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Tuesday, 20 May 1980
Page: 2886

Mr BAILLIEU (LA TROBE, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) -I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe I can rephrase the question now.

Mr SPEAKER -I have called the honourable member for La Trobe.

Mr BAILLIEU - I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: What was the outcome of the Conference on Antarctic Marine Living Resources which concluded in Canberra this morning? In particular, what is the significance of the outcome of that Conference for Australia?

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) -The Final Act of the Conference on Antarctic Marine Living Resources was signed in Canberra today by representatives of IS states participating in the Conference. The convention itself will be formally open for signature in Canberra on 1 August 1980. It is fair to say that the signing of the Final Act marks the culmination of over three years of extremely intensive negotiations to develop a regime for the conservation of the marine ecosystem of the entire area south of the Antarctic convergence. From the outset Australia has played a leading role in the negotiations. Australia acted as host at a special consultative meeting in 1978 which drew up the text which formed the basis for later negotiation. The honourable member for Hawker, from the moment of the convening of this Conference, played a leading role, together with the honourable member for La Trobe, who participated throughout in the delegation from this side, and other members of the Senate and of this place on both sides of the Parliament. I would like to say how much my officials appreciated the work that was done consistently by members on both sides.

Mr Jacobi - They did a first class job.

Mr PEACOCK -I think the officials worked very persistently with one aim in mind, namely, to bring about the convention which was signed today. That is a tribute to the work not only of my departmental officers but also of parliamentarians on both sides of the House, for the successful conclusion represents a very significant new direction for the Antarctic Treaty system and its significance should not be underestimated. I well recall, in the weeks after I opened the Conference in 1978, reading review articles about how fruitless the endeavour would be. It has been proven to be quite the contrary. It demonstrates that the system is capable of adaptation to respond to increased international interest in resource issues. This has been achieved in a manner which is consistent with the responsibilities which the Antarctic Treaty partners have assumed for the protection of the Antarctic environment.

Finally, if there was a plethora of assistance so far as the convention itself was concerned, we can reduce that degree of assistance to a number of Tasmanian members and senators who worked so hard with me to convince other delegates that Hobart ought to be the site of the headquarters of the international commission. The decision to select Hobart, I think, is signal recognition of the role that Australia has played in these negotiations and will certainly provide a focus for continued Australian involvement in an important area of international activity affecting Antarctica.

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