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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3110

Dr KLUGMAN (Prospect) -Those honourable members who have looked at the Antarctic Treaty (Environment Protection) Bill 1980 would be aware that the purpose of the Bill is to provide for the protection of Antarctic wildlife and for the preservation of areas of ecological and scientific importance in the Antarctic.

Let me give the background to the legislation. The conservation measures contained in the Bill arise from a long standing international agreement first recommended at the Third Antarctic Consultative Meeting back in 1964. Australia was an original signatory to the Antarctic Treaty of 1959 and continues to play an active role in the support and development of the Treaty organisation. The Antarctic Treaty has ensured that Antarctica remains a zone of peace and international co-operation. Progress is being made towards a convention for the conservation of Antarctic marine living recources. There was a meeting in Canberra on this subject during the last two or three weeks. The proposed convention will ensure that any exploitation of the living resources of the Southern Ocean is conducted according to sound ecological and environmental principles.

The Bill gives effect to one of the major conservation agreements negotiated under the Antarctic Treaty. It is known as the Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora. The Agreement establishes a system of wildlife protection. The Bill gives the Agreed Measures force of law and under these Agreed Measures all wildlife in Antartica is protected. The agreement ratified by this Bill makes provision for three categories of special protection: Firstly, specially protected species; secondly, specially protected areas; and, thirdly, sites of special scientific interest. The Bill establishes controls over the importation of animals and plants and provides for the malting of regulations to cover the control of pollution, the use of motor vehicles and other issues relating to environmental protection.

The Opposition of course supports the legislation. I would, more in the spirit of fun, I suppose, like to criticise very quickly a couple of measures which are proposed under this Bill. I assume that in fact the Bill enforces these socalled Agreed Measures which have been agreed to by many other people. But I do question paragraph (c) of sub-clause (1) of clause 19 of the Bill which provides for offences relating to the environment. Clause 19(1) states:

A person shall not-

(c)   bring into the Antarctic an animal, plant, virus, bacterium, yeast or fungus that is not indigenous to the Antarctic;

I think we all know what is intended there. But I argue that in fact it would be impossible for anyone to go to the Antarctic without bringing in a virus, bacterium, yeast or fungus that is not indigenous to the Antarctic because all of us have these bacteria, et cetera, inside our bodies and unless we were sterilised completely- in that case we would be mummies; not in the maternal sense- we would all contain some of these viruses and bacteria, et cetera. The intention, of course, is not along those lines but it just strikes me as a bit funny that if I went down to the Antarctic and automatically, by my very presence, introduced into the Antarctic bacteria and viruses which are not indigenous to the Antarctic, I would in theory be liable to a fine of $2,000 or imprisonment for 12 months, or both.

Again, more in a spirit of fun than in real criticism, because I know that the provision arises from an international convention, I question clause 19 (2) (e), which states:

(2   ) a person shall not, in the Antarctic-

(e)   while on foot, disturb a concentration of birds or seals during any period while they are breeding;

I do not know what the definition of 'breeding 'is or whether by 'breeding' we are talking about mating', but apparently it is a criticism of voyeurism as far as animals are concerned. It is an interesting attitude to take. Again, I have no doubt that there is a fairly good reason behind inserting that provision but, if it ever came to the point where somebody was charged with that offence- again the fine is $2,000 or imprisonment for 12 months- it would be interesting to know what is the legal definition of the words while they are breeding'. I do not know whether one can define exactly the sorts of actions one is trying to prevent. I think we are all aware of what we are trying to protect in the environment in the Antarctic. How to go about it exactly in a legal sense of course is much more difficult. One can only hope that the people who are there at present and who are likely to be there in the near future are people dedicated to the aims of this legislation. I suppose the difficulty would arise if the Antarctic ever became more accessible to large numbers of people in a commercial sense and so on.

I pay tribute to the Australian Antarctic Division for the scientific work it is doing there. I think we are all aware that there is some doubt outside Australia as to exactly what our position is regarding that part of the Antarctic to which we lay claim. I think it is important for us to show that we are working very closely with all the other treaty nations in trying to establish scientific investigation and co-operation in the Antarctic. We have to show that we have a national research program going on there. We have to show that we are really spending money there and helping not only ourselves but also scientific knowledge as a whole and that we are helping greatly conservation in the Antarctic.

There are criticisms, of course, by some who feel very strongly about conservation that the propositions do not go far enough. I cannot really see what we can do about that in a legal sense. I was not able to participate in the recent, convention but it appears to me at this stage that there is a large amount of goodwill amongst ali the treaty nations and the other countries participating there. Let us hope that it will stay that way. Whilst there are in the Antarctic biological resources such as krill and probably minerals for exploitation in the long run, I hope that people will see that at this stage we have to proceed very slowly so as not to interfere with the ecological equilibrium which exists there at present. It would indeed be terrible if some kind of disease were introduced into the area and large proportions of the birds, seals or fauna were to disappear from the area. I commend the Bill to the House. I am sure that those on this side of the House support the aim and the contents of this legislation.

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