Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (15:03): Mr President, pursuant to standing order 74(5), I ask Senator Conroy, the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, for an explanation as to why answers have not been provided to question on notice No. 2980, asked on 16 May 2013, relating to the Point Peron canal development in the Perth metropolitan area.
Senator LUDLAM (Western Australia) (15:03): I move:
That the Senate take note of the answer-
or the formal absence of an answer-
by the minister representing the minister for the environment.
Obviously, it is not Senator Conroy's fault if the minister that he represents in here has not sent across a brief. But we have been in touch with the minister for environment; we gave them plenty of notice that I was going to put this matter to the chamber. As everyone in this chamber knows, answers to questions on notice are due within 30 days and the clock is running down on this parliament, and I am very keen for an answer to this question because it pertains to events occurring right now in my home state of Western Australia. This question, having been asked on 16 May 2013, should actually have been answered last week. It concerns a recommendation in April by the Western Australian EPA that the unwanted and obsolete Point Peron canal development should proceed so long as it meets certain conditions.
I would like to categorically emphasise the absolute rejection of this approval by the scientific community and the broader community of the region. Three hundred and eighty individual questions and matters have been submitted as part of the EPA appeal process. It is not just me who is keen for an answer; there are at least 8,000 people in Rockingham also waiting on an answer about the future of their backyard.
Point Peron is a place that they consider and we in the Greens consider is too precious to lose. This is a place that they and we will fight ferociously to defend from Premier Barnett's absolutely preposterous and obsolete 1980s-style canal housing development, which nobody in the region wants. If it is allowed to proceed, it will see the regional park on Point Peron bulldozed; the seagrass meadows and marine habitat of penguins, dolphins, fisheries and countless species in Mangles Bay dredged; and the adjoining freshwater Lake Richmond, which is home to one of just two surviving ancient thrombolite communities in WA, impacted very severely upon.
Question 2980 has several components on all of these issues, and environmental vandalism is part and parcel of the Barnett government's unhappy reign. These issues are raised every day by the Greens across Australia as the only voice in parliament that is actually standing up for our precious environment.
This particular case is very different. The land in question was transferred from the Commonwealth to the state of Western Australia in 1964 on the strict condition that its future use be restricted to a reserve for recreation and/or parklands. The Commonwealth in 1968 then confirmed that the land must not be used for private industrial, commercial or residential development-a good commitment. Will the Commonwealth require the Western Australian government to honour these commitments-these commitments that were signed? The minister for finance in 2011 indicated in written correspondence, which I will quote: 'The Federal government has an expectation that the WA government will acknowledge the undertakings previously given in relation to the site.'
So it is a very simple question: will a written agreement signed between the state of Western Australia and the Commonwealth be honoured or not? Is a signed agreement an agreement or not? I expect an answer to my question 2980 very soon, and I ask that the government treat this particular development with the utmost caution. I would particularly commend Senator Conroy to bring a brief from the environment minister while this parliament still stands. It is not good enough for the campaigners, led by the inexhaustible Dawn Jecks, who has been pursuing state and federal governments on this matter for years; or my state Greens colleague Lynn MacLaren MLC, who has been working on this issue for years, representing the broad interests of the community of that part of the Perth metro area who do not want an unwanted and obsolete eighties-style canal development rammed into the coastline that they treat with such respect and regard.
This is a matter that the Commonwealth environment minister could put to rest very, very easily by simply noting that the Commonwealth will expect the Western Australian government to honour its agreement that was signed so many years ago when these agreements were exchanged. That is something that we believe should be clarified and resolved in this parliament and set to rest. Otherwise, we will continue to run the campaign all the way through and out the other side of the federal election, until this place is given the regard and the protection that it so richly deserves.