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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray
5 June 2002
World Environment Day is an opportunity not only to reflect on Australia's environmental achievements at home, but to also recognise Australia's leading role in protecting the Antarctic environment, according to Parliamentary Secretary responsible for the Antarctic, Dr Sharman Stone.
"In the first 100 years of European awareness of the Antarctic, the region became a battlefield of commercial interests competing to harvest the whales, seals and finally the penguins", Dr Stone said.
"However, since the 1960s the Antarctic Treaty System has ensured the huge frozen continent has been dedicated to peace and science. Australia now leads the way in the Antarctic in minimising the environmental impact of its activities and cleaning up waste left by past expeditions.
"We are making sure that Antarctica, and especially the 42% of the continent that we claim, is fully protected", Dr Stone said.
"In the decade since signing the Madrid Protocol - which has effectively banned mining in Antarctica for the next 50 years - the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has been working closely with other Antarctic Treaty countries to protect the frozen continent and rehabilitate those areas affected by past human activities".
"As part of our commitment, I recently announced that the AAD is developing a 10 year plan to clean up past Australian waste sites in Antarctica, starting with a site near Casey station", Dr Stone said.
Australia's strong record in Antarctic research will be enhanced over the next 12 months with a $100 million Antarctic program funded by the Howard Government.
"This year's workplan includes further investigating the marine environment of the Southern Ocean, surveying water flow patterns on the Amery Ice Shelf and analysing clouds in the stratosphere above Antarctica - all of which is contributing to our understanding of climate systems", Dr Stone said.
Dr Stone said that a meeting of the Antarctic Treaty nations in September this year will look at ways to deal with the 12,000 or so visitors to Antarctica each year. In the lead-up to this meeting, the AAD is developing a tourism strategy.
"Although much of this tourism is concentrated in areas outside Australian claimed territory, it is important that we look closely at this issue to make sure we have the right measures in place to meet our environmental obligations as well as provide an unforgettable experience for visitors".
"Australia has much to celebrate on World Environment Day. Our on-going leadership role in Antarctica is just one example of the contribution that we make to protecting the planet".
Simon Frost 0419 495 468