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Minister for the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2001-2004

The Hon Dr David Kemp, MP



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

Interview on ABC Central Australia, 'Morning Show'
Thursday, 10 June 2004

Tourism strategy for Kakadu

Compere: Kakadu and Uluru, they're two of the biggest tourism drawcards in the Territory, but Uluru it seems is winning out. Just yesterday the Aboriginal tourism company Anangu Tours at Uluru won a major international award for its outstanding contribution to cultural heritage.

It's the sort of thing that someone like John Morse can only dream of at the moment. He's the man handpicked by the Federal Government to try and revive visitation to Kakadu National Park, and he's looking for a lot of help from the traditional owners.

Federal Environment Minister David Kemp is in the Territory at the moment and Kakadu has been at the top of his agenda. He's flown in to Alice Springs and joins me in the studio this morning. Good morning Dr Kemp.

Minister David Kemp: Good morning Bernadette.

Compere: You've appointed the former head of the Australian Tourist Commission John Morse to get a new tourism strategy together for Kakadu. And he says he wants to work with traditional owners to try and open up the park, yet earlier in the year we actually saw representatives of traditional owners saying they wanted to close more areas, ban more areas of swimming. How are you going to marry these two?

David Kemp: Well I think they were not accurate reports about the attitudes of traditional owners. I spoke to traditional owners in Kakadu in the last couple of days - in fact I went right out to Twin Falls with traditional owners and discussed the whole issue of tourism in the park with them. They are very enthusiastic about the project which is now underway, and they certainly see that there is a need to open more areas of the park.

I think it's important that there be proper respect on the part of the tourism industry and visitors for the traditional owners, it's their home, it's their country, they obviously do need some privacy in terms of their living arrangements. So I think that the needs of the traditional owners and the tourism industry can be properly reconciled, and John Morse is going to have a great task ahead of him in doing that and I'm sure he'll do it very successfully.

Compere: We've seen success down at Uluru - Anangu Tours just winning this major award yesterday. Is it a question of Uluru versus Kakadu and Uluru's winning?

David Kemp: No it's not a question of competition at all. I think both of these parks should be major international icons. At the moment of course Uluru is very much up there in front and it's the major icon that brings most international tourists to Australia. But there's no reason why Kakadu can't have the same sort of international recognition.

And Anangu Tours I think requires real congratulations for the work that they've done there. I've been on one of their tours and there's no doubt that visitors who go on those tours and see the traditional skills that the Aboriginal people have at Uluru suddenly change their attitudes to the sophistication of the culture and society that Aboriginal people have.

Now the future of Kakadu is very much as a cultural destination. People think of the waterfalls there - Twin Falls, Jim Jim Falls - but the reality is that only a relatively small proportion of all the visitors to Kakadu actually go to those places because they're not easy to get to. And they probably will remain that way because they're really there for the more adventurous.

But there is a tremendous cultural experience to be had at Kakadu and the traditional owners see that and I think Anangu Tours have done a remarkable job in leading the way and showing what can be done.

Compere: So do you think that's an example of what should be done then at Kakadu? That kind of tourism?

David Kemp: I think that's precisely the kind of tourism that the traditional owners in Kakadu are looking at. They've got wonderful stories to tell, they want their young people to be involved in this.

They see tourism as being a very important part of the provision of opportunity and jobs for the next generation of young Aboriginal people in Kakadu and I think there's a coincidence of interest there between the tourism industry and the traditional owners. And the current project to develop a tourism vision for Kakadu is going to bring those two interests out and make them very clear.

Compere: One of the other areas of tourism for the Top End including possibly Kakadu is crocodile farming, safari hunting of crocodiles. What do you think, do you support it?

David Kemp: Well there's a lot of interest in that and I know the Northern Territory Government is now preparing a management plan for crocodiles which will come through to me. And I'll need to make a decision at some time when that plan does come through about whether safari hunting is compatible with welfare considerations for example.

Animal welfare activists of course have got a negative view of safari hunting. There are ethical considerations and of course we also need to make sure that there are proper systems in place if that were to go ahead. So it's something that I'll consider but I haven't made up my mind one way or the other about it as yet.

Compere: When you were talking about the success of cultural tourism down at the rock, down at Uluru, one of the issues that still could be a problem though is the number of people climbing the rock. And while there's been great success in the last 10 years in trying to convince people not to, you only have to go down there any day of the week, of the year and see all these little tiny ant-like people climbing up and down that rock. Do you think that it should be banned?

