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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

Hill to Open New Antarctic Observatory

6 January 1997

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has reaffirmed Australia's commitment to the Antarctic Treaty system as the best way of achieving cooperation in Antarctic science and in protecting the unique beauty of the Antarctic.

Senator Hill is visiting the Antarctic this week as a guest of the US Antarctic Program and will open a new astronomical observatory at the South Pole developed jointly by US and Australian astronomers. The new observatory is a powerful reminder of the benefits of pooling resources in the cause of improving our knowledge of the Antarctic.

Senator Hill says Australia has always been a key player in both research and conservation of the Antarctic.

"We must continue to look after this vast wilderness while at the same time providing for the continued investigation of its enormous scientific opportunities. Australians can be proud of our achievements in Antarctic research and in promoting protection of this unique part of the world. "

"As a South Australian, I feel particularly honoured to be able to witness the work of the men and women who are following in the footsteps of one of our State's greatest explorers, Sir Douglas Mawson."

Senator Hill says the Automated Astrophysical Site Testing Observatory will provide astronomers with a new window on the skies.

"The South Pole observatory, at 2385m above sea level, will offer astronomers an unparalleled opportunity to view the heavens from an earth-based position.

"Antarctica has the driest, clearest atmosphere on earth making it the best possible location for astronomical observation other than a much more expensive space-based facility such as the Hubble space telescope."

Senator Hill is the first Federal Minister for the Environment to visit the Antarctic since the Antarctic Division was brought under the Department of the Environment in 1987.

Senator Hill left Australia on Monday January 6, flying via New Zealand to McMurdo Station on Ross Island, before visiting the US Amundsen-Scott station at the South Pole on Wednesday. He is accompanied by Professor John Storey, Head of Astrophysics at the University of NSW, who has been heavily involved in setting up the facility.

Media contact: Matt Brown 0419 693 515

Commonwealth of Australia