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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Murray
27 May 2004
Calls by the Labor Party for World Heritage listing of Antarctica demonstrates Mr Latham's lack of understanding of the complex and delicately balanced Antarctic Treaty and the protection already in place, Dr Sharman Stone, Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Antarctica said today.
"The fact is, no country has the status under the terms of the World Heritage Convention to nominate Antarctica for World Heritage Listing. Such a nomination would fail at the first hurdle," Dr Stone said. *
Dr David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage joined Dr Stone in saying Australia was a world leader in the environmental protection of Antarctica.
"Mr Latham doesn't seem to understand that even if a World Heritage Listing could occur, the current level of protection exceeds that which would come with World Heritage listing," Dr Kemp said.
The whole of Antarctica is already subject to the best environmental protection regime of any continent, having been declared a "Natural Reserve devoted to peace and science" by the Antarctic Treaty parties in 1991.
Mr Latham also called for a permanent moratorium on mining in Antarctica.
"But the fact is the Environmental Protection Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty also already effectively provides for a permanent ban on mining in Antarctica. This came into force in 1998."
It is the Coalition that has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring that Antarctica is valued, protected and understood.
The calls for World Heritage listing are just a political gimmick.
* Article 11 of the World Heritage Convention provides that a State Party may submit to the World Heritage Committee an inventory of suitable property forming part of the cultural and natural heritage that is "situated in its territory". As the Australian Antarctic Territoty (AAT) does not encompass the whole of the Antarctic continent, Australia cannot nominate the whole of Antarctica for inclusion in the World Heritage List. A nomination by all countries with Antarctic claims would also not satisfy the World Heritage Convention's requirements as there is a significant part of Antarctica that is not claimed by any country.