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Thursday, 13 April 1989
Page: 1510


Senator AULICH —I address my question to the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories and again it concerns Wesley Vale. How does the Minister respond to claims that the Federal Government intervened in Wesley Vale only at the eleventh hour? When was the company first told of what was required and did it comply with those requirements? Secondly, how many times did the Commonwealth consult with the joint venturers and the Tasmanian Government?


Senator RICHARDSON —Mr Presi- dent--


Senator Walters —The Minister has already been asked that question and answered it last week.


Senator RICHARDSON —I have been asked several questions about this. I have not been asked this question. Nonetheless, I will attempt to respond to Senator Aulich. I can give some idea to Senator Aulich today about some of the chronology of events, although in terms of the last part of his question as to how many times consultations occurred between the Commonwealth and the joint venturers and the Tasmanian Government, I shall attempt to obtain for him a full chronology of events and make it available to Senator Aulich and to any senators who may be interested. As I said in answer to Senator Puplick yesterday, on 11 July last year officials of my Department met representatives of the joint venturers. On 25 July last year again those officials met with the joint venturers and officials from the Tasmanian Government. The Tasmanian department had been supplied with about 30 pages of draft guidelines for preparing the environmental impact statement. Those guidelines were discussed in some detail.


Senator Archer —What are your guidelines?


Senator RICHARDSON —These were guidelines for the environmental impact statement. By the time the period of public review of the environmental impact statement closed in early December, it was clear that there were some major environmental questions that remained unanswered-not just to the Commonwealth, but at that time to the Tasmanian Government. On 7 December, after consultation with the Commonwealth, the Tasmanian Government wrote to North Broken Hill Peko Ltd outlining 85 matters which the State and Federal governments considered had either `been inadequately addressed or not addressed at all' in the environmental impact statement.

The joint venturers replied with a letter on 3 January and provided what could be termed answers in an addendum. I shall provide Senator Aulich with one example of just how inadequate these answers were. The joint venturers had been asked to outline the studies which would be done to determine the final design and location of the outfall site-not an unimportant or insignificant matter in this mill, given that the proposal was to dump 13 tonnes of organochlorins into the sea in Bass Strait at a point where there was very little tidal movement. It was a serious matter. The Government got a seven-word answer: The assumed depth is about 20 metres. That was the whole answer to that question about what studies would be done.

If one looks at the letter that the Commonwealth sent to North Broken Hill on 8 February, we sought clarification again on what one could call some pretty important matters: dioxin emissions, chlorine dioxide substitution levels and the emission of odours. The Department asked for a response as soon as possible. That letter of 8 February was never answered. That was totally ignored. One wonders what sort of attitude is being displayed by the company when it ignores both the Tasmanian Government and the Commonwealth Government in the pursuit of their legitimate concerns. The joint venturers knew what information the Federal Government and the State Government required and simply refused to supply it. They admitted that the guidelines could be tougher. They did not want to accept either Government's right to impose those tougher guidelines on them. The companies and the Tasmanian Government simply did not take seriously the firm and proper process that was in place for assessing the project. The Commonwealth took the process seriously. I only wish that others involved in negotiations had taken it in a similarly serious vein.