It was great pity that the environmental issues facing North Western Australia received so little coverage and debate during the Federal election. The proposed Browse Basin gas hub(s) in the Kimberley and the World Heritage listing of Ningaloo Reef are just two of the critical decisions facing both the State and Federal governments.
With all the activity in Canberra it would have been easy to miss Peter Garrett's announcement of a long-term environmental assessment of the Kimberley region. He suggested that this could lead to world heritage listing of the Kimberley. He also flagged short term plans to help protect the environment such as support for a single LNG hub.
According to the Broome Advertiser (14 February 2008), Barry Haase, Liberal MHR for Kalgoorlie, attacked Garrett's statement as a ploy to win votes. Haase supported the urgent commercialisation of the basin and questioned whether heritage listing would bring tourists:
The heritage listing of Shark Bay has not caused an influx of tourists; I suggest that, while not wilderness, these gas plants may themselves become tourist icons in the future.Haase's comments brought a swift rebuke from Save the Kimberley's Peter Tucker who suggested he "get his head out of the sand and step into the 21st century".
Meanwhile the Advertiser also reported that George Negus, the Kimberley's new best friend, plans to meet traditional owners when he vistis the region next month. Perhaps George can raise the national profile of the environmental issues in this part of the world.