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Interview with Geoff Hutchison, ABC 720 Perth
26 August 2009
HUTCHISON: We're joined by the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett. Mr Garrett, good morning to you.
GARRETT: Morning, Geoff.
HUTCHISON: Are you able to tell us some of the conditions upon which you granted the Gorgon Project the green light today, or at least the environmental green light?
GARRETT: Yes, I can, I've sought conditions which make sure that we have the proper management, monitoring and compliance conditions in place for the flatback turtles, which are the primary focus of the national environment legislation, and also that we have marine and terrestrial plans for any listed or threatened species on Barrow Island itself, and that's species like the bettong and the euro.
And as well, a requirement that the quarantine conditions that were a part of the original approval, apply to the expansion, I think that's important.
And additionally that the Commonwealth marine areas are properly identified in terms of in some ways doing something which wasn't a part of the original conditions, which is requiring all of the ground work, the baseline data, and the plans, to be done before any actions take place, so that there's an opportunity for me as minister, to scrutinise that, to see whether there would be any impact.
Additionally of course, are requirements for independent auditing, and in this case single management plans with the providing of those plans and any other relevant information on websites on a regular basis, so that the public can see what's going on.
HUTCHISON: Peter Garrett, did you have any personal concerns, I mean the argument certainly from the Greens was that any such project of this scale, and given the notion that Barrow Island is Australia's arc, as its Green supporters would say, why wasn't the plant put on the mainland, and would you have been more comfortable if that's where it had gone, rather than Barrow Island, which despite acknowledgements and all kinds of, you know, qualifying regulation, all those kind of things, is a pretty fragile environment?
GARRETT: Look, Geoff, the thing here is that I have to deal with the proposals as they come to me, and in this case, this was only the proposal to expand the original Gorgon approval, it had already been approved by the previous Government for Barrow Island, so I wasn't actually legally required to look at questions of alternative sites at all, and I couldn't, and I haven't.
What I've sought to do is make sure that the conditions that I've applied protect the environment to the highest level that I think it needs to be protected. The second thing to say is that I went out to Barrow to have a look, I accept that it is a Class A nature reserve, and I know that there are important species there, and my expectations are that they will be well protected. It's also a place where there's been oil wells drilling for decades …
GARRETT: … and it's a place I think, to be fair, where so long as the appropriate regulatory framework is in place, we can, and we should, see absolute limited impacts on those matters of national environmental significance that I'm required to determine.
Now as you know, and your listeners will know, the Western Australian Government had already approved this expansion, the previous Government had as well approved the original two trains at Barrow, so what I was looking at doing was making sure that in respect of the third train, that I was asked to look at, that we had environmental conditions that were the best that they could be. I'm absolutely satisfied that they are, I'll provide a statement of reasons, as I've done for all my other decisions, which are challengeable in court, people can see what I've decided. I think I've done what I'm required to under the Act, and actually improved the conditions that are already there.
HUTCHISON: Peter Garrett, thank you for talking to us. Peter Garrett is the Federal Environment Minister.