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Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010 [No. 2]

CHAIR —We formally reconvene this public hearing of the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and our inquiry into the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010 [No. 2]. We have representatives from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, but before I begin with our next witnesses I will remind senators that the Senate has resolved that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and should be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. This resolution prohibits only questions asking for opinions on matters of policy and does not preclude questions asking for explanations of policy or factual questions about how and when policies were adopted.

Officers of the department are also reminded that any claim that it would be contrary to the public interest to answer a question must be made by a minister and should be accompanied by statements setting out the basis for that claim.

With that reminder and introduction, I welcome representatives from the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management. Just to clarify, you do not have a submission to provide us. Our understanding is that the minister advised our secretariat that a submission would come by 21 April and it would include answers to questions that have been raised at the last hearing and at this hearing. Is that correct?

Mr Bradley —That is correct. There is a document which we received advice that the committee were keen to receive today and that was some advice around development applications or development approvals which have been submitted under the wild rivers legislation. We have a copy of that advice for you which we are happy to table with appropriate copies for the secretariat. We have an opening statement if you are happy to receive that?

CHAIR —Yes. I invite you to provide us with that now.

Mr Bradley —Thank you. Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to be with you today on this issue. By way of an opening statement, I would like to briefly comment on the Queensland government’s position on the effect of the Wild Rivers Act 2005 on Indigenous economic aspirations and native title and key concerns in relation to the bill before the Senate committee, the Wild Rivers (Environmental Management) Bill 2010.

The Wild Rivers Act is a legislative framework for the protection of unique, high-value river systems. It protects systems that are rare and therefore valuable, and it recognises that protection is more effective than rehabilitation. The Wild Rivers Act includes mandatory provisions for consultation before any declaration is made, and this has been substantially resourced over extended timeframes.

 It is a legislative framework which was established with bipartisan support and has been refined with bipartisan support since 2005 with close engagement with stakeholders to improve its effectiveness, including through legislative amendments, and to ensure that it remains progressive in supporting economic and social development, including Indigenous stakeholders. The government has continued to listen to and work with Indigenous stakeholders to identify where there are legitimate areas for improvement in the framework and we recognise in this regard that both Minister Robertson, the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Minister for Trade, responsible for that legislation, and myself have had numerous meetings with senior Indigenous representatives in the last 12 months. We continue to talk about this framework and are looking, where possible, to find legitimate areas for improvement.

There are many traditional owners who support the wild rivers program, recognising it provides an opportunity to highlight, internationally, the unique natural values in the wild river area. This has been the experience in other countries, such as the United States, Norway and Canada where similar frameworks for wild and scenic river systems exist, including Canada’s heritage river system. The protective framework provides a significant economic opportunity, in itself, but the wild rivers framework does not result in the locking up of Cape York Peninsula, and that is not the government’s vision for Cape York Peninsula.

Since wild rivers legislation has been in place, 113 development approvals have been given from mining and environmental authorities to vegetation clearing, to riverine protection permits, and the department has no record of a refusal at this time under the wild rivers legislation. Indeed, the greatest deterrent to development over the past year has been the concerted misinformation that has occurred which has promoted a view that wild rivers declarations stop all development. This is what has created the most uncertainty for Indigenous economic development on the cape. The truth is that the development can occur under that framework and that development is occurring in wild river areas.

The Queensland government is committed to increasing opportunities for Indigenous employment in remote communities and this has continued to be the case. The wild river rangers currently employ 27 rangers, with a commitment to expand this level to 100.

I conclude by making a short observation on the bill before the committee. The draft bill appears to seek to extend to a group of persons the right to veto the application of environmental protection legislation, the Wild Rivers Act 2005, which would otherwise apply uniformly. A key principle of the Wild Rivers Act is that it does not affect existing authorisations or rights, including the right to exercise or enjoy native title. Section 44 of the act explicitly excludes any ability for the act to impact on native title rights. While these rights are protected in the Queensland legislation, the bill before the committee does appear to seek to extend Indigenous rights beyond those embodied in the Native Title Act. Furthermore, the draft bill does appear to seek to extend the rights of native title holders in a wild river area above those afforded to native title holders outside of wild river areas. It would only be those in a wild river area whose agreement to the application of environmental protection legislation need be sought. If this is the intent, to provide an enhancement beyond existing native title rights, it would be more appropriately dealt with under the native title legislation, which is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, and more consistently in a national context. There are other operational concerns with the bill which, for instance, requires that a new declaration be made regardless of whether there is existing support from the native title holders.  Thank you for the opportunity to make that opening comment.

