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Friday, 5 May 1989
Page: 1915

Senator JONES —Has the attention of the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories been drawn to a press report that conservation groups are opposing actions taken by the Queensland Government to grant sandmining leases in the environmentally sensitive Shelburne Bay area on Cape York? What is the Government's position regarding the granting of sandmining leases in this area and what actions would it take?

Senator Stone —Tell us about cleaning up your own act, Graham.

Senator RICHARDSON —I am not quite sure what Senator Stone means, but I am sure he will elaborate at some point. I am aware of the press reports and once again I have to express just how appalled I am at the attitude of the Queensland Government, as displayed in its granting of further sandmining leases at Shelburne Bay. Our Government's position has been pretty clear on this question and, being opposed to sandmining in Shelburne Bay, I would not have thought that would be new.

Senator Boswell —For what reason?

Senator RICHARDSON —I will get to that. Senator Boswell should just remain calm. The Government's commitment to environmental protection extends to some far-flung parts of our continent; that certainly includes Cape York. The platform of the Australian Labor Party has actually been strengthened in this regard. There is actually a specific reference in the platform to the Shelburne Bay and Margaret Bay area of Cape York. It was added at the Labor Party's last conference in Hobart. It states:

No export licences will be issued which would permit the export of mineral sands extracted from the Shelburne and Margaret Bay areas.

It should be remembered that in March 1987 the Federal Government made a decision not to approve a proposal to develop silica sandmining at Shelburne Bay. That came after a proper examination of the area.

Senator Boswell —Eleven people went there last year. The only way you can get in is by helicopter.

Senator RICHARDSON —I visited the area myself, so perhaps I was one of the 11.

Senator Boswell —You must have been the first one in there in a year.

Senator RICHARDSON —I think we had more than that in our party. As usual, Senator Boswell cannot count. At the time the project required Foreign Investment Review Board approval. The Government's decision was based on environmental grounds, not foreign investment grounds. At the time the Prime Minister stated:

The Government would not allow a locally-owned operation at Shelburne Bay. The Government has the capacity under its export control powers to ensure that no locally-owned operation would proceed.

A revised proposal was also withdrawn in August last year after I had advised the Treasurer that the project should not go ahead, again on environmental grounds. It really is time, given that background-all of which has been in the public arena-that the Queensland Government began to take something like a responsible attitude towards community concern over the degradation of our important coastal areas.

Senator Boswell —What community concern up there?

Senator RICHARDSON —That is the difficulty with the National Party in Queensland. It has no idea of what the community is concerned about, which is why it has lost 20 per cent of the votes each by-election in the last 12 months, and why, in Merthyr, it will get creamed again. I hope that the Queensland Government starts to live up to its responsibilities and acts upon the long-standing Queensland National Park proposal to declare the Olive River gemfield a national park. That proposal has come from the bureaucracy in Queensland, not the Commonwealth.