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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3245

Mr MILTON —Is the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment aware that protesters have blockaded bulldozers in far north Queensland to stop a road being cut through the Cape Tribulation National Park on Cape York Peninsula, which is claimed to be the largest refuge of tropical lowland rain forest remaining in Australia? Is the Minister aware that the Queensland Labor Parliamentary Caucus and the Aboriginal Development Commission have called for a halt to the road construction until a management plan for the park is developed? In view of the fact that the proposed road construction site will destroy sacred Aboriginal sites and upset the ecological balance of the nation's largest rain forest which contains several--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member should come to his question. A reasonable amount of information is allowed to be given to make a question intelligible, but I think the honourable member is going a bit too far. I ask him to come to his question.

Mr MILTON —Will the Minister inform the House of the action that the Federal Government has taken or intends to take to prevent such wilful and irresponsible destruction?

Mr COHEN —I am aware of the value of the Cape Tribulation area. I have been made aware of it by members such as the honourable member for La Trobe and the whole environment movement. I am also aware of the damage likely to be done to the fringing reefs off Cape Tribulation. This is causing a great deal of concern to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. I have telexed the Premier of Queensland asking him to intervene with the Douglas Shire Council and seeking a delay of proceedings for some time so that it will be possible to negotiate some action on the Commonwealth's behalf. The problem we face is that the Douglas Shire Council announced its intention to proceed only recently. The bulldozers it has had poised there are now in action, as the saying goes, and are proceeding to bulldoze the track up from Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield. The telexed request to the Premier to try to delay things has been rejected.

I visited Cairns recently and with the help of the honourable member for Leichhardt I met the President of the Douglas Shire Council, Councillor Miojo. It seems that both councillor Miojo and the Premier are determined to proceed with this action. They say it is because they want to provide a track for the Aborigines of Bloomfield. I must say that I am fascinated with this newfound concern of the Premier of Queensland and also of the Douglas Shire Council for this handful of Aborigines who live at Bloomfield. I must say that I welcome that change of heart, but I suspect that there are other motives for getting that track through. There is an alternative which we would like to put to the Shire, possibly in the form of an offer of some funds to supplement what it is about to spend in that area to upgrade the Cairns Regional Electricity Board track, which is a route that I flew over the week before last. It is a quite adequate track well back from the coast.

Mr Porter —You saw it well from the air, I bet.

Mr COHEN —That is right; flying 500 feet above it, as a matter of fact. We take great risks to make sure that this country is well governed. So we have sought to come up with an offer. We have asked the Queensland Government to reconsider, to delay proceedings and to give the Commonwealth an opportunity to put a couple of alternatives because it will be a great tragedy if this track goes ahead.