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Thursday, 12 September 1996
Page: 3363

Senator BOB COLLINS(10.34 a.m.) —I will not repeat what I have already said to the house. I conclude in noting that much of this beautiful park is on the register of the National Estate. What this proposal points to is that so far as the Western Australian government is concerned, a national park is only a national park as long as they don't require it for something else. That is what I find particularly objectionable about the proposal to excise an area close to the largest and certainly spectacularly beautiful freshwater lake in that region for sandmining.

Senator Campbell —The proposal includes adding another 1,000 hectares to the park.

Senator BOB COLLINS —It does not change the location of the mining, senator, with the greatest respect. That's a foolish interjection. As is the habit of the Court government, it has put aside all of the other intrinsic values of the area, whether tourism or environmental, to proceed with the excision of a portion of this park so that an overseas company can proceed with its application to mine for mineral sands. That is the bottom line of this.

This, after all, is the state government which laid down the blueprint for the Howard government in environmental fraud. In the lead-up to the 1993 state election, the Liberal shadow environment minister, Phillip Pendal, promised a new dawn for the environment and posed for photographs with members of the conservation movement. Following the election, Mr Pendal did not get a ministry and the Court government immediately considered drilling for oil in the fragile and pristine Ningaloo Marine Park as well as having gutted the state Environmental Protection Authority of its powers.

Senator Campbell —Who wrote this stuff for you, Bob? Read it with a bit more passion. Someone else wrote this for you.

Senator BOB COLLINS —Western Australian members would be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu about the Howard government's environmental performance. This proposal for mining, as I have just said, is to take place adjacent to Lake Jasper, which is the biggest freshwater lake in the south west.

Senator Campbell —It is not a proposal for mining. You got it wrong again.

Senator BOB COLLINS —I wonder if the continual interjections from across the road can cease, Madam Deputy President. In and around Lake Jasper there are declared rare flora and other flora, many mammals and significant species of birds. There are also examples of endemic fresh water fish that have disappeared from other parts of south western Australia and a number of invertebrates that are not found in any other places. The Aboriginal heritage value of the site is also well recognised with some underwater archaeological work being undertaken.

In the Western Australian parliament last week the state opposition proposed a motion to halt the excision pending a report from the CSIRO on the hydrology of the Lake Jasper area and the likely impact of mining on this lake; an environmental assessment of the proposal to mine in this area at the level of an ERMP; the requirement that ministerial conditions arising from the ERMP include revegetation to acceptable native vegetation standards so that the locations may be incorporated in the park at a later date; and a statement by the proponent outlining its commitments to secondary processing of the mineral sands mined.

Clearly, under any circumstances, these were reasonable requests of any government with an interest in applying appropriate environmental standards. Significantly, the former Liberal shadow environment minister, Mr Pendal, now turned Independent, supported the first clause and expressed his concern about the importance of Lake Jasper. The real issue is what happens now that the Court government's bill to excise a portion of the park for sandmining has passed through the malapportioned Western Australian Legislative Council.

There is no public confidence in the ability of the state Environmental Protection Authority following the changes that were made to it by Premier Court and a string of appalling decisions. For example, in concert with the state environment minister, Mr Foss, the EPA made the extraordinary decision that there was no need to have a formal environmental assessment of a major road tunnel which is to cut from near the Swan River to the Mitchell freeway on the northern side of Perth—another grand plan of the Court government which is proceeding despite the objections of the local community.

It is beholden on the Minister for Resources and Energy, Senator Parer, to advise the Western Australian government that he will not grant a mineral sands export licence until the most rigorous environmental assessments have been undertaken. In the interests of the environmental integrity of the area, he should resist his natural inclination to approve mining proposals before they even hit his desk.

The Western Australian community is looking to the Howard government to display higher environmental standards than those of the Court government. So far, the Howard government has cut the environment budget by 13 per cent, despite John Howard's explicit election promise not to cut it at all; increased the woodchip export licence ceiling and will now allow the clearing of native forests on private land for woodchipping; approved a 1,500 bed Oyster Point resort development adjacent to a world heritage area; failed to advance Australia's response to the greenhouse threat; supported the development of new uranium mines in Australia; and tried to abandon the Commonwealth's controls over the export of certain minerals, including mineral sands. By withholding the mineral sands export licence, the Howard government now has an opportunity in respect of this issue to lift its game. The community is waiting and watching.