CHAIR —Mr Lutrell and Mr Buchanan, do you have anything that you would like to add?

Mr Buchanan —No.

Mr Lutrell —No.

CHAIR —As the chair, I will take the liberty to start questioning this time. Can you explain to us the interaction between the preservation areas and the highly preserved areas, that is, the activity beyond the one kilometre, so the preserved versus highly preserved? How does that interact and what is the relationship with any development that is happening?

Mr Bradley —I will ask Mr Buchanan to give you an overview of both of those regimes.

Mr Buchanan —A wild river area essentially has two management areas. There is the high preservation area which is that which is closest to the wild rivers and special features and the high preservation area. The best way to look at it is similar to a planning development scheme, so you have different zones where things can occur and how they do occur. In the preservation area all development can continue except for a couple. They are the realignment of river streams and taking gravel directly out of those streams, unless for certain exemptions. Other than that, all development can occur in those areas. That development must comply with the existing Queensland legislation and there is also a wild rivers code that provides rules, as well, as to how they meet those.

Inside the high preservation area there are further restrictions. We heard before talk about in-stream dams. Again, the stream realignments and gravel extraction; there are exemptions for gravel extractions, depending on whether it is for essential town supplies, development of an outstation or homestead or for building roads, so there are exemptions throughout. We also have prohibitions on surface mining activities, agriculture and aquaculture activities in that area. Other activities within that area can continue as well. It is the same for the preservation area if they meet the requirements of the wild rivers code.

CHAIR —How does that interact with the applications and the sheet that you have given us today with respect to development approvals?

Mr Buchanan —That sheet shows the development applications that have been received and have been dealt with. Quite clearly, and as the director-general said in his opening statement, we are not aware of any refusals. We have searched high and low and have not come across any refusals. Those development applications are then dealt with and have been approved in most cases.

Senator FEENEY —We heard evidence earlier today from the land council, particularly about vegetation clearing. I was wondering what you might tell us about how the wild rivers regime operates with respect to land clearing, both in the preservation and the high preservation zones?

Mr Buchanan —In the preservation zone wild rivers has no impact on the vegetation management, so it has no interaction with the Vegetation Management Act. Inside the high preservation area the area is defined as an area of high conservation value under the Vegetation Management Act. That means that the activities that you can clear for are restricted, but not as was claimed that there was no clearing. You can actually clear for a few relevant activities, including fence lines and essential infrastructure.

Senator FEENEY —Are there any prohibitions above and beyond the ones that you have already described to us?

Mr Buchanan —As I said before, I will list what you can clear for. It includes control necessary for plants and declared pests; public safety, for firebreaks and that sort of thing, so establishing a necessary fence, firebreak or any infrastructure; clearing for encroachment, so that is where you have natural grasslands that have been encroached by woody weeds; and the clearing of regrowth on freehold land, Indigenous land and leasehold land, if it is defined as an agricultural area. That is an area that has existing agricultural activity there. They are the things that you can clear for.

Senator FEENEY —Obviously one of the great parts of this debate is the proposition that the legislation inhibits the capacity for Indigenous landowners to pursue commercial or economic opportunities. How does that land clearance regime operate in the face of a commercial or a business opportunity? How would it respond to an application for a lodge for tourism or something of that nature?

Mr Buchanan —That is necessary built infrastructure or infrastructure that you would have a development permit for. You would therefore be able to lodge the application. The application would be dealt with as with every other application and, if it met the requirements, could be approved.

Senator FEENEY —How is that regulatory barrier any different to anywhere else in Queensland?

Mr Buchanan —It is not.

Senator McLUCAS —That is one of the issues I wanted to canvass. I spoke with Mr Yarrow from the land council who was here earlier. I sought his permission to send you the transcript of the discussion we had at that time, which we will still do, to see if you have any further comments on his concerns.

I would like to go to the question of consultation that occurred in the lead-up for some years. You might want to do this in your submission. It would be useful for the committee to have an understanding of the nature of the consultation process that was undertaken and who was involved. You may have heard some criticism earlier about the quality of that consultation, especially in the early years, that you might want to respond to. Can you give me a feeling for the level of consultation that the state government has undertaken in the development of this legislation?

