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19 June 1998
Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment
(Note: A similar speech was given in Brisbane on 12 June 1998)
- I was proud to be associated last year with the Jubilee celebrations for ANARE - we were able to look back over 50 years of remarkable achievement, achievement made possible by ANARE people such as yourselves.
- I would like to take the opportunity tonight to talk to you about some of the developments that have occurred since last year, including some of the exciting future directions that have been set.
ASAC report and response
- In October 1997 the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee presented its excellent report entitled, Australia's Antarctic Program Beyond 2000: A Framework for the Future.
- Many of you would have read the report with great interest - I would like to take this opportunity to thank those ANARE Club members who took the time to provide me with their very useful comments on ASAC's recommendations.
- In developing its response, which I released on 18 May in Hobart, the Government carefully considered ASAC's report, and also listened to the concerns expressed regarding some of the specific elements of the recommendations.
- The response reflects the input received and also demonstrates the Government's commitment to ensuring that Australia continues to be a leading Antarctic nation in the 21st century.
- In summary, we will continue to support a high quality research program, protect the environment, and enhance Australia's influence within the Antarctic Treaty System.
Now to some of the detail of the Government's response to ASAC's recommendations:
- After careful consideration of the concerns expressed about the potential adverse scientific and other implications, I am pleased to advise that the Government has decided that all four permanent research stations should be retained for the short-term at least - no stations will be closed or mothballed in the near future.
(The Government noted that a major re-building program for Australia's Antarctic stations had only recently been concluded, and that the cost of mothballing stations is prohibitive in the short to medium term - also aware that sure could damage the continuity of important long-term monitoring programs.)
- As an alternative means of reducing costs without otherwise impacting on Australia's goals, we will be looking at the potential for automating current and future monitoring programs - where it is cost-effective to do so and does not compromise the continuity of ongoing monitoring programs.
- I have also asked the Antarctic Division to pursue options for joint use of our current stations with other nations, including non-Treaty nations, to achieve a more cost effective arrangement that does not impact adversely on our goals.
- Davis will continue to be our primary focus on the continent because of the level of scientific interest in the region and because it provides a hub to support operations further afield.
- Any future proposal for developments away from Davis will be carefully examined for costs and implications for future flexibility.
- Our Antarctic stations will not be made available for use by tourists - the Government considers that tourism in Antarctica should continue to be ship-based.
- I have accepted ASAC's advice that options for a transport system that is more flexible and efficient than the present one-ship system must be actively examined.
- I have also accepted its advice on the desirability of air transport for "an innovative and responsive future Antarctic Program." An intercontinental air link will help the Australian program become more flexible, increase scientific output and allow more effective surveillance operations in the Southern Ocean.
- While accepting the benefits of an intercontinental air link, the Government is committed to ensuring that this is cost-effective and meets the highest environmental standards.
- No decisions have been taken yet on how this capability will be provided.
- These decisions will be taken in the light of a scoping study of air transport options which will address environmental and cost considerations. The study will also look at the potential for cooperative arrangements with other Antarctic nations.
Continuation of the Antarctic Division's science program
- The Government recognises the increasing importance of marine research in the Antarctic and, therefore, subject to costs, the Government has accepted the desirability of supporting the Antarctic Program with more than one ship - with one vessel primarily devoted to marine science.
- Options for a multi-ship arrangement will be examined when developing options for shipping beyond the present charter of Aurora Australis - this has commenced.
- The Government accepts ASAC's advice that the current mix of government agencies and universities in the delivery of Australia's Antarctic Program is appropriate.
- This hybrid model maximises opportunities for innovative research while ensuring that longer-term monitoring and other important programs are also conducted.
The challenge now is to effectively and efficiently implement all elements of the Government's response to ASAC's report.
Other developments that may be of interest to you include:
Clean up of past activities
- Illegal fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone around Heard Island poses a major threat to fish stocks and the animals that depend on them for food. Long-line fishing also kills a huge number of albatross each year.
- The Government has taken decisive action to counter these threats and three ships have been arrested and escorted to Fremantle where their masters are facing prosecution -action which could result in forfeiture of vessels, catch and gear, and fines up to $275 000.
- The Government is determined to combat illegal fishing and as well as taking direct enforcement action is taking action through CCAMLR to develop stronger international controls. Where appropriate, we will also work with non-governmental organisations to further our objectives.
Protecting our Antarctic heritage
- The Government's commitment to the Antarctic environment also means that our past activities will have to be cleaned up.
