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Media Release
Federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage
The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP

13 March 2002

Kelvin Just Can't Get It Right

Kelvin Thomson just keeps getting it wrong. Every time he gets it wrong, he shifts ground and tries again. At least he's persistent. It's a shame he just can't get it right.

The Shadow Minister is this week calling on me to halt an application for permission to conduct seismic tests in the Townsville Trough, 50kms outside the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

On Sunday he said:
"I have no doubt that all it would take is one public statement from the Howard Government that oil drilling will not be allowed in the Townsville Trough, and the company would go away."
Wrong, Kelvin.

I pointed out that, far from making the company go away, it would give them grounds for a legal challenge to any adverse ruling I might make on their proposal.

So, on Monday, Kelvin demanded that I ban the proposal:
"though regulation with a zoning change under the Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act" (sic).
Wrong again, Kelvin.

I pointed out that the EPBC doesn't have zoning provisions. It applies to all Australian territories and permits me, as Federal Environment Minister, to block any project in the country, whether in protected or non protected areas, that threatens matters of national environmental significance, like the Great Barrier Reef.

So, today, Kelvin's dropped that idea and now he's asking me to regulate:
"under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act to prohibit the exploration proposal".

Oh dear, Kelvin, you're wrong again. This Act allows regulation outside the Park to stop water pollution within it. It is hard to imagine how this could apply to seismic soundings made more than 50 kilometres away.

The Federal Government is more determined and, as a result of our own Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act, more empowered than ever before to protect the Reef. No activity will be allowed outside the Reef which will damage the Park or its World Heritage values.

Kelvin Thomson is mischievously trying to portray an Environmental Impact Assessment of the application for seismic testing in the Townsville Trough as an indication the project is being encouraged. Nothing could be further from the truth. The EIA is a step I am legally obliged to take before I can rule on whether or not this project can proceed.

Media Adviser:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400

Commonwealth of Australia