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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray

16 May 2002
Parliament House

Official Opening of the AAD Photo Exhibition

Let me begin by saying that I am sorry for the delay in opening this exhibition, but Dr David Kemp, myself and other members of Parliament that are not present, are late because of divisions.

When the bells ring, we are required to be in chamber!

It is great to see so many people here and I would like to particularly welcome the Minister of Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, who while new to the portfolio has a great interest in the sustainability of Australia's Environment and Heritage and the areas that we protect, which includes of course 42% of the huge continent of the Antarctic.

The Australian Antarctic Division is known as one of the pre-eminent agencies working in the environment, when you think of the other countries that do work down there.

This photographic exhibition that we are launching here today 'Antarctica valued, protected and understood' is all about showing not just the glorious photos, as it is almost impossible to take a poor photo - the beauty is real, the colour, the stillness, the wind, the wildlife is just extraordinary and today we are surrounded by reminders of that.

This exhibition is about more than just the beauty of the Antarctic, it is also aiming to show the vulnerability of that extraordinary continent and its seas because, we have got of course, a pristine environment, but where human footprints fall on the continent they are concentrated on the edge, and if you look where the stations are built, you have got a very small amount of land where a great deal of activity takes place.

We are getting more and more visitor numbers every year. I mean a footprint can fall on the ground and still be seen a decade later, that is the sort of vulnerability that we are talking about. And if some people still imagine that the wildlife is as it ever was, then they don't know the history of the exploitation of the southern oceans.

We have had the most extraordinary exploitation of the marine animals, in particular, the whales, the seals and the penguins, highlighting that we are now in a position that we are bringing back the species - many of them were driven to extinction, like the elephant seal photo over there. When I look at that photo it just reminds me that the elephant seals were driven basically to commercial extinction.

The way that they were killed? A bar through the throat. We are there to ensure the safety and protection of these marine animals.

As you know the continent has been declared as a reserve for peaceful pursuit, as a place of conservation and a place of science, so this exhibition in particular shows all of the scientific work.

This exhibition is also about the waste that has been generated in previous eras when we didn't know any better like in the 1950's, 60's and 70's.

And here you can see the photos of the drums, with hydrocarbons leaking from the containers.

So this exhibition of photographs also shows you the unfortunate consequences that footprints have had down at the Antarctic and what the AAD is doing about that.

Today we have representatives from Collex here proving that we have great business partnerships down in the Antarctic with multinational companies. They have donated big shipping container's to bring back some of the rubbish to Australia.

So I just want to make sure that just looking at this exhibition, people get an idea on how we have gone. We now do understand just how important the continent is in terms of its impact on the weather, as a natural resource that is locked into the ocean and how we are trying very hard to make sure that we don't go the same way as temperate parts of this world.

We are working to make sure that we can keep Australia's interests in the continent for generations to come.

I think it is the object of many Australians to go down to the Antarctic or to even work in the Antarctic. And for most of us that will never happen, but through exhibitions and displays similar to this one, with photographs and through the Internet, you can get a better idea and understanding.

So this is an educational exhibition as well as one that will help you see the beauty of the Antarctic.

Finally I would like to draw your attention to the photo of the albatross that reminds me of the illegal fishing problems we have in our southern waters. The fact that this Government can provide the resources to properly police these waters, ensures that the fishers that do the right thing are protected and the others are given the short shift.

So it is a great exhibition "Valued, Protected and Understood". I hope that everyone not just looked but read the interpretations of the photos and thinks of our responsibilities as Australians to this unique area.

Mawson's Hut for instance, has survived 90 years of furious weather and into its future it will be interesting to see how it survives the extra melts that we have been having down on the coastline of Antarctica and it is our job to patch up the hut and deal with the global warming situation also.

So it is with great pride that I officially open the AAD's "Valued, Protected and Understood" photo exhibition and I thank you for being here.

Commonwealth of Australia