Mr Bradley —I will make some opening comments and then ask Mr Buchanan to augment as necessary. I think one of the important things to recognise in relation to the regime is that there is a statutory basis for consultation that does need to occur; that the notice of the intent to declare the wild river is a formal and publicised process; that the engagement with interested stakeholders, of all kinds, is required under legislation and there are explicit provisions within the Wild Rivers Act about the factors that the minister must consider prior to making the declaration of the wild river.

In terms of the engagement process that we have gone through, we recognise that finding the effective and culturally appropriate ways of engaging with Indigenous stakeholders is a challenge in an area like the Cape York Peninsula or in other areas that have significant Indigenous stakeholders. There has been a commitment from the government over a number of years to try to improve the way in which we do that, and one of the mechanisms used in the declaration of the Archer, Stewart and Lockhart Rivers was the engagement of Balkanu Development Corporation to undertake consultation on behalf of the state, at some significant expense, over an extended period of time. Consultation in relation to those wild river declarations extended to a period of four months and with the Wenlock declaration proposal, currently to be considered by the minister, the consultation process has extended to five months, so that goes far beyond the statutory requirement of 20 business days.

In terms of the consultation process, we feel that there has been an improvement over time in the three cape rivers that were declared last year. There were 100 face-to-face meetings and submissions or engagement with 300 stakeholders over that period of time. With that said, as I said in my opening statement, we do see that there is opportunity to continue to improve the way we engage with Indigenous stakeholders around wild river declarations, if not least to make sure that there is a clear understanding of the potential impact of wild river declarations and what they do continue to provide for, in terms of economic aspirations of Indigenous stakeholders, but also to make sure that there can be informed feedback in relation to the features of the wild river declaration.

We think that there has been some success in that regard in the past. There have been amendments made for proposed wild river declarations after receiving consultation in past declaration processes, so it is a process that we are committed to. Mr Buchanan, do you have anything to add to that?

Mr Buchanan —No.

Senator McLUCAS —The final issue that I would like to canvass is that this added layer of bureaucracy will prevent Indigenous people making development applications. What was required prior to the three rivers being declared, in terms of a development application? What is the extra layer of bureaucracy that is required and does the government have a view that, if it is the case, that is an obstacle for people to achieve their economic aspirations, what would the government do to mitigate against that?

Mr Bradley —I will start by saying that in terms of the deterrent effect of wild rivers to economic development, we do not see strong evidence of that, as per the information tabled with the committee this afternoon, in relation to the applications that have been approved and the failure to identify any development approvals at this stage that have been the subject of a rejection. We are not seeing an actual failure to achieve approvals under the wild rivers regime. In terms of a deterrent effect, I think the biggest risk is actually the general communication, the media reporting and the public discourse on this has actually led to a legitimate view in the community that they think that wild rivers does prevent all kinds of development approval and that it does prevent development across 80 per cent of Cape York Peninsula, so that is an enormous fear.

In terms of the issue about the mechanics of the development approval process, the wild rivers regime, as Mr Buchanan mentioned earlier, provides an overarching framework which calls up other pieces of legislation, so the approval is still provided under that legislation. Someone submitting a development approval would do so to the local government, most usually as the assessment manager, and the assessment manager would need to have regard to the wild rivers code. If there was an issue of a commercial fishery or a charter fishing operation then that decision would be made to issue a permit under the Fisheries Act by the chief executive, but the chief executive would have regard to the wild rivers code. Therefore what I am saying is that there is not so much a burden on applicants and participants in that process, in terms of bogging down of red tape, it is that the assessment process managed by assessment managers has regard to the natural values of these unique systems.

Senator McLUCAS —There is no other form that has to be filled in or another application process?

Mr Bradley —No.

Senator McLUCAS —It is an internal government use of the code that is applied?

Mr Bradley —That is the primary impact. The only area where there is scope to do something specific or different in relation to the wild rivers regime that is probably worth noting is the scope for a property development plan, which is a provision under the legislation which says that even where an activity would be banned within a high preservation area, such as some of those prohibited activities, there is the scope for an assessment manager to consider the development plan, the specific circumstances of that project and for there to be amendment provided for in terms of the wild river declaration. There is an explicit process to have a case-by-case approach.

