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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3219

Senator SHEIL(3.37) —The Opposition will not support the amendment because we think there are adequate procedures already available under existing legislation to take care of the problem. The national nature reserve can be extended should it ever be felt that it is desirable. In addition, the islands are already covered by the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. Islands within the Ashmore reef area were declared a national nature reserve in 1983. This recognises its importance as a conservationally significant area. On top of that, we in the Opposition feel that a declaration specifying a depth of 200 metres for the underwater area is excessive in view of developments that will take place.

We also feel that more important action can be taken by the Government in order to preserve the islands which are uninhabited. The Commonwealth should first settle the boundary area with Indonesia. We should establish a presence in the area with visits at least every couple of months. I mentioned previously that there should be co-ordinated efforts between the Services, perhaps the Australian Customs Service, coastal patrols and air services. We should re-establish that freshwater source on Ashmore and we should police the Ashmore park so that it has a chance to function without the depredations of traditional fishermen in particular but also other fishermen who operate in the area. As I have mentioned, inspections should be instituted every couple of months. The main job that the Commonwealth can do at the moment is to ensure that no further damage occurs to the ecology on the islands to allow the islands, the trees and the reef to recover.