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Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
15 April 1999
Federal Environment Minister, Senator Robert Hill, today released Australia's response to the report of the UNESCO World Heritage Mission to Kakadu National Park.
The response clearly demonstrates that there is no basis for including Kakadu National Park on the 'In Danger' list.
"Australia's response confirms that Kakadu is well protected, and that the Jabiluka mine will have no adverse impact on world heritage values," Senator Hill said.
Senator Hill indicated that Australia's response, including a report by the Australian Government and an independent report by the Supervising Scientist, will be delivered to the World Heritage Committee in Paris this week.
The report of the Supervising Scientist is a comprehensive and independent review of the scientific issues raised by the UNESCO Mission. It was prepared with assistance from experts at the CSIRO, the University of Melbourne, the University of NSW and the Bureau of Meteorology. It concludes:
"Contrary to the views expressed by the Mission, the natural values of Kakadu National Park are not threatened by the development of the Jabiluka uranium mine and the degree of scientific certainty that applies to this assessment is very high. There would appear, therefore, to be no justification for a decision by the World Heritage Committee that the natural World Heritage values of Kakadu National Park are in danger as a result of the proposal to mine uranium at Jabiluka."
Senator Hill welcomed this conclusion by Australia's leading scientific experts.
"The Jabiluka mine was subject to a rigorous three year assessment process. We took a precautionary approach and imposed over 70 stringent conditions. The experts have now confirmed that we got it right."
Senator Hill said the Government would implement some additional measures suggested by the Supervising Scientist in the detailed design of the Jabiluka project. This will further increase the level of protection.
Australia's response identifies several errors of science, law and logic contained in the UNESCO Mission report. Some of the issues highlighted by the report include:
Senator Hill said Australia's response confirmed its commitment to protecting the cultural and natural values of Kakadu National Park.
"Australia has considered the Mission report in a constructive manner and believes several of the Mission recommendations are consistent with Australia's approach to protecting Kakadu. Where these recommendations can add value to our efforts to protect Kakadu, we will act upon them."
In accordance with the decision of the World Heritage Committee at its December 1998 meeting, Australia's report, and the report of the Supervising Scientist, will now be subject to independent expert review before being considered by the World Heritage Committee in July 1999. The next challenge for Australia is to ensure that this review is transparent, objective and truly independent.
Note to editors: A full copy of the Government's response to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, 'Australia's Kakadu: Protecting World Heritage' can be viewed at Environment Australia's website: www.environment.gov.au
Media contact: Rod Bruem (02) 62777640 or 0411 128 582 (27/99)