One of the earlier people providing advice before the committee today referred to a cookie cutter approach and I think that there is certainly enough sophistication in the regime to allow for case-by-case assessment, even in those prohibited activities.

Senator BOSWELL —Chair, can I draw your attention to the clock?

CHAIR —You can. I have got the clock specifically in front of me.

Senator BOSWELL —You have had one half hour—

CHAIR —No, we did not. We started this presentation at 2.10 and we went to questions at 2.15. By my reckoning it is Senator Siewert’s time.

Senator BOSWELL —That will leaves 10 minutes for—

CHAIR —No. That will leave 15 minutes for you. We will go to Senator Siewert.

Senator SIEWERT —With the 113 applications that you list in this document, in which zones or areas were those applications? Are you able to break that down as to how many were in the high preservation areas and how many were in preservation areas?

Mr Buchanan —I cannot for you today.

Senator SIEWERT —Could you take that on notice?

Mr Bradley —We possibly could have a look at that and see if we can track it back.

Senator SIEWERT —That would be appreciated. Thank you. Do you have a total on what percentage is a high preservation area and what percentage is a preservation area in those three areas that have already been declared?

Mr Bradley —We would broadly say that about 80 per cent is the preservation area and roughly 20 per cent, in broad terms, in those three wild river declaration areas. We would probably urge caution in relation to an interpretation of the maps in the way that it has been done earlier today by the Cape York Land Council. We certainly do not see that in those preservation areas all development is prohibited, or in high preservation areas either. If you look at the exemptions and the provisions that are provided for in the high preservation areas, in terms of those categories of works we mentioned before, they are the fundamental sort of activities that would need to be undertaken in many grazing activities, farm operations and pastoral activities which characterise those areas at the moment. There is also provision for alternative economic opportunity there as well.

Senator SIEWERT —Pardon a West Australian’s ignorance. I understand how our vegetation acts operate in Western Australia, but not as clearly here in Queensland. If I am in an area that is declared—what was the term you used for high preservation under the vegetation act?

Mr Buchanan —Area of high conservation.

Senator SIEWERT —If any area can be declared an area of high conservation value, outside of the wild rivers legislation, then the application process applies regardless of where it is being applied. Is that a correct interpretation of your legislation?

Mr Buchanan —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —Even without the wild rivers legislation, the Queensland government could have declared any of those areas that are declared high preservation areas as high conservation areas under the vegetation act. Is that a correct interpretation of the legislative process?

Mr Buchanan —There is a process to be followed and, again, I think we would take this question on notice if you wanted that process. It would be something that would have to follow criteria.

Senator SIEWERT —Due process?

Mr Buchanan —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —As long as the due process was followed, outside of the wild rivers legislation those areas could still be declared high conservation value areas.

Mr Buchanan —Yes.

Senator SIEWERT —Thank you. I think you would have been here when I was asking the previous witnesses, both the land council and the Wilderness Society, about the issue around future acts and whether this constitutes a future act under the native title legislation. Could you briefly outline—and I am aware that it could take some time, so I will say briefly and I might get you to take it on notice if it is going to take too long—the issues around why you decided it was not a future act?

Mr Bradley —I will ask Mr Lutrell to answer that question and urge him to do it briefly.

Senator SIEWERT —I am not trying to be rude. I am just conscious that I am going to get pinged.

Mr Lutrell —I appreciate the operation of the Native Title Act is a very complex piece of legislation. It is the state government’s view that the passage of the Wild Rivers Act in 2005 was not a future act for the purposes of the Commonwealth Native Title Act; that is, the passage of that legislation did not suppress or extinguish native title.

Mr Bradley —In making sure that is the case there is section 44 of the act that explicitly confirms that it cannot, so that is probably worth recognising.

Senator SIEWERT —You heard my discussions earlier with the Wilderness Society around the ability to negotiate and putting in place, for example, ILUAs. In your interpretation of the act is that still possible under the existing process?

Mr Bradley —I may not have heard the full testimony, but as I heard the advice from the Wilderness Society earlier they made the point that an ILUA is basically an agreement. It does serve a function under the native title legislation, but it is fundamentally an agreement between parties. Certainly an ILUA can be used for other purposes and, indeed, we have made extensive use of ILUAs through the Cape York tenure resolution program that has seen over half a million hectares provided to Aboriginal stakeholders through that program, but in relation to the wild rivers legislation the issue is that an ILUA, as a form of obtaining consent, is not part of the framework at the moment in the same way that consent or an ILUA is not provided before the application of the Nature Conservation Act, the Vegetation Management Act or the coastal protection legislation that applies in the state. That would be a fundamental change in the nature of environmental legislation and regulation anywhere in Australia.

