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Monday, 5 June 1989
Page: 3303

Senator HAINES —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that today, Monday, 5 June, has been declared World Environment Day and that this declaration is intended to be part of an ongoing commitment to environmental issues. In the light of this, is the Minister aware of increasing public pressure to declare the Jervis Bay area, including the Beecroft Peninsula, a national park? Given this, did the Minister consult the Jerringa Aboriginal population of the Beecroft Peninsula before arranging the military exercise called Tasmanlink? What was the result of any consultations? If none were made, why not? Did the Minister give his permission for land regarded as sacred by the Jerringa people to be bombarded? If he did, on what grounds did he give permission? If he did not, who did give permission, and why? In any event, will the Minister immediately order the cessation of bombardment of the Beecroft Peninsula in order to mark World Environment Day? What further steps will the Minister take to conserve this area, which is sacred to Aboriginal people and which is regarded as a unique part of Australia's natural environment?

Senator RICHARDSON —I am aware that there has been some pressure in recent times for at least some areas around Jervis Bay, including the Beecroft Peninsula, to be declared a national park, although this has not yet occurred. I think the heart of the question is about consultation with the local Aboriginal people. My understanding is that a management plan exists for the peninsula and that that plan was drawn up in consultation with the local Aboriginal people. I am informed that the Department of Defence believes that it is acting within the terms of the management plan which was negotiated with the Aboriginal people and, on that basis, did not consult them specifically about this exercise.

The next question was: Did the Minister give his permission for land regarded as sacred to be bombarded? Firing is to be limited to the impact area using man-made structures as targets, and that has been the practice for many years. In terms of whether that attacks specific sacred sites, a study is in progress to provide some detailed information on what sites there may be of interest to Aboriginal people in the area, and this will take into account any necessary revision of the management plan to which I referred earlier. In terms of ordering the cessation of the bombardment, the Department of Defence does not consider that the bombardment is likely to cause any significant environmental impact, given the number of times the area has been subjected to bombardment over the years. That environmental assessment was carried out by the Department of Defence and my Department will be asking for a copy of it so that we can have a look at it.

Senator HAINES —I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. As part of the answer that the Minister gave to my question he said that he was aware of some pressure for the area to be declared a national park, although this has not occurred. Can the Minister say whether it will occur and, if so, when?

Senator RICHARDSON —I have asked for a report on the area. Obviously, I would be concerned to see how often bombardments have occurred in the past and how often they are likely to occur in the future, before I would declare the area a national park. I am a bit wary of national parks being subjected to regular bombing raids. I want to determine first how much bombardment goes on before I give an opinion on whether the area ought to be declared a national park. I have taken on board the honourable senator's suggestions and I have asked for further information to be provided.