Environment Minister, Tony Burke, today left for Antarctica to gain first-hand experience of the continent and to meet the men and women whose work is critical to the success of the Australian Antarctic program.

Minister Burke flew from Hobart to Wilkins Aerodrome and will stay at Casey station for three days.

“Australia’s Antarctic Territory encompasses 42 percent of the continent and we have a huge responsibility to ensure we protect and manage this exceptional, but vulnerable, environment,” Minister Burke said.

“Australia’s science program is leading the world in providing fundamental information to improve our understanding of the key role of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean in Australian and global climate systems.

“On this visit I will meet the scientists and support personnel who are integral to Australia achieving its aims in the region.

“Antarctica occupies a unique place in our national identity dating back to the ‘Heroic Era’ of exploration a century ago.

“National interests in the region continue to be a high priority for the Government and we are committed to maintaining a strong presence in Antarctica now and into the future.”

Australia’s current national interests in Antarctica have been endorsed by successive governments and are based on the region’s strategic, scientific, environmental and potential economic importance for Australia. They are to:

  • Preserve our sovereignty over the Australian Antarctic Territory, including our sovereign rights over the adjacent offshore areas.
  • Take advantage of the special opportunities Antarctica offers for scientific research
  • Protect the pristine Antarctic environment, having regard to its special qualities and effects particularly on our region, but also globally.
  • Maintain Antarctica free from strategic and/or political confrontation.
  • Be informed about and able to influence developments in a region geographically proximate to Australia.

Members of the Senate Standing Committee on the Environment and Communications and the Joint Standing Committee on the National External Territories will also travel to Antarctica on the scheduled flight for a day visit.