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Regent Hotel, Sydney
6.30pm Saturday, 21st February 1998

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

Thank you Lee Casey, Chairman of AAP Information Service; it is a great pleasure that I welcome home the expeditioners of the Mawson's Hut Foundation.

Congratulations to you all who have been involved in one of the most successful campaigns in Australian Heritage history.

I use the term campaign advisedly as it has the elements of planning and execution of a military campaign. And like any decent political campaign it has had to deal with any number of unexpected problems and "out of left field" issues on the way to a successful conclusion.

The significance of Mawson to Australia's Heritage has for many years been recognised. Mawson was one of Australia's greatest Antarctic explorers and the courage and spirit of Mawson set the standard for our long involvement and territorial claim in the Antarctic.

The inevitable destruction of the huts loomed as a national disaster. Successive governments recognised the significance of the huts, but the issue of financing became too hard.

When this project was originally announced many of the knockers wrote if off, said it will never happen, it can't be done, can't be done by private enterprise. Too difficult to raise funds, too difficult to wade through the heritage red tape and too difficult to negotiate with government and the public sector, too difficult to form a team, too difficult to battle what really is the harshest climate in the world simply to rescue some 87 year old building.

But it's all happened. And the success of the venture I believe has been attributable to three factors.

First of all as Sir Peter Derham has mentioned, Lee Casey and the AAP Group. They showed commendable courage in establishing the Foundation, doing things that governments in the past had failed to do. And where governments failed AAP succeeded.

Secondly as part of the overall battle plan and the campaign, the enormous work that the Foundation members did, and I mention particularly here David Jensen who's been a untiring supporter and advocate for what has happened.

And of course thirdly and perhaps most importantly, is the expedition team. All of those who braved the weather and the elements and the difficulties, you've certainly done Australia proud. The work that most other Australians will ever do pales into insignificance against your tremendous achievements.

I read from way up in North Queensland your daily reports, well most of them anyhow, and it seemed to be a lot of fun but there were some problems as well. I believe that at one stage we wondered whether we'd be holding this function this time this year or this time next year if you didn't happen to get off!

But I'm sure the expedition is something you'll all remember. Most of you have been to the Antarctic before but I'm sure that this campaign will be a very special part of your memory.

When Mawson left those huts in Commonwealth Bay, he wouldn't have had any idea that they would become a memorial, not only to him and his party and his expedition but to all Australians who have served in the Australian Antarctic Territory in the years since. And this memorial, which you people have saved from almost certain destruction, has now become a real testament to your expedition and enterprise.

In passing and concluding I just want to acknowledge our guest and friend from the Getty Foundation, Mr Agnew. There are a lot of good things being done worldwide, and in Australia by AAP with a little bit of assistance from the government and others, and the Heritage Commission. Perhaps it is time though that we looked at our getting a real Heritage Plan for the whole of the Antarctic Continent and perhaps that's something that we as a Nation, that AAP as a leading, philanthropic you'd almost call it, but a leading company in Australia, and the Getty Foundation could seriously look at.

If those people can get together, perhaps what you've done today will be the start of a worldwide attempt on heritage preservation and heritage work on the Antarctic Continent and the Islands.

Ladies and Gentlemen, again congratulations to you all, it's been a tremendous team effort.

In the regrettable absence of Sir Edmond Hilary, who I understand is not well - which is such a shame because as you all know, when this was launched he was one of the great advocates of what you were proposing - it is my privilege on behalf of the Government of Australia and the AAP Mawson's Hut Foundation to present to all of the expeditioners a Certificate from the Foundation to recognise and perhaps say thank you and well done for the work that you have performed. I also present to each of you a letter of appreciation from the Government of Australia.

Commonwealth of Australia