Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts logo
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts home page

Archived media releases and speeches

Disclaimer

Much of the material listed on these archived web pages has been superseded, or served a particular purpose at a particular time. It may contain references to activities or policies that have no current application. Many archived documents may link to web pages that have moved or no longer exist, or may refer to other documents that are no longer available.

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

Monday, 10 April 2006

6PR Interview with Liam

Night Parrot issue


Presenter:
There's an interesting story shaping up regarding the environment, more specifically, regarding a parrot. The Federal Minister for the Environment, Ian Campbell, has made a decision to block a wind farm over in the Eastern States, for the sake of the Orange-bellied Parrot, which means basically nothing to me because I'm not a great birdwatcher, and that decision has raised the hopes of environmentalists in planning an even rarer bird than the Orange Parrot, which is in the way - if I can put it in those terms - of an iron ore mine proposed for the Pilbara.

Senator Campbell is set to be asked to rule on whether or not the Night Parrot is threatened by miner Andrew Forrest proposal, to extract 572 million tonnes of iron ore at Cloud Break, which is about three kilometres from a lone sighting of three of the critically endangered birds last April. Apparently they've only been seen twice last century and they were presumed extinct for many years until a dead bird was found on a Queensland road side in 1990. The Minister joins us on the program. Senator Campbell, good morning to you.

Campbell:
Morning Liam, and good luck and congratulations on your new show.

Bartlett:
Thanks very much, I appreciate that.

Campbell:
We're all just waiting there for you to give out the wrong talkback number.

Bartlett:
It's going to happen. My producer Tracey has been looking at me like that all morning, I think they've got a book going on it at the moment. Now what do you think…. obviously Fortescue Mining, Andrew Forrest's outfit, wouldn't be too happy about this. Is the Night Parrot - its whereabouts, or question marks surrounding it, in this particular area - a problem for you?

Campbell:
No it's not. I think Andrew and Fortescue Metals Group and their environmental scientists they've got working for them, must be congratulated. We've worked very constructively with them on this issue. One of the interesting things was, just like the Pebble Mound Mouse a few years ago, and also much of the mining and oil and gas exploration that occurred in the north of Western Australia, it's been an incredibly positive thing for the environment. People like Harry Butler started work basically, those people who did work for mining companies. And it was in fact the exploration by FMG that discovered this. So we have to ideally find a way of ensuring that we can develop Western Australia but do so in an environmentally friendly way. And FMG are working on a management plan; they're working with the WA Government and let's hope we can have a win-win situation there.

Bartlett:
So Fortescue Metals Group are absolutely happy with the fact that the Night Parrot's there, are they?

Campbell:
Well they seem to be working very constructively to make sure that they identify, learn more about it. They haven't seen it for a couple of years as I understand it, but they are putting in place what's called a management plan to ensure that any activity that takes place around any potential habitats for that parrot is looked after and that the mine could operate along side it. So I really think the Greens here in WA, are sort of - and the Labor Minister who's trying to beat this up a bit - is playing a bit of a game. A very long bow to draw between a parrot that migrates across the Bass Strait and lands on the Victorian mainland and the impact that I assessed in relation to the cumulative impact of building a lot of wind farms across that coast, has any similarity to a situation in the Pilbara of Western Australia.

Bartlett:
See that's the rub isn't it, because obviously those people in political opposition to you would be saying well hang on, you've given the Bracks Government a hard time about these Orange-bellied Parrots, Night Parrot is rarer than the Orange Bellied. If you operated on that, in terms of that wind farm, then you should do something about the North West of Western Australia.

Campbell:
Well simplistically on the face of it, I can see how they would like to draw that bow, but it is a very long one. Can I also say that it didn't really make it to the papers here or even in The Australian newspaper - can I say, it usually does a more sensible job on these things - but the Bracks Government itself stopped a wind farm only in July last year because of impacts on a wedge tailed eagle. And the wedge tailed eagle in question isn't even under the threatened species register; so there's a lot of hypocrisy going around.

What I want to assure your listeners - and the broader public - is that you have to have strong development, you have to have progress. We need a strong economy to create jobs and future security for Australia. But I'm sure all of your listeners would be with me in wanting to make sure that you do that in a way that doesn't harm Australian wildlife and doesn't harm the environment. And that's really my job, day by day, whatever I decide, I will always upset somebody. But wherever we can, and can I say in 1800 projects that have come before my department in the last five years, three of them have been stopped. Most of them get the go ahead, on the basis of some sort of management plan, which is what Fortescue Metals are trying to put in place for the Night Parrot.

Bartlett:
This proposal, I mean this mine, is hundreds of millions of dollars, this project. Would you be prepared to sacrifice a few Night Parrots for the sake of the project?

Campbell:
Well I don't think we'd need to make that choice, I think we'll be able to put in place a management plan, that's what we're working for. FMG have been very constructive about it and so have the WA Government, and so have my department; so I think it's a bit of a beat-up by the Greens, who are generally opposed to all sorts of development, and a beat-up by my political opponents in the WA Labor Party. It's just that. In 99 cases out of 100, you can find a win-win situation, strong development and good outcomes for the environment.

Bartlett:
So at the risk of cracking a very bad pun, you'd tell them, what, to stop acting like galahs?

Campbell:
You said it, not me! Look, I think the lesson out of this is that we do have a strong environment law federally, we are committed to a clean Australian environment, we want good outcomes. The one in Victoria was a very unique case. You've got an incredibly endangered bird on the estimates of my report, you know there's 99 of these birds left in the world, and I had a report done on what is the cumulative impact of building wind farms along a long stretch of coast. Not just one wind farm, but what's the cumulative impact of building many of them side by side effectively. And the report came back that even though just putting one more wind farm up, you could hasten the extinction of this bird. And it's a pretty tough report to receive as an Environment Minister; you do have to weigh it up. What I did have in my mind though, Liam, was that we will build 9000 kilowatt hours of wind - or renewable energy in Australia - because we're requiring that. This wind farm will be built somewhere, so we'll still get our greenhouse outcomes, we'll still have to offset the impacts on climate change, but it just won't be built where it's going to harm the Orange-bellied Parrot.

Bartlett:
Well I'm pleased to hear that, that's made my day, thanks very much for joining us.

Campbell:
Thanks Liam, all the best with your new program.

© Commonwealth of Australia