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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 106

(Question No. 645)

Senator Macklin asked the Minister representing the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, upon notice, on 5 November 1985:

(1) Is the Government concerned at the mining activities at present being undertaken close to the maternity cave of the little bent wing bats, call ``Bat Cleft'', in view of the fact that the caves of Mt Etna are listed on the register of the National Estate.

(2) Can action be taken, as the Government is a major user of marble, cement and cement products, to ensure that contracting companies' sources of supply of these materials are environmentally acceptable and that mining operations undertaken to extract such supplies do not detract from the heritage value of the site.

(3) Will the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment also ensure that any parent company that accepts and uses cement products from a subsidiary company extracting such products from environmentally unacceptable sites is not given Commonwealth Government contracts.

(4) Will the Government obtain the co-operation of the State Governments so that Commonwealth funds allocated for road and other products are not used to purchase cement products from any source not accepted environmentally.

Senator Ryan —The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Government is aware of the mining activities at Mt Etna and that the Mt Etna caves have been listed on the Register of the National Estate. Listing on the Register, however, has a direct protective role only in relation to action proposed by the Commonwealth which might adversely affect the National Estate.

There are no legal constraints on owners of private property, or on State or local governments, caused by the entry of that property in the Register of the National Estate.

The Australian Heritage Commission has no power to direct private owners or State or local governments with respect to their actions that might affect a place in the Register, nor does registration mean that the Commission may acquire property. The entry of a place in the Register does not have the effect of granting public access to it.

The general purpose of the Register is to alert and educate all Australians to the existence of places of national estate significance and to provide an essential reference and a working tool for balancing conservation and development decisions.

(2) Limestone mining at Mt Etna is for domestic production of cement and other lime products. There is no scope for the Commonwealth to apply the assessment procedures of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act to the Mt Etna Operation.

(3) and (4) The Government is not in a position to make judgements about the environmental acceptability of the Mt Etna mining operations.