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Wednesday, 17 November 1993
Page: 3013

Senator MARGETTS —My question is also directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. I refer to a recent study of Aboriginal heritage sites on the Burrup Peninsula, in the north-west of Western Australia, which was funded under the National Estate grants program and also to a land use planning study carried out by the Western Australian Department of Resources Development. What is the current status of the proposal to extend the National Estate listed areas on the Burrup Peninsula? Is the minister aware that the Department of Resources Development study commits the state government to the development of an industrial transport corridor through present and proposed National Estate listed areas? Is the minister aware that a report commissioned by the Dampier Port Authority in 1989 concluded that there are other sites better suited on engineering grounds to industrial development than the Conzinc Bay area, which lies within the National Estate area? What action will the Commonwealth government take to protect these areas of important cultural and natural heritage?

Senator SCHACHT —I have been provided with information from Mrs Kelly. I think Senator Margetts indicated previously to Mrs Kelly that she was going to ask this question.  In relation to part one of the question, I am advised that the report of the recent study has been received by the Australian Heritage Commission. The report recommends an extension of the areas currently listed in the register of the National Estate. The recommendation is currently being assessed by the commission.

  The answer to part two is that the minister is aware of the proposal for a transport corridor and that the proposed corridor route travels through an area currently listed in the register of the National Estate. The answer to part three is that the minister is not aware of such a report.

  The answer to part four of the question is that, under subsections (1) and (2) of section 30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975, Commonwealth ministers, departments and authorities are obliged not to take any action that would adversely affect part of the National Estate unless there is no feasible and prudent alternative. If there is no such alternative, then all measures that can be reasonably taken to minimise the adverse effect are to be taken.

  Listing in the register of the National Estate has no legal effect on the actions of state governments, local governments or private individuals or corporations within the state. Only the Commonwealth is directly affected under the commission's act. At this stage the minister is unaware of any Commonwealth involvement in this project.

Senator MARGETTS —Mr President, I have a supplementary question. If, as seems obvious from the information, there is an alternative, does that mean there is a guaranteed indication that action may or will be taken on this matter?

Senator SCHACHT —The indication is that, because we are unaware of any Commonwealth involvement in the project, the Heritage Act does not apply. But I will refer the last part of the question to the minister to see whether we can doubly check whether there is any Commonwealth involvement. Even if there is not any Commonwealth involvement, I will ask the minister whether she will have consultations with the Western Australian government about the proposal.