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Press conference, question and answer session
5 January 2009
JOURNALIST: Minister, is the combined affect of introducing a more rigorous approval process and these civil and criminal penalties such that you've effectively killed the Gunns pulp mill?
GARRETT: The effect of requiring that the hydrodynamic modelling and other relevant studies are done and necessary strategies and actions put in place - concluded before approval - means that we can have certainty that the necessary environmental issues have been thoroughly canvassed and considered and Gunns can have certainty that the mill that they're proposing to construct won't exceed the limits and standards that will be set by the Commonwealth.
JOURNALIST: But have you considered whether this introduces so many disincentives that this mill is no longer viable?
GARRETT: Well, the point I'd make very strongly to you is that Gunns would, under Mr Turnbull's original conditions, still have been required to undertake hydrodynamic modelling. It would have happened subsequent to the approval being given. So that work was always contemplated; it is work that Gunns knew it would have to undertake. But what we've done is get the decision making the right way round.
And that is to say, all the critical and crucial environmental studies on impacts on the marine environment from this pulp mill must be done in real time, properly analysed and response strategies agreed. Once those response strategies are agreed, then an approval can be given.
JOURNALIST: How did Gunns react when you told them this morning that further technicalities are going to delay the approval process?
GARRETT: Well, they're not further technicalities. One point I'd make about modules L, M and N is that they are the most critical modules in this decision making process. And it is a matter of some puzzlement to me that Malcolm Turnbull's conditions didn't provide for those modules to be considered prior to a final approval being given. We've advised Gunns, in writing, of that decision and I'm sure that they will be in contact with us in due course.
Any other questions, folks?
JOURNALIST: Yeah, we've got one other issue, Minister. The Japanese Government has requested that you refuse - or the Australian Government refuse entry to the Steve Irwin in Australian ports. Is that something that you agree with?
GARRETT: Look, no formal request has been received by the Government, I'm advised. We have always said that any request of that kind would be considered in the light of our international and national legal requirements in terms of port issues.
JOURNALIST: Just - the new [indistinct] instituted by March 2011. How much longer do you think it could take for that to be analysed and the approval process to be completed?
GARRETT: The figure that we've given for March brings forward all the necessary hydrodynamic modelling, the real time inquiry that needs to take place and the interaction between Gunns, the modelling results, the independent experts' group and my department. So that would be the entire period of time necessary, not only for the modelling, but for the strategies and responses to be determined as well.
JOURNALIST: The EIS into filling the lower lakes of the Murray Darling with salt water was supposed to be completed by now. Have you got any update on where that's at?
GARRETT: No. Look, I expect a decision to come through to me on my desk, formally, in the next week or so and we'll make a decision in due course.
JOURNALIST: And what's your view on that proposal generally?
GARRETT: Well, I'm not going to start putting a view in front of the microphones until I've actually got the formal proposal in front of me.
JOURNALIST: Just one other issue. There's companies that set up plants to recycle mercury - mercury filled light bulbs, saying that they're about to go out of business because you haven't mandated the proper recycling of mercury filled light bulbs. Where are you at with that?
GARRETT: Look, I'm satisfied that there are voluntary measures in places, and councils have got measures in place, to enable some take up on that. We certainly would like to see greater degrees of recycling in the community, including of those light bulbs that you refer to. And my expectation is that will continue to build up pace over time.
JOURNALIST: So you would contemplate a national ban?
GARRETT: No, we're not contemplating anything like a national ban at the moment. What we're contemplating is the decision that we've made in relation to the Gunns pulp mill and happy to talk about these other matters later on.
Thanks very much everybody.