David Kemp: Well this is ultimately a matter for the traditional owners, and I think they've taken an extremely mature approach to this issue. There's clear signage at the bottom of the rock that they prefer people not to climb the rock. They're very worried about safety considerations and of course there are very important sites of spiritual significance for traditional owners around the rock. So they would prefer people not to climb but at the same time they've said we understand your culture as well, if you want to climb it, then we're not going to stop you but we give these advices before you go up.

Now I think fewer and fewer proportion of the people who go to the rock are now climbing it because they see that there are many other tourism experiences available in Uluru. There's the Anangu Tours themselves, many people think that Kata Tjuta is in fact a better destination than the rock itself. So there is a change and a broadening in the tourism focus around Uluru and I think climbing has been handled in a very sensitive way by the traditional owners.

Compere: On a political moment, heading back to Canberra and away from Uluru and Kakadu, Peter Garrett is about to have a press conference I understand later this morning saying that he's going to be running for Labor. Are you worried at all about having such a staunch environmentalist on the opposition team?

David Kemp: Well I have to say that I've been unimpressed by a number of the positions that Peter Garrett has taken on environmental matters. Most recently he opposed the Free Trade Agreement with the United States on the ground that it would encourage economic growth and he seems to be one of those more extreme greens who really don't like economic growth when in fact it's economic growth that provides the resources that allow us to repair environmental damage. And at the start...

Compere: Yeah, but he's got popular appeal though, you know he's you know, he doesn't start going, he doesn't sound like a politician - or perhaps he will now. But he's got popular appeal and he's obviously going to be a very formidable opponent, especially on environmental grounds.

David Kemp: Well he stumbled today from the news that we're hearing, he hasn't voted apparently in the last three elections. His name hasn't been on the rolls, and I would have thought that that is the first test of credibility for somebody who wants to be a representative in a democracy like Australia...

Compere: Touring with one of the biggest rock bands?

David Kemp: need to actually take part in our democratic processes. And if he hasn't done that up till now I think he's fallen at the first hurdle.

Compere: And touring with one of Australia's biggest known bands isn't an excuse?

David Kemp: Well look, celebrities certainly if they're committed to Australia's democratic processes and committed to the policies of the party that they claim to represent can play a significant role in politics.

But I think Peter Garrett's views on many issues are very different to those of the Labor Party, they're certainly very different to those of the Government. And if he hasn't been voting up till now you really wonder what attitude he really does take to parliament and to representing people more widely.

Compere: Just coming back briefly to the Territory and you're - in Alice Springs you'll be announcing several million dollars in funding for the national - Natural Heritage Trust, including about $2.9 million, nearly $3 million for river recovery in the Territory. You realise you've come to one of the driest regions in the Territory to announce river funding?

David Kemp: Well I was amazed as I flew in to see water lying around on the ground in large puddles. But I think it's worth making the point that the Lake Eyre Basin, which Alice Springs is a part is one of the very largest inward draining arid river systems in the world. There is almost nothing like the Lake Eyre Basin anywhere else on the planet and the rivers here at times, as you know, are in very strong flood and at other times are completely empty and Alice Springs experiences that from time to time itself.

Now we - there are ecosystems that are developed around these rivers. This river recovery program that will be undertaken by Greening Australia is a really very exciting program which will target some 22,000 kilometres of Australia's river lengths.

And they'll be working with the Landcare Council in the Northern Territory to identify a priority river where the protection and management of the river is important and where there's a need to look after the vegetation surrounding it and the ecosystem. So this is a terrific project and I'm sure the Northern Territory Landcare Council will come up with a very good focus.

Compere: Some of the money you're announcing today as part of this River Recovery Program will focus on the Daly River. How much money will be put into analysing the impact of significant logging in that area?

David Kemp: Well at the moment I'm not, can't break it down river by river but what we'll see is a very clear interest in making sure that whatever developments occur, that they occur in ways which don't damage nationally significant environmental values.

There are wonderful environmental values within the Lake Eyre Basin and you mentioned the Daly River. And I can assure you that both from the Australian Government's point of view and I understand from the Northern Territory Government's point of view, any developments that take place there would certainly have to respect the key environmental values of the area.

Compere: Dr David Kemp, Federal Environment Minister. Thanks for joining us here today.

David Kemp: It's a great pleasure Bernadette.

Commonwealth of Australia