CHAIR —Last question.

Senator SIEWERT —I just want to go to the issue of the consultation process—we have talked about the consultation process under the act—prior to the introduction of the act. Is that something that you are covering in your submission?

Mr Buchanan —Do you mean prior to the bill being introduced into parliament?

Senator SIEWERT —Yes.

Mr Buchanan —In 2004 the government of the day went to an election with the wild rivers policy, so that was their election commitment. In early 2005—I am sorry for not having the exact dates—a bill was introduced into the parliament. That bill was then consulted on widely with peak stakeholder groups, including the Aboriginal land councils, particular the North Queensland ones, so the Cape York Land Council, Carpentaria Land Council and Far North Queensland Land Council, as well as other stakeholders including the Queensland Resources Council, Local Government Association of Queensland, the Queensland Conservation Council, the Wilderness Society and other key stakeholders and groups who were interested at that time. The bill was developed in that frame. There was a draft bill out for discussion. That was discussed with key stakeholders, then introduced into parliament and then passed as an act in December 2005.

Senator SIEWERT —Perhaps you could take on notice a bit more of a thorough run-down in terms of the consultation process and how that consultation process was carried out.

Mr Buchanan —Sure.

Senator BARNETT —I just wanted to indicate how deeply disappointed I am and I think other members of the committee are that we do not have a submission from the Queensland government and, if it is an attempt to avoid scrutiny, that might be perhaps one angle or one observation. You obviously have presented a different view in your introductory statement. Two weeks ago we received evidence in Canberra from the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership making serious allegations about the inappropriateness of the legislation here in Queensland and, specifically, the Queensland declaration process and the breach of process where it was said that it was a post-facto fabrication; there was reckless maladministration; there was absence of transparency and integrity; there were secret deals on buffer zones; it was discriminatory, racist, consultation was a sham and it was a future shackling of community welfare dependents.

I would like to take you to the declaration process, specifically. I have a copy of the Queensland Wild Rivers Act 2005 in front of me, with which I am sure you are all very familiar. Sections 7 to 15 are the specific sections where a wild river is declared, and with respect to the three wild rivers, Lockhart, Stewart and the Archer River last year, when those declarations were made, could you please take us through exactly when that declaration was made, when was the consultation process, how long was it, and what instrument did the Queensland government use to make that declaration? We have from section 7, which is the minister may declare the wild rivers; you have a public notice of intention to declare the wild river under section 8. I would like to know when that was made. You then have section 11, the public notice about the declaration proposal. What date was that made? You then have sections 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17. If you cannot answer all of this in the time available then I am happy to take that on notice. Perhaps you could address those questions.

Mr Bradley —With your agreement we would suggest that we take those requested dates and come back to you as part of the submission with the precise dates. I do not think we will have them in front of us today to be able to identify to you individual dates of notices and intention to declare. I can speak to some dates that go to that issue about the process generally and I would ask Mr Buchanan, in a moment, to talk through the consultation and engagement process.

I am well aware of the testimony that was provided in Canberra that referred to a breach of process. I can say unequivocally that the full statutory process that I emphasised in my opening statement is required was absolutely followed and that in that process, as I said, we exceeded the 20 business days provided for under legislation for consultation and instead had a consultation period of some four months. That was done through externally facilitated engagement by Balkanu Development Corporation, which is led by Gerhardt Pearson, who is the next party before the committee. Through that period of consultation we received over 3,000 responses and had over 100 face-to-face meetings, so there has been a very extensive process of consultation.

The finalisation of the declaration did occur shortly after the state government election and that seems to have unnecessarily caused concern.

Senator BARNETT —Do you have a date with you for that?

Mr Bradley —Yes, I do. In relation to the declaration, that was gazetted on 3 April following the 21 March state election.

Senator BARNETT —That was by the minister.

Mr Bradley —Minister Robertson, the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Minister for Trade. That was 3 April 2009.

Senator BARNETT —But all the consultation occurred under the previous minister?

