Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Mark Butler MP

Minister for Climate Change
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water

Transcript of interview ABC Hobart with Chris Whispy: Federal court decision regarding Shree Mine and Tarkine Forest

18 July 2013

CHRIS WHISPY: Mark Butler, the Minister for Climate Change, Minister for the Environment Heritage and Water good morning to you sir.

MARK BUTLER: Morning Chris.

CHRIS WHISPY: Been in office I suspect around about just over two weeks, counting the days. The Federal Court decision handed down yesterday, I dare say the biggest thing to land in your lap since you took over office?

MARK BUTLER: Look this portfolio has a number of very big things, this week the Prime Minister and I announced we're terminating the carbon tax and moving quickly to an emissions trading scheme. There are very significant developments that are on my desk that impact on the Greater Barrier Reef. There's no question the proposal for development in the Tarkine, in north west Tasmania is a very significant one and the Federal Court decision a significant one as well yesterday which I've been able to look at overnight.

CHRIS WHISPY: Given that workload you've got and there's only twenty one days to put in an appeal, you're going to have to do some re-prioritising I suspect.

MARK BUTLER: Well I have, I have in my mind and I've taken advice overnight from the department and the legal section of the department's process from here on in. It's very clear my own view and the legal view about the operation of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act which is the Commonwealth legislation that governs this application and I now need to appraise myself of all of the material, not just the material around the plight of the Tasmanian Devil that was the subject of the decision of the Federal Court, but I would need to appraise myself of all of the material including that document that the Federal Court says was not before Minister Burke and then think about making a decision to approve or not to approve the Shree application.

CHRIS WHISPY: I suspect that not enough time has passed but Terry Long who is the CEO of the Minerals Council of Tasmania has said that all you have to do is cite a certain document in the way prescribed in the federal legislation and then approve the project again.

MARK BUTLER: Well I don't agree with that. If I'm going to look at a decision to approve or not to approve the project under the act it's my view and our legal advice that I would need to look at all of that information including particular documents that the Minerals Council and the Federal Court are referring to so what I'm proposing to do is to do that over the next several days, to look at all of the material over the weekend and Monday, to take some face to face briefings from the department in the early part of next week and then after considering that material I'd also like to arrange through Sid Sidebottom, my parliamentary colleague, for meetings with the community in this part of north west Tasmania to talk to them about their views about the application so that I'm then in a position over the next week or ten days to make a decision to approve or not to approve this application.

CHRIS WHISPY: Did Tony Burke get bad advice from the department when he approved the project?

MARK BUTLER: Well I mean Tony was an incredibly thorough and talented minister in this portfolio. I think anyone who has dealt with him knew that and he did have front of mind the plight of the Tasmanian Devil, I think that's clear from the conditions that he insisted upon as part of the approval. But it is quite clear from the Federal Court decision that the advice, the piece of advice around the plight of the Tasmanian Devil that has been referred to by so many, was simply not provided to Tony. It was not in any of the briefs that he was provided with and the document itself the Federal Court finds was not provided to him as well. So at the end of the day a minister like Tony can only act on the advice provided so he acted very thoroughly. He certainly had the plight of the Tasmanian Devil at the front of his mind but there clearly was a deficit in terms of the advice provided to him.

CHRIS WHISPY: You're obviously aware of the plight of the Tasmanian Devil and as I say it is probably a very steep learning curve you're on but probably the highest unemployment in Tasmania in the north west of our state, very keen for this mine to go ahead, projected job numbers ranging between sixty to one twenty, choose who you believe there, but very keen for it to go ahead. Are you inclined to approve the project subject to the Devil clause being sorted out?

MARK BUTLER: Well I think it's very clear my own view is very clear and the legal advice I've received is very clear that the proper thing for me to do is to go back and consider all of the information again. I'm a new minister, I can't just go and read one document, I've got to read all of the material, I've said I'll do that over the next several days and make a decision according to the criteria set out in that piece of legislation I referred to. The criteria are quite broad they do go to the economic and social context of the application and development opportunities as well as the overriding need to ensure that development is sustainable, that it is sensitive to the environment and the biodiversity of the area impacted. So I'm not going to indicate my inclinations because I don't have them yet. I'm going to bring an open mind to considering all of that material. I'm going to do it promptly and I'm then going to have a discussion with a number of groups that Sid Sidebottom will organise for me in the area so that I can hear from the community directly their views as well and then I'll set about promptly making a decision.

CHRIS WHISPY: But that's all got to be done within the twenty one day timeframe.

MARK BUTLER: That's right I'm very confident I can do it in considerably shorter than that and I'm going to aim to do it within about ten days

CHRIS WHISPY: Mark Butler, Minister for Climate Change, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Water and sitting in that seat just for the past couple of weeks or so. Thank you very much for your time this morning.

MARK BUTLER: Thanks Chris.