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Friday, 23 August 1985
Page: 285


Senator RYAN (Minister for Education)(12.38) —Before I respond to the questions raised by Senator Peter Baume and Senator Puplick about sub-section 7 (11A) and the amendment, I would like to respond to a question that Senator Peter Baume raised by way of interjection during the completion of the second reading debate. He asked about the decision-making process of the Board. He asked specifically whether the Director would accept a majority decision or would be able to overrule the Board. The Director will not be able to overrule the Board. The Director, as a member of the Board, would normally accept majority decisions of the Board, but the Bill provides for all circumstances and so establishes procedures for resolving conflict between the Director and the Board. These procedures are likely to be used very rarely, if at all. The traditional Aboriginal owners have indicated support for these procedures and there is every reason to expect, particularly in the light of the excellent record of the relationship between the Director and the traditional owners in Kakadu, that operations of the Board will be conducted in a co-operative atmosphere and that decisions will be reached by consensus. The conflict resolution procedure was set out by the Minister in the second reading speech.

I now move to the more complicated matter of our amendment to sub-section 7 (11A). The Fraser Government introduced the present sub-section 7 (11A) in 1978. The intention of that action was to implement a recommendation of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry that declaration of national park within the region should be exempt from public representation requirements. The justification was that considerable public discussion had already taken place during, and preceding, the inquiry.

Recent legal advice has suggested that sub-section 7 (11A) could exempt from public comment proclamations not only creating parks within the region but also removing land from parks. This interpretation conflicts with the intention of the sub-section. The Government's amendment expresses the original intention of sub-section 7 (11A) by clearly providing that the exemption from public representations will not apply to proclamations whereby land would cease to be park or reserve. Furthermore, only land within the region could be made park or reserve without public representations as was the case under the Fraser Government's original sub-section 7 (11A).

The amendment would also enable land already in a park or reserve to be incorporated in another park or reserve without the need for public representations. This provision would apply only where the status of land would not be changed by proclamation. Senator Puplick raised objections to this. For example, Kakadu stage 1 and stage 2 could be made one park under the Government's proposal for the purpose of having one plan of management. Senator Puplick raised concerns about the absence of a need for public representation should such a change take place. I point out to Senator Puplick that the plans of management for all parks including parks whose boundaries would be increased if this amendment were passed would be managed under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. Therefore the plans would be made available for public comment and would be laid before both Houses of Parliament before being adopted. If the two parks were to be joined and there were to be a new plan of management, that would under the terms of the present National Parks and Wildlife Act, be made available for public comment and brought to this and the other place. I hope that answers Senator Puplick's concern. It is also important to point out that the provision under the Act which would enable parks within the region to be joined into one park would apply only when the status of the land would not be claimed by proclamation. In other words where there are already parks, two parks could be made into one park; thus the procedures which I have just set out would apply.

Both Senator Peter Baume and Senator Puplick raised the matter of including Uluru in the definition of a region. This provides a simple means of extending to the Uluru National Park the existing provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act relating to Aboriginal matters and Aboriginal land. Because Uluru is already a national park including it in the region would not significantly alter public participation procedures. The only effect this action would have on public participation in Uluru would be to remove the need for public representations on the inclusion of seven small enclaves in the park. However-I think this is an important point-public representations on this action, that is on the seven small enclaves, have already been invited and received. The seven enclaves amount to only 16 hectares out of the total area of Uluru National Park of 132,500 hectares. Extending the region to include Uluru as proposed in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill would not allow any further extension of Uluru National Park without full public participation as presently required by the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.

The possibility of a judicial review of decisions arising from this position was raised by Senator Puplick. It was not clear from his question which decision he would wish to have a judicial review of. I point out to Senator Puplick that the only substantive change to park boundaries that this amendment would facilitate is the addition to Uluru National Park of the seven small enclaves that I have just referred to-that is the 16 hectares-about which public comment has already been sought. Principally, the amendment clarifies present section 7 (11A) which is vaguely worded.

Amendment negatived.

Consideration interrupted.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.