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Tuesday, 22 April 1980
Page: 1635

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - by leave- I move:

That the Senate take note of the statement.

I am in an invidious position. I have a copy of the statement. At page , three it refers to the recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment that further wetlands in addition to the Cobourg Peninsula Flora and Fauna Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary should be nominated for inclusion under the convention on wetlands of international importance. It goes on to state:

The Prime Minister announced on 6 March 1980 that it had been decided to nominate the wetlands area of Kakadu National Park for inclusion on the list of wetlands of international importance . . .

I will show the statement to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) in a moment. When the Senate Standing Committee met I advised it that, without leaving the matter there, I would take the opportunity of writing to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and asking him to emulate the United States Government- as he has emulated it on other matters- in regard to the policy practised by it in relation to Alaska. I asked him to apply the same ground rules to the Northern Territory. In effect, what I was advocating in regard to the Northern Territory was what had happened in Alaska where the United States Secretary of State has set aside 40 per cent for no mining whatsoever. I will hand these papers to the Minister while I am talking, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT - Senator Mulvihill,you should not walk away from your bench.

Senator MULVIHILL - Mr President,I am not trying to be disrespectful, but I do not know of any Standing Order which would stop me from walking back in that way, as long as I am walking towards you and not walking away. Without being at all disrespectful, I have handed the Minister the document in which I put that principle to the Prime Minister. I stated that I felt that it would be a very small gesture if we told all the mining companies in Australia that there are some areas in which they can mine, but as far as Kakadu and the Cobourg Peninsula are concerned, they are off-limits for all time. Honourable senators may feel that that is Utopian, but two succesive Secretaries of the Interior, one a Democratic and the other a Republican, have espoused the same principles with regard to all of the problems that the United States has in regard to fuel and natural gas. If we are to look to President Carter for inspiration as this Government does in regard to a number of things, here is a golden opportunity to go all the way with Jimmy Carter and his Secretary of State. I am waiting with bated breath for the response from the Prime Minister. I want to be quite fair. I have an acknowledgement from the Prime Minister in relation to the future exclusion of Kakadu National Park and Cobourg Peninsula wildlife reserve from all forms of mining operation. The defence rests on that statement. I seek leave to have my letter to the Prime Minister and his acknowledgement incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows-


Canberra, A.C.T. 19 March 1980

The Rt. Hon. M. Fraser, M.P.,

Prime Minister,

Parliament House,

Canberra, A.C.T. 2600

My dear Prime Minister,

Future exclusion of Kakadu National Park and Coburg Peninsula Wild Life Reserve from all forms of mining operations.

I draw your attention to the attached Senate Hansard extracts wherein I asked Senator Durack, as your representative in the Senate, if following your action in seeking the listing of Kakadu National Park and the Coburg Peninsula wet lands on the world heritage list, it would naturally be assumed such land tracts would be offlimits to future mining operations.

You will note that in my adjournment remarks on the same day I tabled in the Senate extracts from the Washington Post and New York Times which disclose the firm action taken by the United States Government in future land usage in Alaska.

In essence, with ample acreage within Alaska available for various forms of mining, at least some of the residue, designated national parks or wildlife refuges, should be left in their natural state for ever more.

It should be noted that various United States Secretaries for the Interior, both Republican and Democrat, have adopted this stance.

It is mindful of this important United States precedent in the area of conservation I respectfully await your anticipated response that such a conservation doctrine will be adopted by yourself. Similar to Alaska, the Northern Territory has massive acreages outside prescribed national parks and wildlife refuges which should more than meet the exploratory appetite of mining interests.

In anticipation of an early response,

Yours sincerely,


Senator forNew South Wales

Dear Senator Mulvihill, 3 1 March 1 980

Thank you for your letter of 19 March 1980 regarding future mining operations in the Kakadu National Park and the Coburg Peninsula wet lands.

Receipt is also acknowledged of your further letter of 25 March 1980 with which you enclosed the relevant extracts from Hansard.

I shall write to you on the matter raised as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely,


Senator J.A. Mulvihill,

Parliament House,


Senator MULVIHILL -I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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