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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4044

Senator O'BRIEN(6.25 p.m.) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I wish to refer to the annual report of the Australian Maritime College, a college which is located in Launceston, in northern Tasmania, the city in which I have my electorate office. I have grave concern for one of the important areas of operation in that college. It is a very important college, training the seafarers of this and other nations, but also conducting some important research. On page 20 of the report, the Australian Maritime Engineering Cooperative Research Centre reports:

The funding of $14.5M for the Australian Maritime Hydrodynamics Facility—allocated last year for the joint proposal from AMECRC and AMC—was withdrawn as a part of the new Federal Government's plan to restore the Commonwealth budget to surplus. Given the importance of the proposed facility to Australia, AMC and the AMECRC are actively exploring alternative arrangements for the facility and associated research.

I want to stress the words `given the importance of the proposed facility to Australia,' because that statement must be underlined.

Some of the research from this centre plays an important part in the development of the high-speed ferry industry, which is a burgeoning industry in Hobart. If it survives this government's manipulation of the ships bounty scheme, it will provide employment for a number of decades for many people in the city of Hobart, with spin-offs throughout the state of Tasmania and natural benefits for the whole of the country, not the least of which will be income from the export of the large ferries that are manufactured on that site. The development of the ferries has relied upon the development of technology, particularly for the wave piercing aspect of the fast ferries produced, and centres like the AMECRC are very important in the development of that technology.

It seems to me that it is a very short-sighted policy of this government to deny such a small amount of funding to such an important research centre when many millions of dollars flow back into this country from facilities such as the Incat ferry manufacturing company in Hobart and like manufacturing plants in Western Australia. These technologies are important. They are breaking new barriers in terms of ship production. The ferries that are produced, arising out of this technology, will ultimately service not only Australia and the Pacific region but the whole of the world.

This government needs more vision. Its policies in this area lack lustre, I must say. I would suggest to the government that it has a close look at its policy in relation to the funding of the cooperative research centre at the Maritime College. It is a goofy policy to ignore the trends in development of the shipping industry, to ignore the technology that is important, to ignore opportunities to enhance Australia's export industries and to ignore the development of important technological research in the city of Launceston.

I must say that some of the constituents of Launceston have remarked every time they see a report that the minister seems to have his or her picture in the document. I suppose that is a given, whoever is in power. Can I suggest to the minister that perhaps this is not one of the more supercilious photos that are used in these sorts of publications. Perhaps she has chosen well on this occasion.