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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
25 November 1998
Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has described a report into Kakadu by the recent World Heritage Mission as biased, unbalanced and totally lacking in objectivity.
The report clearly fails to give proper consideration to the full range of evidence presented to the mission. It demonstrates an embarrassing failure by certain members of the mission to objectively assess the evidence and experience of 18 years of uranium mining at the adjacent Ranger mine.
This report would not withstand independent scrutiny.
The report claims that the Jabiluka mine poses a threat to World Heritage values as the mission "seriously questions the compatibility of mining, and particularly uranium mining and milling in such close proximity (to) a World Heritage Property."
Surprisingly, the Ranger uranium mine, which has operated safely for the past 18 years just 20 kilometres from Jabiluka, is not considered a threat. So while the report claims Jabiluka should be closed down, the more physically intrusive Ranger mine is allowed to proceed.
Not only that, but the mission says the World Heritage Area surrounding Ranger should be increased because of its outstanding values - values they believe are not threatened by Ranger. This flies in the face of its stated concerns about the compatibility of uranium mining near a World Heritage property.
Australia will also express its concern at a blatant abuse of process by the mission.
The Australian Government was given a clear commitment that it would be provided with a draft copy for comment prior to the finalisation of the report. This would have allowed the government to address any concerns raised and provide further factual information if required.
The mission has, without reason, reneged on that commitment and provided its final report direct to the IUCN and ICOMOS. Australia received the report less than 24 hours before its delegation departed for the Kyoto meeting where the mission's recommendations will be discussed.
This inexcusable abuse of process calls into question the mission's objectivity in dealing with the issues surrounding Kakadu.
The Commonwealth has gone to great lengths to cooperate with the mission. Its action is a breach of trust which casts grave doubt over the ability of the upcoming Kyoto meeting of the World Heritage Bureau to handle this matter in a fair and objective manner.
Of serious concern to Australia is a letter included as an annexe to the report which reveals that the final report does not reflect the views of the majority drafting group which compiled the initial draft.
It specifically states that "there was no recommendation from the majority calling for the immediate halting of the Jabiluka mine".
There is no explanation in the final report as to why this, and other views of the majority drafting group, were overturned.
The process, it would appear, has been seriously compromised, resulting in a report which ignores due process and scientific fact. The report's farcical contradictions underline the reason why Australia should have been given a fair opportunity to respond.
Australia has written to the World Heritage Bureau informing it that it would be physically impossible for our government to assess and prepare a detailed, considered response to this report prior to the Kyoto meeting. Australia has therefore requested that the issue be withdrawn from the Kyoto agenda to allow the time needed to do so.
The report ignores a range of facts including:
Media contact: Matt Brown on 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515