Former Prime Minister of France, Michel Rocard, and Australia, Bob Hawke, at 35th ATCM in Hobart (Australia) - 11 June 2012

 June 2012

Michel Rocard and Bob Hawke hailed as "Heroes of the Antarctic"


At the opening session of the XXXV Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, on the 11th of June, former prime minister Bob Hawke and former French counterpart Michel Rocard were saluted as "heroes of the Antarctic" by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke.

Together they achieved what was considered impossible more than 20 years ago - persuading nations to put aside their sovereign interests and differences to ban mining on the nearly pristine icy continent and to agree that the environmental protection of Antarctica, above all else, was in the best interests of mankind.

"I salute both of you and say you are both heroes of the Antarctic," Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke said at the launch of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting yesterday.

They succeeded in achieving the Madrid Protocol, a breathtaking diplomatic about-face which, at its outset in 1991, had appeared impossible to achieve.

The protocol which came into effect in 1998, banned Antarctic mining activity for at least 50 years.

"There are very few conservation outcomes that have ever happened in the history of the world that can compete with what Bob Hawke and Michel Rocard achieved with the Madrid Protocol," Mr Burke said.

"Together, one by one, they turned around the rest of the world from a near unanimous verdict in favour of mining, to a unanimous verdict in favour of conservation."

"It was all cooked up in the gardens of the Prime Minister's residence in Paris," Mr Hawke said.

"I know this is not environmentally appropriate to say but it was done over a smoko ... me with a cigar and Michel Rocard with a cigarette."

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© Le Cercle Polaire - juin 2012 - Tous droits réservés

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