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Thursday, 17 October 1996
Page: 4399


Senator ALLISON —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment and it concerns the proposed siting of a chemical storage complex at Point Lillias, an important Ramsar site in Victoria. Has the Victorian state government yet forwarded to the federal government its case for urgent national interest and compensatory habitat for the excision of the Point Lillias Peninsula from the Port Phillip (western shoreline) Ramsar listing? Will this document be made public? Further, has the minister yet notified the Ramsar bureau that a Ramsar site is about to be degraded, as required by the protocol of the Montreau convention?


Senator HILL —I certainly have not done the second. I think your party wrote to the Ramsar bureau to allege that that was a fact; so there would hardly be any point, even if I accepted the premise of the second part of the question. I personally have not yet received the case for urgent national interest or the alternative compensatory habitat. I have been waiting on it. It is to come from two separate Victorian ministers. I will ask again when I get back to the office to see whether it has come into the department but, when I last asked, the ball was still in their court.


Senator ALLISON —Madam President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. I ask: will this document be made public, if and when it arrives? Is the minister aware that a case for excision of a Ramsar site has only ever been agreed to once before in the world, and this was in Belgium where there were no other alternatives?


Senator HILL —It is my understanding that it has only rarely been approved, but I thought it was more than once. The tests are set out—the urgent national interest, as you say. It seems to me from my visits to Melbourne and certainly from the estimates committee the other night that it is the view of the Labor opposition that it is important to have this chemical storage facility moved out of the suburbs of Melbourne. The question is: where should it be relocated?

Senator Allison will be aware of what has occurred over the last few years in that regard. It was going to go to Point Wilson but then that was utilised for an armaments depot. Then it was suggested that it should be at Point Lillias, and that has gone through a Victorian government assessment process to which my department contributed. The contribution of my department and their concerns are on the public record, and those concerns were made public with my agreement. I do not think there is any dispute about the difficulties in relation to the matter. I am still concerned about it. If documents can be made public, I will make them public. (Time expired)