Mr Bradley —Correct. Under the act the minister is required to have full regard to not only the submissions received but also the result of consultation. The act is explicit about the factors the minister must consider, as you have highlighted, and the minister did apply due process in coming to that decision, which was gazetted on 3 April 2009.

Senator BARNETT —What was the instrument that he used to make that declaration? Was it a letter, and do you have a copy of it?

Mr Bradley —The declaration was made by Governor in Council, as required under the legislation, and it was gazetted in the Queensland Government Gazette.

Senator BARNETT —When did they meet, the Governor in Council?

Mr Bradley —The Governor in Council met on 2 April.

Senator BARNETT —When was the advice given to the Governor in Council, and do you have a copy of the letter of that advice?

Mr Bradley —I do not have a copy with me today. The Governor in Council process of the Queensland state government is a fairly prosaic process that occurs with other executive councils and other states and territories, and the wild river declaration is put forward to Governor in Council on the recommendation of the minister. That occurred with the Governor in Council considering it on 2 April and the gazettal of that Governor in Council decision on 3 April.

Senator BARNETT —Who considered the consultation and who made the recommendation? Was it Minister Robertson or the previous minister?

Mr Bradley —Minister Robertson was the decision maker in relation to those three declarations.

Senator BARNETT —Under whose responsibility did the consultation process occur?

Mr Bradley —The consultation program occurred under the Wild Rivers Act, in accordance with that legislation and fully satisfied the requirements of the act. As I said, there was an extended period of consultation far beyond that required. The preparatory material for consideration by the minister under the act was being prepared clearly through the period prior to the state election, but then on the reappointment of the government, the incoming minister, Minister Robertson, considered that decision as one of the first decisions in his role. As I said, that went through Governor in Council in a process which reflected the due requirements of Governor in Council.

Senator BARNETT —All I can say is that your evidence today appears to conflict, at least in part or substantially, with the evidence of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, and specifically I refer to pages 1, 2 and 3 of that submission. When you take that on notice and in your next submission could you please address those conflicts that appear?

Mr Bradley —Sure.

Senator BARNETT —You will note that that information has been obtained by freedom of information. It is referred to and quoted in that submission, so I would like you to address those particular allegations in that response. Can you do that?

Mr Bradley —I am happy to do as you ask. What has not been made clear in the question is in what aspects has my evidence today been in conflict with that provided in the submission from the Cape York institute?

Senator BARNETT —We unfortunately do not have time to go through that today, but once you read the submission again—I am sure you have read it once already or more—then it will become very clear.

CHAIR —Senator Macdonald.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Were the 3,000 submissions all from Indigenous people? You mentioned a figure of 3,000.

Mr Bradley —No, they were from a variety of stakeholders. It is a consultation process that would have included environmental stakeholders.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Can you tell me how much of the 3,000 came from Indigenous people, or people who are clearly identified as Indigenous people? I appreciate people do not say, ‘I’m an Indigenous person’, but you will have a good idea.

Mr Bradley —That is part of the practical issue. People will not actively self identify.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Let me say to you, I would suggest that 95 per cent of the 3,000 submissions did not come from Indigenous people. You can, on notice, point out where I am wrong. Secondly, can you also tell me why respected elder of the Girringun people who gave evidence this morning has said that when you declared the Girringun lands as three new areas—I forget his exact words, but you will see it in the Hansard—he knew nothing about it. If your consultation process is so good, why would Mr Andy, who as I say is a very well respected elder of the Girringun people, not have known about this? You can take that on notice.

Mr Bradley —I would actually rather address it now and I am happy for Mr Buchanan to speak to that second item if he can. In relation to the consultation process, I think it is important to get on the record before the committee that our assessment of submissions received was not based on the identification of people on the basis of their heritage or race.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —No, but you would know if they are from locals rather than people from North America, which is where I understand most of the 33,000 of the recent petition on the Archer River stuff came from. You would know that.

Mr Bradley —I guess the point I was struggling to make was that we were assessing the submissions not on quantity or on the identity of the individual but on the quality of the issue raised and the factors that a minister could consider under the legislation, and that is the basis on which the decision has to be made.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You raised the process as being 3,000 written submissions, the implication to us being that it was people directly involved, rather than probably 2,000 that came from the Wilderness Society in Tasmania and the other 1,000 probably came from North America. We want to know how is this process so good? You can take it on notice. You will be able to identify—and do not tell you me you cannot—which are coming from people that are directly involved because their submission relates to the cape, and those who are just giving you a scientific view and a latte society view on the world.

