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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

11 May, 2005

Radio 936 ABC Hobart
7.25am, Ric Paterson Breakfast Show

Antarctic air link

ANNOUNCER: Well it's 26 past 7. Well there was 46 million dollars in last night's budget for the Antarctic air link. It will fund a 3.6 km glacial blue ice runway near Casey station and a long range jet aircraft leaving Hobart every 7 - 10 days during summer. Trial flights are scheduled to start next year thru to 2007. Joining me right now is the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell. Senator, good morning and welcome to our Breakfast show. Hang on, I'll try you again. Looks like we're not there … Try it again.

ANNOUNCER: Now why are you doing it? Why are you putting so much money into the air link?

MINISTER: Well, the problem we've had is that really our link to, what I would call, the second continent it's an area in Antarctica nearly as big as the main Australian continent, our link to it, as the people in Hobart know, has been primarily with the Aurora Australis, one ship, and that has created vulnerabilities, of course, as we all know whenever anything has gone wrong with her. And so really our … to this incredible last frontier, this incredible capsule of science crucial to global climate change research has not really moved on since Douglas Mawson or since Ernest Shackleton.

ANNOUNCER: With the jet air link, you will retain the ship?

MINISTER: The ship needs to be there for the major supplies. What this will do is will make the world's best scientists from all around Australia, or in fact from all around the world. We have a number of countries that are very interested the use of this air link will be able to get there. In the past scientists would have had to put aside three months aside of their life if not more. So we will be able to get more and better science occurring on the second continent and, of course, they will all have to come through Hobart. So it's an amazing boost for Tasmania and for Hobart.

ANNOUNCER: Now what type of jet aircraft is best suited the conditions? While the track was on you were telling me that you could a 747, a jumbo!

MINISTER: Yes, it will come down to the system that we are putting in place is for an aircraft called a Global Express, which will carry up to 30 passengers. We have been through all of the process of getting the approvals in place, doing the environmental assessment. So we're ready to go and work will be commencing this morning out at the Antarctic Division to get in place the equipment to build the extensions to the runway. The airplane, we already have an agreement in place with the providers of the Global Express.

ANNOUNCER: Is that an Australian Company?

MINISTER: It is an Australian Company. And they will be providing a service subject to final contracts and so forth. So that we know the government's getting the best value for money. But they will be able to start flights in the next summer. We will build it this summer and start flying next summer.

ANNOUNCER: Now can you guarantee a service every 7 - 10 days? There were huge delays getting the current air service between the stations running because the weather wasn't good enough for the planes to leave Hobart, they're the smaller variety, that have moved down there. Of course you get half way down and you have to continue going, there's no turning back.

MINISTER: Well this is the big issue with Ginger and Gadget, they were obviously designed for…

ANNOUNCER: Named after Mawson's dogs?

MINISTER: Indeed, through a national schools competition so tremendous names and they have captured people's imaginations. But those smaller CASA Aircraft, as they're called, provide a new and historic service between our stations, but to get them down there was a big challenge really, they had to basically fill the entire aircraft up with fuel. The aircraft we will be flying down under the new service will be able to fly all the way there and back without refueling. So it will have a minimal environmental impact down on the ice. We won't need to keep stores of fuel down there to any huge extent. The aeroplanes will be able to fly all the way down there, circle a number of times and fly all the way back if the weather envelope isn't open.

ANNOUNCER: Now the Global Express company, do they have polar experience?

MINISTER: They do. They are actually running Ginger and Gadget so they, in terms of Australian operators, they are very experienced. We think they are very good operators and we look forward to the first flight.

ANNOUNCER: Now you've had a passion for this since 1996 when you were secretary to Robert Hill.

MINISTER: Yes, I came into the portfolio when the Howard Government was first elected, came down here at the invitation of some good Tasmanian friends of mine like Eric Abetz and President Paul Calvert and Riggs von Curt, to his great credit the former director of the AAD, and I set up a process called Antarctica Beyond 2000 and it was to look at what would we do in Antarctica in the new Millennium. And it became very clear through that process that we needed an air link if we were to get the best science and so really Riggs and I started working on it in 1996, and a lot of good people including Robert Hill, David Kemp, Tony Press and the great team at the Division have been working on this for the best part of the decade, I might say people like Phillip Moore in previous decades pioneers like Dick Smith he was one the very early flights down there. Let me make this clear: so although we've got the ball across the line tonight, there's been a lot of people put a lot of energy into this for a long time.

ANNOUNCER: And you'll be on one of the first flights?

MINISTER: I'm hoping that I'll get down there just as soon as I possibly can.


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