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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1471


Mr BARRY JONES (Minister for Science and Technology and Acting Minister for Home Affairs and Environment)(4.41) —I say to my colleague the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism (Mr John Brown) that the last minute of his speech was one of the most graphic and also one of the longest that I have ever heard. I take up one or two of the points raised by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Lindsay), the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Reeves) and the honourable for La Trobe ( Mr Milton), relating to home affairs and the environment.

The honourable member for Bradfield raised the question of Tasmania and, in particular, the provision of support for rangers in the wilderness area of south west Tasmania which of course, has been an area of great controversy. He complained that the Commonwealth provision of only 12 rangers was inadequate. Of course, we are all conscious of the recent vandalism with the destruction of one of the gaint 3,000-year-old Huon pines in the area. The reality is that even if the Commonwealth provided a battalion of rangers it would be insufficient to protect such a vast area, especially if people go to the area determined to break the law and inflict vandalism. It is such a densely forested area with very poor visibility that it is an enourmous task to try to police it if people are determined to wreak some havoc. The Commonwealth for its part has offered asistance to provide rangers to protect the most critical features of the heritage area. The required number of rangers and adequate back-up support- vehicles, fire fighting equipment, boats and a helicopter-were discussed by the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and its Tasmanian counter- parts. The Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service felt that 12 rangers with adequate support services would be sufficient to protect the most critical features during the coming summer. Honourable members should appreciate that the Commonwealth support amounts to about $1m.

As the Committee would know, there is a great deal of political sensitivity in Tasmania over the whole issue of States rights. It is important that the States should be seen as having the primary responsibility for conservation in this uniquely beautiful wilderness area. The Commonwealth, in a sense, will have to respond to a large extent to what the Tasmanians believe would be adequate. The agreement to provide support is of an interim nature and, of course, it is open to review once Premier Gray has signed the compensation agreements that have been presented to him by the Commonwealth. It is very important that we work together in this area, that we try to bind the wounds and end the period of confrontation over the dam.

I am only acting on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment (Mr Cohen). The issue raised by the honourable member for Herbert about the Great Barrier Reef, the question raised by the honourable member for the Northern Territory as to whether the Uluru area should be declared a national park and the question of coastal management and some other related conservation issues raised by the honourable member for La Trobe will be raised and discussed when Odysseus returns.

Proposed expenditures agreed to.

Department of Communications

Proposed expenditure, $376,673,000.