Mr Bradley —What I can say is that of the 100 face-to-face meetings that occurred the overwhelming majority of those occurred in Cape York communities. I can, again, iterate that it would be inappropriate for the state to be making an assessment in relation to the decision to declare a wild river proposal on the basis of anything other than the factors outlined in legislation. The state has not invested resources in trying to sieve out those issues that were raised from environmental stakeholders.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —You raised the 3,000 as being a big response.

Mr Bradley —And it has been.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I am realistically wanting to know how many of them come from people directly involved and how many of them are from the café latte set?

Senator SIEWERT —Do you have a question about asking what you term lattes?

CHAIR —Senator Boswell has a question.

Senator BOSWELL —I have an email you obtained under the info line from Mr Buchanan dated 13 March 2009. It says:

What is the current state of play in terms of approval? Do we need to get an approval by the minister, as it appears the previous minister did not sign the CDS01188-09 to approve the declaration proceeding to the Governor in Council?

That is the email. The previous minister did not sign off on the declaration and the whole matter had to go through a ministerial sign-off and proceed to Governor in Council. How long did that take?

CHAIR —Are you happy to table that email?

Senator BOSWELL —Yes, I can table it. I have not got it with me, but I can certainly table it.

CHAIR —Thank you.

Senator BOSWELL —How long did that process take?

Senator BARNETT —That email is quoted in the submission and that is part of the evidence that I was presenting on page 2 of that submission.

Senator BOSWELL —I would like to know how long that process took.

Mr Buchanan —Are you asking about the process for the decision?

Senator BOSWELL —The previous minister did not sign off the declaration, so you had to get another minister to go through the ministerial sign-off before it proceeded to the Governor in Council. How long did that process take?

Mr Bradley —I think I answered that question earlier.

Senator BOSWELL —Could you answer it again?

Mr Bradley —Certainly. It was in relation to Senator Barnett’s question. The state election was held on 21 March 2009 and Mr Robertson was appointed the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Minister for Trade. In taking up his role he then reconsidered the decision, or considered it afresh for the first time. No minister had undertaken a decision on this matter. Minister Robertson considered the declaration for those three wild river areas and it was considered by Governor in Council on 2 April 2009 and gazetted in the Queensland Government Gazette on 3 April.

Senator BOSWELL —How many days did the new minister have to assess the process?

Mr Bradley —I think that is evident in the answer I provided. With the state election on 21 March and the Governor in Council considering the issue on 2 April, during that period in between those dates the minister was sworn in and considered the briefing material in relation to those three wild river declarations, including the submissions and consultation results.

Senator BOSWELL —What I am saying is that no-one knew what was happening on 30 March and two days later on 2 April the Governor has signed off on it. That is a pretty smart process. I do not know how the Governor in Council works state wise, but if you turned up in the Commonwealth with the Governor-General and shoved something on his table two days before and you were one of the Executive Council people, he would tell you very certainly to get out of the place and do not ask him to make assessments in two days. I presume it is the same process. You are asking us to believe that on 30 March no-one knew what they were doing, including you, Mr Buchanan.

Mr Buchanan —No, that is not true. What I am talking about in that email is an administrative process. Obviously, as Mr Bradley has mentioned, the previous minister had already started on the process of considering.

Senator BOSWELL —Mr Bradley just said he did not.

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, Mr Buchanan is going to finish his explanation first.

Mr Buchanan —He was beginning the process. The new minister took over. He had all the material in front of him. What I was asking there was whether a decision had been made prior to the election and, if not, then the new minister is making the decision and therefore that had to be finalised. The decision was being made. All I was asking for was the administrative process to get the sign-off on that decision.

Senator BOSWELL —When did it go to the Governor in Council?

Mr Buchanan —It went to the Governor in Council on 2 April.

Senator BOSWELL —When did she sign off on it?

Mr Buchanan —On 2 April.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Mr Robertson is a very quick reader.

Senator BOSWELL —It went to the Governor in Council and she signed off on it on 2 April. Is that what you are saying?

Mr Buchanan —That is right.

CHAIR —Further questions, because time is almost up for the next witness.

Senator BARNETT —Sections 13 and 15 of your Wild Rivers Act could not have been complied with. It is impossible.

Mr Buchanan —I disagree.

