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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2435


Senator SANDERS(10.06) —by leave-I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to incorporate my second reading speech in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

The purpose of this Bill is to prohibit the granting of a mining lease or permit over any part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is a World Heritage area. It is comprised of an extremely delicate and complex ecosystem. Mining operations are clearly inconsistent with the protection of that ecosystem, a fact already recognised by S.38 of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act, which this Bill amends.

The present S.38 prohibits operations for the recovery of minerals within the marine part except where such operations are carried out by or with the approval of the Marine Park Authority for the purposes of scientific research, or for the establishment, care and development of the marine park.

This Bill extends the protection provided by S.38.

First, it provides that no lease, licence, or permit granted for the purpose of, or purposes including, the carrying out of operations for the recovery of minerals, or for any purpose ancillary to such operations, shall have any forces within the marine park.

Secondly, mining operations carried out for the purposes of scientific research, or for the establishment, care and development of the marine park, are permitted but only after the approval of the Minister and both Houses of Parliament. The maximum penalty for offences under the section is increased from $50,000 to $100,000.

The proposals in this Bill stem from recent developments in the far northern section of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. A consortium including Toyomenko, one of Japan's leading glass manufacturers, has applied for a mining lease over a National Estate Area onshore at Shelburne Bay on Cape York Peninsula. The lease application includes approximately 50 hectares of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

In 1984 a zoning plan for the far northern section of the marine park, which includes Shelburne Bay, was released for public comment. The area of Toyomenko's lease which lies within the marine park, and on which Toyomenko plans to construct a loading jetty 500 metres into the reef, was zoned Marine Park B. Marine Park B is the classification which provides the highest protection.

When the final zoning plan was recently placed before the Parliament, the zoning of the area covered by the Toyomenko lease had been changed to General Use A, a low protection classification.

Why was the classification changed? The Round Point and Rodney Island area covered by the lease have fringing reef. There are sea grass beds in the area on which dugong feed. There is some dispute as to whether the area is prime dugong habitat, but that dispute is unlikely to have been decisive in changing the zoning if it were not for one fact-the representations which Toyomenko had been making for over 18 months to have the area zoned in such a way as to advance their project.

The Government may reply that the zoning is irrelevant to Toyomenko's project, as a jetty theoretically can be constructed within any zone of the Marine Park. If that is the case, why did the Minister on 19 September 1985, write that the zoning had been changed `to enable the operation of the proposed ship loading facility'?

The final zoning plan reflects a blatant effort to re-design part of the Marine Park Zoning Plan to accommodate an overseas company's wishes to mine an area of the National Estate.

What is at stake? The reef area extending from Shelburne Bay is the largest reef transect zoned for high protection in the entire Marine Park.

The Mining project poses the following dangers indentified by the Marine Park Authority.

1. effect of accidental spillage into reef from jetty;

2. introduction of exotic species into reef waters by release of ship ballast water;

3. effect of jetty on sand movement;

4. effect of pylons drilled through the fringing reef on the fringing reef itself.

5. effect of anti-corrosive and anti-fouling materials to be used on the ship loading facility.

An internal file note of the Marine Park Authority of 30 May 1984 noted that Toyomenko `did not wish to be bound into a highly expensive environmental impact statement'.

The note continues: (the Authority) expressed the view that the essential issues of environmental risk need not require a major time consuming and expensive exercise'.

Toyomenko, in their initial environmental advice required under the Queensland Mines Act stated that the Shelburne Bay area dunefields, including the areas which are to be mined, contained `no features of particular scenic or historic interest. All aboriginal sites have been mapped. There were no plants or animals which are found only on the lease area'.

The consortium's leading Australian representative referred to the area as nothing but scrub.

The facts are that the area is on the National Estate.

A botanical team sent by the consortium to the site for just a few days discovered two previously undiscovered plant species.

The consortium's own ecologist stated of the Round Point, Rodney Island area, to be used for port facilities; `none of the Marine community types found in and around the study area of the Shelburne Bay are rare but the combination of all of these in a relatively confined area has produced a unique system of high conservation value.'

The closed vine forest on Rodney Island, half of which was destroyed by Toyomenko's survey team is, according to Toyomenko's own ecologist of `considerable significance-one of only two recorded examples of their community on Cape York'.

Thirteen hectares of open eucalypt forest which will be destroyed is of significance because, as Toyomenko's ecologist states this forest is, `of interest botanically as it appears to contain an unusual assemblage of species and some undescribed plants'.

A total of 170 hectares (or 420 acres) in a scientifically sigificant area is to be demolished. And this is only the beginning. What is in it for Australia? 25 cents a tonne royalties, and permanent jobs for 15 workers.

I urge all those Senators who value the Great Barrier Reef, and who believe the national estate is worth more than 25 cents a tonne, to join with the Australian Democrats in support of this Bill.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Robertson) adjourned.

Referral