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Media Release

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

COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT TELLS FOH TO PAY UP


27 July 1998

The Commonwealth Government today demanded that the Friends of Hinchinbrook (FOH) pay up over $100,000 in legal costs which the Courts had ordered the group to pay when dismissing their protracted legal attempts to stop the development at Hinchinbrook.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment Senator Ian Macdonald, also demanded that the radical minority opposing the Hinchinbrook development stop wasting taxpayer dollars.

"Three Courts have now ordered that there is no basis for opposition to the almost completed development, " Senator Macdonald said.

Senator Macdonald criticised the Senate Committee hearing which is scheduled for Cardwell and Townsville for later this week as another waste of taxpayers dollars.

"Already we have had three court cases and one previous Senate Committee hearing with the same people saying the same thing each time.

"And I am very angry that the taxpayer is being called on to spend more money on yet another investigation to consider matters already adjudicated by three courts.

"The Commonwealth has been forced to incur court costs of $161,265 to defend irresponsible court proceedings brought against it on Hinchinbrook and the Courts have ordered the FOH to pay the Commonwealths costs because their actions were without merit.

"Friends of Hinchinbrook took action in the Federal Court before Justice Sackville to stop the project by having Senator Hill's decisions invalidated," Senator Macdonald said.

"Justice Sackville comprehensively rejected the action but the Friends of Hinchinbrook appealed to the Full Bench of the Federal Court.

"The Commonwealth was forced to defend that proceeding as well.

"The three judges of the Federal Court unanimously dismissed the appeal.

"Friends of Hinchinbrook still would not accept the decision and irresponsibly applied to the High Court for a further hearing.

"The High Court also rejected their appeal.

"At all stages the courts have ordered the Friends of Hinchinbrook to pay the Commonwealths legal costs 'but we are still waiting'

"Now on top of all of that we have another Senate hearing forced by the Democrats, the Greens and Labor which in itself will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars to hear most of the same witnesses saying the same things yet again.

"Before FOH start wasting further taxpayers dollars they should pay up the money they already owe the taxpayer in awarded costs.

"If there was any likely hood of the current Senate Hearing coming up with something new it may be acceptable

"But we are only rehashing the evidence presented in the three court cases

"The Commonwealth decisions have been subjected to the most rigorous scrutiny in the court cases and each time Senator Hill's decisions have been vindicated," Senator Macdonald said.

"The courts found that the protection arrangements put in place by the Deed which the Commonwealth demanded the developer sign were so stringent that the risk of damage to World Heritage values was 'so low as to be insignificant'.

"The Court also ruled that in making his decision Senator Hill 'took into account the common sense principal that caution should be exercised where scientific opinion is divided or incomplete.

"The Court approved Senator Hill's adoption of 'this precautionary principle'.

"The Court also found that Senator Hill 'had imposed extensive and detailed obligations on the developer'.

"The Federal Court and the High Court have confirmed that Senator Hill was rigorous and proper in the process he adopted and there was no conceivable cause for overturning Senator Hill's decision.

"Most Australians are sick and tired of minorities continuing to oppose the development after all previous investigations have shown the process to be correct," Senator Macdonald said.

Ends 27
July 1998
For further enquires please call Philip Connole 07 4771 3066 or 0417 063 605

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