Senator BOSWELL —Well—

Mr Buchanan —Can you just expand on that?

CHAIR —Senator Boswell, I do not think it is your turn for comment or questions now.

Senator BARNETT —Sections 13 and 15 of your act could not have been complied with.

Senator BOSWELL —You are getting yourself—

CHAIR —Senator Boswell!

Senator BOSWELL —I remind you what it is to mislead a Senate inquiry.

CHAIR —Order! Senator Boswell, if you want to ask another question this afternoon you will come to order when I call it. Senator Barnett.

Senator BARNETT —I am making the point that sections 13 and 15 of your Wild Rivers Act could not have been complied with within the time that you have specified. In the evidence that you have given that is an impossibility.

Mr Bradley —I take that as a comment. I can assure you that the minister had the full briefing information before him. It had clearly been the subject of extensive work, so the material was in a final form ready for the minister’s consideration after taking up his position, and during that period of time the minister went through all of the appropriate material and satisfied himself against those sections of the legislation before making his recommendation to Governor in Council and it was gazetted.

Senator BARNETT —You will have to provide evidence to support that in your response because prima facie, based on those two sections which I have read and as a lawyer, prima facie, there is an impossibility that any minister in that position could satisfy that, particularly and specifically a new minister in the job.

Mr Bradley —With the discretion of the chair, one point I would make is that Minister Robertson obviously served in the cabinet that had considered the wild river declaration proposals. He was very much familiar with the wild rivers legislative framework and indeed the original proposals for those declarations, given he was the minister responsible at various times in an earlier role. He was not, as you would say, a newcomer to that ministry. It is also not clear from the question, and it would be useful if you could clarify, in what areas you think it is impossible that he could have considered those issues, given the question you are asking us to come back to you with on notice.

CHAIR —Mr Bradley, Mr Buchanan and Mr Lutrell, we thank you for your time this afternoon. We have had more than enough time for questioning and we need to move on to the next witness.

Senator BOSWELL —I would like to register my disappointment that there is no submission.

CHAIR —I think you have done that at the start of this presentation.

Senator BOSWELL —No, I want to put it on the record. I do not think that there has been sufficient time to investigate this due to the lack of submission by the Queensland government and I want to call for some more time to interview the Queensland representative.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Now or at a future time?

Senator BOSWELL —At a future time.

CHAIR —The committee will consider that request when we next meet to further progress the consideration of this legislation.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Also along the same line, could I ask that the committee might consider giving the Cape York Land Council, Balkanu and anyone else that has been interested, the chance to comment on the Queensland government’s comment on their comment, because this is a most unusual practice.

CHAIR —You know that at any time witnesses, whether they appear before a committee or whether they have put in written submissions and do not appear before the committee, can put in further and supplementary comments and submissions right up to the reporting date. We have not heard from Balkanu yet. We have heard from the Cape York Land Council. Any of the other witnesses that we heard two weeks ago or those who are not even here who might read this transcript later are welcome to put in further supplementary submissions or other comments up to the tabling date. That is a matter of record and is the way in which all Senate committees operate. I just reiterate it, publicly, so that people know that is the process.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I thank you for clarifying that. Can I just clarify that the Queensland government are going to put in their submission on 21 April?

CHAIR —By 21 April.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Up until what time will the other groups have the ability to read, consider and respond to what the Queensland government has responded to them about?

CHAIR —At this stage we are due to table this report on the week of 10 May. The committee may well decide to extend.

Senator BARNETT —It is the seventh.

CHAIR —The committee may well decide to extend that reporting date. That will be a matter for the committee to decide at a future meeting.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —Will the Queensland government’s response be on the website?

CHAIR —Of course it will. All of those are available on the website.

Senator BARNETT —I would just like to make a point of clarification. I understand the reporting date is 7 May and, if that is the case, it seems to me to be close to an impossibility to provide other key stakeholders, Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership or whoever, with an opportunity to respond to the Queensland government submission, which we still have not seen and will not be here until 21 April at the earliest and no doubt will be very comprehensive and substantial. I think that is a very important issue for the committee in terms of the lack of time to properly interrogate, investigate and scrutinise the Queensland government’s submission and respond to it.

CHAIR —It is a matter we will consider at a private meeting at some stage in the future. Mr Bradley and your colleagues, thank you once again for your time.

[2.58 pm]