Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area
I, and also on behalf of Senator Whish-Wilson, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) the Arthur Pieman Conservation area in the takayna/Tarkine region of Tasmania has globally-significant Aboriginal cultural heritage values,
(ii) 15 recreational vehicle tracks in the area have been closed since 2012 to protect the cultural heritage values of the site,
(iii) this decision was upheld by the Federal Court after the Tasmanian government tried to reopen three of the tracks in 2014,
(iv) despite the ban, there has been ongoing damage to these sensitive areas by illegal and reckless drivers of off-road vehicles,
(v) the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and other Aboriginal groups oppose the tracks being reopened,
(vi) the Tasmanian government has applied to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment for approval to reopen tracks 501, 503 and 601 under the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Act 1999 [Cth], and
(vii) the Tasmanian government has failed to consult with the Aboriginal community prior to making the application;
(b) agrees that:
(i) any reopening of the tracks would inevitably lead to more damage to environmental and cultural heritage values, and
(ii) it is grossly culturally insensitive for the Commonwealth to even consider the Tasmanian government's application, while flagging increased penalties for interfering with European cultural history; and
(c) calls on the Commonwealth Government to reject the Tasmanian government's application to reopen the tracks.
A proposal for off-road vehicle mitigation actions has been referred to the Australian government, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment. Details of the proposal have been made publicly available.
The EPBC Act provides for detailed assessment of proposals that are likely to have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance, as well as opportunities for public comment. The assessment process will include consideration of potential impacts on the Aboriginal cultural heritage values of the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape. The government will progress the proposal from the Tasmanian department in accordance with law.
I thank Senator Whish-Wilson for this motion. I'm able to stand up and say that I don't support keeping Arthur-Pieman closed for the people to enjoy. I won't lock off areas of my great state so that nobody gets to enjoy them. I say clearly that I don't support the motion. My question is whether or not the state Labor leader, Bec White, will do the same, instead of sitting in the middle. When she was asked for her thoughts yesterday, she offered no position whatsoever. We are now going into a state election. Labor wants to have a foot in both camps—for and against. It wants to look like it is friends with the Greens and keep its options open in case it needs some extras to make sure it can make government.
An honourable senator interjecting—
I can tell you now, the last government of the Greens and Labor in the state of Tasmania was an absolute disaster. And I won't be standing for it.