobs created there but lost them in other areas such as Cape Flattery, just south of that region. Also, a number of newspapers in that region, including the Townsville Daily Bulletin, strongly supported the Government's position in this regard.

Mr Young —And the honourable member for Herbert.

Mr COHEN —And the honourable member, of course. The area is very fragile and there was a great deal of concern from those people who have studied that region that a major operation in the area would be very damaging to the environment.

Mr Sinclair —There was no basis whatsoever. That is what you have just said.

Mr COHEN —Obviously the right honourable member has some problem with his hearing. I will take the other aspects of the question on notice and will provide a full reply to the honourable member as soon as possible.