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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1326


Senator VIGOR(5.22) —These 16 treaties cover a diverse range of commitments into which the Government has entered on behalf of Australians. Four, in particular, are of far-reaching significance. There are two relating to notification of nuclear accidents, and assistance in the case of nuclear accidents, which my colleagues will deal with. The two on which I want to spend some time are the Headquarters Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Commission for Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, and the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Republic of India on co-operation in the Field of Science and Technology. It is a pity that we are given only five minutes to deal with 16 treaties of this level of importance.

I would particularly like to draw to the Senate's attention the agreement with India on science and technology. India is our continental neighbour to the north. It has achieved a remarkable technological and industrial revolution since its independence at the end of World War II. India has been famous throughout history for outstanding scientific and other achievements. Since its independence in the 1940s India has emphasised science and technology in all five-year plans. The planning commission is responsible for systematic planning of the Indian economy. In the last 10 years India has succeeded in developing an advanced industrial base with a strong technological emphasis based on full exploitation of its rich natural resources. Taxation and investment breaks for overseas Indians to invest in India have led to a large extent to the development of new enterprises, especially in the area of computing, which is an area that I know something about. Bangalore and Hyderabad are growing electronic cities. The Bombay tax exempt zone has been an outstanding success in encouraging technological investment. In particular, the allocation of 6 per cent of the total budget to research is, I believe, noteworthy and should be taken account of by this Government. Because of the time constraints, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a summary of this research budget allocation. I have sought the permission of both sides of the chamber.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

GANDHI BACKS RESEARCH

New Delhi

The government headed by Rajiv Gandhi, who has pledged to prepare India for the twenty-first century, has allocated the equivalent in rupees of #900 million, or about six per cent of the government's budget for 1985-86, for scientific research and development.

The allocation for science represents only a marginal increase over that for the previous year but it is significant for its emphasis on research and development in non-conventional energy sources, bio-technology, high-power lasers and thermo-nuclear fusion.

As in earlier years, the lion's share of the budget goes to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), which is to set up a new centre for advanced technology at Indore, in Madhya Pradesh. Besides housing a new facility for plasma research, the centre will develop lasers for isotope separation and high power niodymium-glass lasers for laser-induced fusion. DAE also intends to set upt a synchrotron radiation source, build superconducting magnets for its heavy-ion accelerator and establish a medical cyclotron for producing short-lived positron-emitting isotopes and radioactively labelled pharmaceutical preparations.

BUDGET ALLOCATIONS BY SECTOR

(# million)

#

Department of Atomic Energy...

210.0

Space...

133.0

Industrial research...

114.4

Defence research...

104.0

Non-conventional energy...

65.0

Agricultural research...

55.5

Electronics...

78.0

Oceanography...

20.7

Meteorology...

27.0

Other...

93.0

Total...

900.6

The Department of Ocean Development (DOD), which has assessed India's ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) potential at 50,000 MW, is planning to begin work this year on a 1-MW OTEC plant on the island of Lakshadweep. DOD will also place an order for an ice-breaker, estimated to cost #30 million, for undertaking expeditions to Antarctica. Previous expeditions were made in vessels charted from Norway.

Electronics and biotechnology have been singled out as frontier areas. The government has abolished excise duty on computers and drastically reduced customs duty on their import. The Department of Electronics will launch this year a project to design a ``fifth generation super-minicomputer incorporating inference and knowledge based management functions''. The Ministry of Science and Technology has earmarked as sum of #5 million for a biotechnology centre in New Delhi, its contribution to the UNIDO plan for twin international centres for genetic engineering and biotechnology at Trieste, Italy and in New Delhi.

The Department of Environment has allocated funds for setting up a chain of botanical gardens for building a germ-plasm bank of economic plants, and seed and pollen banks for the conservation of threatened species. The department will also initiate this year a five-year #180-million programme to clean up the polluted river Ganges.

The Department of Space, which gets the second biggest share in the budget, plans to set up five regional remote sensing service centres to facilitate use of aircraft and satellite-sensed data and to provide trained manpower. Images received from Landsat will be augmented with data to be obtained from the French SPOT satellite. The space department will also start work on a new launch-pad for orbiting satellites in polar orbits. The polar launch station is expected to become operational in 1992.


Senator VIGOR —I thank the Senate. I look forward to the closer ties with this amazing country which this treaty brings forward. I cannot emphasise too strongly the advantage which Australia can gain from closer economic relations with India. It could become part of a closer economic relations agreement similar to the one with New Zealand.

I also welcome the agreement concerning Antarctica, which is our continental neighbour to the south. It is an area in which we are responsible for 42 per cent of the total angular area. This is a most important milestone in Australia's commitment to the conservation of the Antarctic environment. The CCAMLR Commission is an inter-government organisation which was established under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, which was signed in 1980 and entered into force in 1982. Its objective is to conserve the Antarctic marine life and ecosystem through proper scientifically based management. It does this by compiling information on the numbers caught and observations of fish, whales, krill and other Antarctic sea life. It analyses and publishes this information, which is of extreme use to scientists all over the world.

There are two reasons for welcoming Australia's active role in CCAMLR. The first is the opportunity it offers Australia to establish Hobart as a base for Antarctic expeditions and as a major gateway to the Antarctic, which will also, to some extent, boost the economy in Hobart. Australia has always taken a strong stand on conservation issues in the Antarctic, but we must ensure that enough support from fishing, as well as non-fishing, states is forthcoming so that CCAMLR can work. Russia in particular is very slow to release its fishing data on the size of catches. We should be putting pressure on that country. We have an opportunity, as host to the Commission's headquarters, to put pressure on the fishing nations, particularly Russia, to fulfil their obligations in this area.

I welcome the agreements. I believe that the agreements on fishing around Heard Island which we have entered into with the Russians offer us a lever. Heard Island is in the Antarctic Ocean and is remarkable--


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.