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Thursday, 29 May 1997
Page: 4045

Senator MURPHY(6.29 p.m.) —I want to speak to the same report. The Australian Maritime College and the Australian Maritime Engineering Cooperative Research Centre are located in Launceston. So too are my electorate office and the electorate office of my colleague Senator O'Brien. This is indication of the support that we want to provide to the electorate of Bass, which is minus Mr Warwick Smith. People are still saying, `Where's Warwick?'

Senator Ferguson —He's working. That's where he is.

Senator MURPHY —You know where he is, do you? If you know where he is, let us know. The AMECRC, through its testing facilities at Launceston, has not only played a major role in the development of the fast ferries that are now being built at Incat, but also it helped very much with the development of the keel used by Australia II , the yacht—headed up by the now infamous Mr Alan Bond—that won the Americas Cup from the US for the first time. As a result, the cup was brought to Australia.

The AMC, as Senator O'Brien said, plays a very important role in the training of seamen, both from Australia and overseas. The issue of overseas trained sailors is important. Because we have a process of cabotage in place in this country and because we have some very important shorelines, we need to be assured that they will be protected by people manning ships or personing ships—whatever the word is—

Senator Mackay —Staffing ships.

Senator MURPHY —We need to be sure that the people staffing ships will have the knowledge and the expertise to ensure the protection of places like the Great Barrier Reef. Some skill is required by people bringing ships in and out of the 26 kilometre channel that has been dug in the sea at Port Hedland on the west coast of this country. That is another important role the college plays.

Senator O'Brien raised the question of funding for the AMECRC hydrodynamic facility. The previous Labor government committed $14½ million to that development. This government took it away. This government wrote to AMECRC and suggested to them that they seek money under a different program. It is fairly evident that the government knew full well that they could not meet the criteria or the guidelines of that particular program. In my view, they misled the people who are proposing and have been seeking funding for the hydrodynamic facility.

That facility would have put Australia at the leading edge for that type of activity. We would have been able to provide information on currents. We could have devised the tests that are needed to be applied to deep sea diving and oil and gas platforms—and platforms used for whatever else we may seek to take from the floor of our oceans. We ought to have been at the forefront of the world with that very important information.

Our continent has a 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, which we have to try to manage. We have heard various points raised about how we can control that and run it. That type of research and the knowledge we would have got from that research would have been very important. As to the minister's photograph, Senator O'Brien has used the appropriate words. This is a dumb position. It lacks a whole lot of initiative. It certainly lacks lustre. It is a rather goofy sort of position to put.