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Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart
10th December 1997

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

Thank you Ian (McCausland)

Hobart has had a long and proud tradition as a staging point for some of the world's greatest Antarctic expeditions. It is fitting that this expedition, one which will rescue a crucial part of Australia's Antarctic Heritage from destruction, should depart from this famous southern port.

I trust that the expeditioners to whom we bid farewell tonight, will find the Akademik Shokalskiy a little more accommodating than Sir Douglas Mawson's S.Y. Aurora which departed Hobart 86 years ago.

Many of you will have read in the media that a recent report to Government recommended, amongst other things, that Hobart should be maintained as Australia's Antarctic Centre. The Federal Government is presently considering each of the recommendations of the report and a the wide range of public comments.

I doubt that the Tasmanian Minister for Antarctic Affairs, Peter Hodgman would allow me to leave here alive this evening without committing the Federal Government immediately to that particular recommendation.

Hobart will not only be maintained as "Australia's" Antarctic Centre, but will continue to be developed and enhanced to become "the World's Antarctic Centre."

The Antarctic is important to Australia for a many number of reasons. We claim 42% of the continent, the largest single Antarctic territorial claim by far. Australia's Antarctic is the focal point of much of our global climate change research. Much of our weather and the ocean currents which affect us have their origins in the Antarctic.

Australia's Antarctic Territory is part of a region whose environment is as close to pristine as it is possible to get on Earth. We have an obligation to protect our Antarctic territory, along with its adjacent subantarctic regions which were recognised globally only last week with the inscription of both Macquarie Island and the Heard-Mcdonald island group by the World Heritage Bureau.

Lastly, as the expedition highlights, Australia's Antarctic is becoming increasingly important to us for its heritage significance.

I am told that successive Australian Governments have held the restoration of Mawson's Huts as an objective. Despite good intentions, successive Federal Governments have found the restoration of Mawson's Huts to be either too expensive or simply too difficult.

Where successive Federal Governments and other restoration attempts have failed, a truly dynamic Australian company is about to succeed.

Australian Associated Press, through the AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation has achieved something quite uniqueÉeven before this expedition has left port.

AAP has harnessed the support of the private sector, captured the imagination of the public, and (perhaps most remarkably) gained the complete support of all relevant State and Federal Government agencies and politicians.

Major contributions were made by the Australian Antarctic Division, the Australian Heritage Commission, and through a direct Commonwealth Grant.

Recent events at the South Pole have again highlighted the hazardous nature of all Antarctic operations. The Antarctic is no place for amateurs.

An energetic, professional and experienced expedition team has been which I am sure that Sir Douglas himself would have been proud to lead.

Each expeditioner has been put through their paces by the Australian Antarctic Division. Rex Moncur, the Director of the Division, assures me that they are all up to the high standard demanded by our Antarctic Program.

I have heard it said that good policy, planning and preparation make up for only 50% of any successful Antarctic operation. The other 50% is entirely dependent upon the weather. Mawson called Commonwealth Bay "the home of the blizzard," and it is often claimed to be the world's windiest location. In this regard, I am afraid, our expeditioners will need their fair share of luck.

As many of you know, this expedition team is product of almost two years of planning and preparation by AAP. There have been literally hundreds of individuals across the entire spectrum of the broader community who have made contributions to this project.

Each and every contribution, regardless of its size, will play a part in the success of the operation. On behalf of the Federal Government...thank you.

Whilst I am always loath to single out particular individuals at such occasions, I believe that it would be a great injustice to fail to commend the Director of AAP Information Services and the Chair of the AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation, Mr David Jensen.

This expedition would not be leaving these fair shores tomorrow if it were not for the professionalism, energy and sheer determination of David.

On behalf of the Federal Government, I would ask David to accept a token of our appreciation.

This photograph, which I hope will hang proudly in the boardroom of AAP, will shortly become a rare collectors item. I trust that all future photographs of the huts will show them restored to their former glory.

© Commonwealth of Australia