- I have instructed the Antarctic Division to allocate funding of $90 000 to undertake a survey of the old Wilkes station next summer as a basis for a comprehensive plan to clean up this abandoned and buried site - the survey will indicate how the clean up can be done in the most environmentally friendly and cost effective way.
- Up to $5 million may be needed to fund the entire clean up.
- Plans are also being prepared for a clean up of Heard Island - the next ANARE visit to Heard Island is scheduled for the 1999/2000 season and a major component of the expedition will be to clean up the abandoned station as much as possible.
- The Government's quest to achieve World Heritage listing for the Territory of Heard Island and McDonald Islands and Macquarie Island was successful in December 1997 with the formal listing of these important sub-Antarctic islands.
- Last season, with the help of a Government grant of $250 000, the AAP Mawson's Huts Foundation successfully completed an expedition to Commonwealth Bay to carry out essential conservation works on the historic and unique huts constructed during Sir Douglas Mawson's 1911-14 Antarctic expedition.
- I am pleased that the Foundation has been given a further grant of $250 000 in the 1998/99 financial year to continue this excellent work.
TOAST TO ANARE
- Most of the cost of the AAP Mawson's Huts expedition was raised privately - which demonstrates the considerable level of general interest in Antarctic matters.
- This successful partnership between business and government also shows that there are opportunities for joint activities that can benefit all concerned, including the Australian public.
- In accordance with this theme, the Government has decided to examine ways of making some Antarctic Division assets (such as photos, videos and logos) available to the private sector for development of commercial activities to support Australia's Antarctic Program.
- I have advertised in major national newspapers for expressions of interest and am hopeful some interesting new avenues for increasing awareness of Australia's Antarctic achievements will be opened up as a result.
PRESENTATION OF MEDALLIONS
- Thank you to the President for the very kind invitation to attend your Midwinter Dinner - this most important occasion for all Antarctic expeditioners.
- For many of you, Midwinter will re-kindle memories of times spent a long way from places as comfortable as this - thanks to all the organisers for the wonderful job you have done tonight and for your ongoing contribution to keeping the spirit of ANARE alive.
- Among the most enjoyable aspects of my job as the Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic is the opportunity to meet with ANARE Club members and share some of your genuine enthusiasm for the Antarctic and experience the special camaraderie which exists between those who have been a part of Australia's Antarctic program.
- Therefore, it is a great pleasure to be here among so many former expeditioners - people whose contribution has ensured that Australia's Antarctic program has achieved so much and is so highly respected around the world.
- I look forward later in the evening to specially recognising the contributions of some of our former expeditioners, but for now I have the honour of proposing a toast of thanks to all the past and present members of ANARE for their magnificent work in what is an isolated, harsh but very special environment.
- Please charge your glasses and join me: "To the men and women of ANARE."
(Note: In addition to the dinners in Melbourne and Brisbane, medallions were also presented at a short ceremony in Hobart on 19 June 1998)
- The Coalition Government takes great pride in the achievements of its past expeditioners.
- When I commenced as Parliamentary Secretary for the Antarctic I was surprised to find that 797 Australians who wintered at:
- Mawson, Davis or Wilkes from 1959 to 1967;
- Heard Island from 1948 to 1954; and
- Macquarie Island from 1948 to 1972
had not received any formal recognition of the part they had played in Australia's Antarctic effort.
- Clearly, recognition of their efforts was long overdue.
- Last September, I was therefore delighted to announce that the Howard Government had rectified this long standing anomaly by approving the retrospective issue of Antarctic Service Medallions to those wintering expeditioners who had not received any other award on completion of their ANARE service.
- Having had the pleasure to speak with many returned expeditioners, I have some appreciation of the hardships that are experienced by wintering expeditioners, and I am aware that these hardships were in many cases greater for those who wintered in the early years of ANARE.
- The contributions of these early expeditioners has helped to shape the modern Australian Antarctic program and I am honoured to be able to now formally acknowledge their pioneering efforts.
- I ask the President to now call forward those here tonight who are to receive their medallions ...
- Before finishing, I would like to take the opportunity to note that only about 150 of those eligible have actually contacted the Antarctic Division to claim their medallions.
- As the Antarctic Division does not have up to date contact details for many former ANARE expeditioners, I would ask that you encourage any other eligible expeditioners that you know to contact the Division so that we can arrange for them to receive their medallions.