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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Historic shipwrecks funding; Gunns pulp mill; Renewable energy announcement for Cape Barren Island

Doorstop interview: Queen Victoria Museum, Inveresk
6 November 2008

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JOURNALIST: I guess that rudder there shows what the funding is all about - that's the sort of thing you want to preserve?

GARRETT: Yes, this announcement of additional Commonwealth funding to historic shipwrecks projects has got a real resonance for Tasmanians given the sort of history of shipwrecks in and around this island. But it also tells us that we need to continue to build effort of understanding our history, incredible maritime history for modern Australia. This is how people came to the shores quite often in the settlement period. It's quite often what Indigenous people here saw when they looked out to sea and saw these boats coming. And there's a history which is very rich here. I'm very pleased that we were able to make this announcement in this museum which is doing some fantastic work and in front of such an important artefact as the Sydney Cove rudder.

JOURNALIST: How far off is your approval of the final modules for the Gunns Pulp Mill?

GARRETT: We have set the timeline for the 5th of January. I expect all 16 modules to be in front of me by that time - I've already approved four. There are 12 outstanding. Of those 12, another four have come across from the department to my office - I haven't sighted them yet. I expect to work through them methodically and carefully and my expectation is that I will have sighted and seen and considered all of the remaining modules and made a decision by the 5th of January.

JOURNALIST: Last night, you hinted that you may be able to put some more environmental controls in - you spoke about some hydrological measuring that could take place. Can you explain that? You hinted that even if these final modules are passed, that there may be more environmental controls that the Federal Government can put in place.

GARRETT: That wasn't a hint, what I was pointing out was the way in which the approvals process will work. Malcolm Turnbull's approval of the mill set in train an approvals process which has some 48 specific conditions that have to be met. One of those conditions is to ensure that there won't be significant impacts on Commonwealth marine waters. In order to do that, there will be a requirement for real time hydrodynamic, hydrological modelling to take place. That modelling, if it's required, and my anticipation is that it will be, would take place after the formal approvals process is concluded. And in the event that that modelling identifies that there are going to be significant impacts on matters of National Environmental Significance, then there may be the provision of additional conditions in relation to the approval, if there's an approval that's given. So in other words, if an approval is reached of the existing 16 modules by 5 January, there is still the ongoing issue of determining whether or not comprehensive modelling that takes place on the hydrodynamics identifies matters of potential significant impact on environment issues of importance under the legislation - in other words, Commonwealth marine waters. If that's the case, then the possibility that there would be requirement for further conditions, say for example in relation to effluent discharge.

JOURNALIST: I was going to get you to explain the money for Cape Barren, what's that going to essentially do?

GARRETT: Money for Cape Barren will go to wind turbines and to solar panels. A significant commitment in terms of the Commonwealth funding and particularly, it will provide that community there with a degree of self reliance for their energy needs. Tens of thousands of diesel and other fuel sources won't have to be spent in terms of money for providing those resources there. That community can look forward to seeing those wind turbines turn and when the sun's shining, the generation of energy on that island which is renewable and clean - a great announcement.

JOURNALIST: You seem to be hiding behind Mr Turnbull's decision [inaudible] isn't there some way, if the public wants it, that you can stop the pulp mill in the Tamar Valley?

GARRETT: The Environment Act makes it perfectly clear as to all the legal requirements that any Commonwealth minister has to abide by that where an approval has been granted by a government, in this case by the Howard Government, by Minister Turnbull, there is a primary responsibility, so long as that granting and approval was done in a legally valid manner, to continue through that process. And we always said that we would continue through that process to ensure that all of the conditions that were identified were scrupulously adhered to. This is not a rubber stamping exercise, this is an exercise that I take very seriously. But I'm bound by the environment legislation and by the agreement and the approval that was given by Mr Turnbull to continue that process through until it reaches concluding point.

JOURNALIST: Do you support the pulp mill?

GARRETT: Well, I'm a determining Minister and my job now is to look at each and every one of the modules that comes through to me, to take the advice of the Independent Expert Group and my department, to determine whether or not there's going to be impact on matters of National Environmental Significance, the matters that I'm required to consider - not state matters, not matters in relation to forestry issues or otherwise - but specifically those national environmentally significant issues and that's what I'll do.

JOURNALIST: Do you personally support the pulp mill?

GARRETT: Again, it is not for me to give a view one way or the other as I am now a determining minister under the legislation. What I personally support is doing the best possible job that I can, as scrupulously and diligently as I can, recognising that there is very strong concern and interest around this proposal, and providing public confidence that my decision making has been thorough. Remember, I publish a statement of reasons for everybody to see, on every decision that I make, and I've already published a statement of reasons on the modules that have been approved so far and we will continue to do that.

[ENDS]

Commonwealth of Australia