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Tuesday, 24 February 1987
Page: 580

Mr DOWNER —Is it a fact that the Minister for Territories has written to the de facto of the administrator of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands suggesting that he may wish to conduct at the expense of taxpayers a survey of the animal and plant life of the islands at an annual salary-paid, of course, by taxpayers-of $40,000 tax free? Why has the position not been advertised in accordance with the Government's usual procedures and why does the Minister believe that this survey has such a high priority?

Mr SCHOLES —This question was resolved some time ago. The honourable gentleman raised the matter and a response was given. There are, as a matter of course, ongoing activities in relation to conservation and-

Mr Sinclair —Birds and bees.

Mr SCHOLES —I am sure that the right honourable member will realise that the birds on Cocos Island are important to many people-and not the type of birds that he is normally interested in. The position which was referred to was the subject of consideration by my Department. It was determined that Dr Williams had expertise in this area and had in the past been involved in similar work in respect of the area concerned. I am aware that certain members of the Opposition have been engaged in activities which are designed to destabilise the community on the Cocos Islands in the interests of a particular individual. The honourable gentleman, whilst not one of them, has himself become involved for reasons which are not apparent to me or members of this House. The Cocos community has an extremely high degree of community interest. This area is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, both economically and ecologically, and this Government will do whatever is necessary to ensure that we meet our obligations to the people of the Cocos Islands, not just to Clunies Ross.