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

Gunns pulp mill; Sea Shepherd

Interview with Tony Briscoe, Across Australia - Heart FM
6 January 2009

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BRISCOE: Good morning, Peter Garrett.

GARRETT: Morning, Tony.

BRISCOE: Mate, as Environment Minister, you've made a decision about the pulp mill. Now, it's not a red light, it's certainly not a green light. Is it an amber light at the moment?

GARRETT: Well I think it's the best decision to make given the approval that Malcolm Turnbull gave to this project before the last election, and the way in which he's structured the conditions, and also because clearly the key and critical issue in relation to this proposal is the question of the dispersal of the marine effluent, the potential impact it'll have on the environment at Bass Strait, and to make sure that we have as full an understanding as needed and I, as Minister do. It seems to me to be eminently sensible to make sure that all the necessary modelling, pollution modelling, and hydrodynamic modelling is done, any response strategies that are needed, identified and agreed, before there's any final approval for this mill.

So, that's my perspective on it. I think I've made the right decision. I've listened very carefully to community views. I take the advice of my department of scientific experts, legal advice as well, and I do it on the basis that there was an already existing approval in place from Malcolm Turnbull, but we want to make sure that matters of national environment significance are not significantly impacted on.

BRISCOE: Peter, do you think that the modelling for the pollution will ever show that the company can operate this mill without any problems to the environment?

GARRETT: Oh look Tony, that's something that I don't know the answer to and I think that's another reason why we need to do proper real time hydrodynamic modelling and get relevant scientific expertise to inform our views.

I mean until such time as that's actually done, that's a question that we can't effectively or accurately answer.

BRISCOE: I suppose one of the biggest things for Tasmanians thinking about the project, will it or won't it, is the great uncertainty and the fact that it may leave a hole in investment in Tasmania for other projects?

GARRETT: Look, those issues are always going to be important, and they're issues which are pretty hotly debated in Tasmania.

My role in this exercise has been a pretty straightforward one, not necessarily an easy one, but a straight forward one. I inherited Malcolm Turnbull's approval and I inherited his 48 conditions. I had to look at them and see whether they would do the job necessary, consistent with the approval and also consistent with my responsibilities as Environment Minister under the national environment legislation. Now that's what I've attempted to do.

The broader questions that you refer to are absolutely legitimate matters for people to be discussing and focusing on. But at this point in time, in terms of my particular political role, it's making sure that if there is a proposal of this kind that is going to be approved, that it is not approved until I'm satisfied that I have all the relevant material in front of me which indicates that it won't have a significant impact, say for example, on the marine waters of the commonwealth.

BRISCOE: Okay, Peter, just before you go, on a separate issue, is the Sea Shepherd vessel, the Steve Irwin, welcome in the Port of Hobart?

GARRETT: Well it hasn't made any application to Australian authorities as I understand it for them to come in.

We've always said that it would be treated as any other one would on the basis of the national and international regulations that apply.

So, as far as I'm concerned, it would be in the ordinary course of business for an application to be made and it would be dealt with in the ordinary course of business.

BRISCOE: Okay, thanks for your time this morning, Peter.

GARRETT: Thanks Tony, keep playing the Oils.

BRISCOE: Will do. Peter Garrett there, the Environment Minister and his decision on the pulp mill. And just a word too there on the Sea Shepherd vessel, the Steve Irwin, which apparently will have to refuel and is thinking about refuelling in Chile or New Zealand or maybe in Hobart, and we'll try and catch up with Captain Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd maybe tomorrow to see what they're doing.

Well that's the latest on the pulp mill. It's ten to nine.


Commonwealth of Australia