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Monday, 9 September 1996
Page: 3105

(Question No. 161)

Senator Lees asked the Minister for the Environment, upon notice, on 26 July 1996:

(1) Is the head of the Australian Nature Conservation Agency (ANCA), Dr Peter Bridgewater, quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) of 16 or 17 July 1996, in an item by Craig Skehan, as expressing `conditional support' for the Jabiluka uranium project.

(2) Did the SMH item referred to quote Dr Bridgewater as stating, `I think that one needs to look at the longer term, and these mining projects are relatively short term operations'.

(3) Do Dr Bridgewater's statements represent government policy or ANCA policy on these matters.

(4) Why, according to reports from Friends of the Earth and the Environment Centre Northern Territory, does Dr Bridgewater now claim to have been misrepresented in this matter by the SMH; and, if he was indeed misrepresented, what did he actually say.

(5) Is the whole of Kakadu National Park currently Aboriginal land.

(6)(a) Is it the case, that according to Aboriginal law, only recognised traditional owners can speak for the land; (b) is Dr Bridgewater such a person; and (c) if not, did he at least consult the traditional owners on the Kakadu board of management before making these statements.

(7) Is it a fact that the main radioactive components of uranium tailings are thorium-230, with a half-life of 76 000 years, and radium-226, with a half-life of 1 600 years.

(8) Is it a fact that engineers of tailings dams normally assume they can guarantee the integrity of the tailings dam structure for 200 to 1 000 years at most.

(9) Does the Government or Dr Bridgewater consider a radiological impact of 150 000 to 750 000 to be `short term'.

Senator Hill —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) No. This view was attributed to Dr Bridgewater in the article but I am advised that the quotations from Dr Bridgewater do not reflect such a view.

(2) Yes.

(3) I understand that the statements made by Dr Bridgewater were part of an hour long interview which ranged widely over the activities undertaken by the Australian Nature Conservation Agency.

(4) I understand that neither the headline to the Sydney Morning Herald article nor some of the commentary within it reflect the full context of the statements made by Dr Bridgewater. I am advised that Dr Bridgewater told the Sydney Morning Herald that whether or not uranium mining on existing leases near Kakadu National Park proceeded would depend not on the Australian Nature Conservation Agency but on the views of the traditional Aboriginal owners and the outcome of the environmental impact assessment process determined by the Government. I am also advised that Dr Bridgewater said that, if the traditional owners support the proposal and the environmental impact assessment proves that environmental and other hurdles can be overcome, he would be confident that, with the help of the Board of Management and its Aboriginal majority, the Australian Nature Conservation Agency could continue to manage Kakadu National Park in accordance with its World Heritage status and values.

(5) No.

(6)(a) Yes.

(b) No.

(c) No. I am advised that Dr Bridgewater did not consult the traditional owners because, as noted in (4) above, he was not speaking on behalf of the traditional owners or their land.

(7) Yes.

(8) Yes.

(9) No.