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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 2269

Mr CALDER (Northern Territory) - Mr Chairman - [Quorum formed] In speaking to the estimates for the Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts 1 would point out to the honourable member for Sturt who has just left his seat-

Mr Foster - I have come back.

Mr CALDER - Well, the honourable member should be outside. He said that the Government has done nothing about the environment. The Government has a select committee which will shortly be presenting a report and on this committee are members of his own Party and the Government parties. The committee is in the process of preparing a report to the Parliament on the conservation of flora and fauna, the ecosystems, habitats, the environment and so on. So in that respect what he was saying was quite wrong.

I commend the Government on the amounts proposed to be allocated under division 245, subdivision 5, to items 16, 17, 20 and 21. The amount which has been proposed for the Australian Conservation Foundation has risen by $100,000 and the amount for the Australian Council of National Trusts has risen by $50,000. The Keep Australia Beautiful Council is to receive $20,000, whereas previously it received nothing. These amounts show that the Government is conscious of improving the environment and doing something about it in a practical way. While on the subject of the Keep Australia Beautiful Council, I would urge the Government to support the Northern Territory branch of this Council. It is endeavouring to educate the public against throwing cans, stubbies and rubbish on the highways, roads and beaches and into streams, waterholes and the like over the whole 520,000 square miles of the Northern Territory. It seems to me that when people from other parts of Australia decide to take a holiday in the outback they think: 'This is wonderful. We can burn the country, plunder it, cast all our rubbish over it and then go back home and forget all about it'. So I urge the Government to assist this very worthy Council in the Northern Territory.

Amongst other organisations assisted through the Australian Council for the Arts, the Government has supported the Totem Theatre in Alice Springs. It is a very high class little theatre which produces first class performances and entertainment almost continually. Support has also been given to the Stuart Gallery in Alice Springs. It is featuring a type of art which hitherto has not been seen very much. It comes from the Papunya area, which is some 150 miles west of Alice Springs. The Pintubi tribes out there have produced a new form of art, and the Government is recognising this and supporting the Gallery which is putting it before the public. This indicates particularly good thinking.

In relation to national parks, it is time the Government stepped into this field, especially in the Mount Olga and Ayres Rock region, and gave a lead to the world. It is one of the main tourist attractions and national parks in Australia. It is one of the main areas that people from overseas visit. Three hundred miles away is Alice Springs and the McDonnell Ranges. This area has a series of parks and outstanding attractions. Tourists are nocking into it but it is in need of support and finance. The people do not want assistance for nothing. They have viable industries, whether they be in the McDonnell Ranges, the Alice Springs area, Ayers Rock, Katherine Gorge or any of the famous parks and resorts in the Northern Territory. They are looking to assistance from the Government in the way of loans. As they are operating a viable proposition they could well repay the loans.

The Northern National Park is on the edge of Arnhem Land, approximately 120 south east of Darwin. This is the area in which there have been some mining operations by Peko-Wallsend Ltd and Queens land Mines Ltd, although Queensland Mines is operated inside the Arnhem Land Reserve. The Noranda company is operating in the Jim Jim area at a place which I think is called Kongarra. This company states that mining can be carried out in conjunction with national parks. It states that if a township is built in the Northern National Park it will assist the policing and preservation of this area. I would like to hear the other companies interested in the same uranium deposits state whether they would be prepared to take steps to preserve the flora and fauna, the natural bush and the Aboriginal artifacts which are in this area. 1 urge the Government to take action in this regard. 1 know very well that it is carrying out and should have almost completed a study which will lay down guidelines as to the use of such areas as this national park. I am very much afraid and I think that many others who are interested in this matter are afraid that something similar to what happened at Finniss River may occur. The Finniss River incident involved an area around Batchelor which owing to a certain amount of thoughtlessness is now a dead area. We certainly cannot afford to have that sort of thing happen not only in the Northern Territory but anywhere in Australia.

Mining companies should be allowed to go into these areas but they must be forced to keep the environment in first class order. If their projects cannot meet expenses which will be entailed by establishing a town and plant outside a reserve area or spending far more money than they had thought of spending on containing their treatment plant - 1 think Noranda has stated that its plant can be contained within a half mile which will be restored - they should not be allowed to go into the areas. It is up to the Government to see that these mining companies play their part. They have finance and they have the men who can do a lot of organisation. They can build towns and police these areas. I am not against them. I consider that national parks and mining operations can exist hand in hand. But it is up to the government to see that these areas are policed and that companies such as Peko-Wallsend and Queensland Mines makes positive statements that they will protect the environment. I again stress the absolute urgency of helping the operators in the Alice Springs area.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Lucock - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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