Australia today welcomes more than 300 delegates from among the 50 Antarctic nations to Hobart for the 35th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.

The ATCM is the premier international forum on Antarctica through which Antarctic Treaty nations come together to realise the Treaty’s vision for Antarctica as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Antarctica is one of the planet’s greatest natural wonders.

“There is growing recognition of Antarctica as an environment of global significance.

“This meeting is an essential forum for joint action on the key objectives of the Antarctic Treaty system — science, environmental protection and peaceful cooperation,” Senator Carr said.

Environment Minister Burke said the Australian Government’s choice of Hobart as host of the 2012 meeting was highly appropriate.

“As our southern capital, Hobart is Australia’s gateway to the Antarctic,” Mr Burke said.

“Holding the ATCM here reflects Hobart’s well recognised status as the home of the Australian Antarctic program and a world-leading hub of Antarctic and Southern Ocean science.

“This continent is like no other place on earth and Australia has been a leader in keeping it that way.”

For over 50 years the ATCM has led international action to achieve environmental protection for Antarctica, including the breakthrough agreement of 1991, championed by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, to ban mineral exploitation in Antarctica indefinitely.

Australia is one of the 12 original parties to the Antarctic Treaty. There are now 50 parties with Malaysia and Pakistan having recently joined.

Australia’s hosting of the 2012 ATCM coincides with centenary celebrations of Sir Douglas Mawson’s 1911–1914 Australasian Antarctic Expedition.