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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2436

Senator BOSWELL(5.03) —Senator MacGibbon and I, as Queensland senators, naturally are particularly concerned about surveillance aspects pertaining to the coverage of the Great Barrier Reef. I feel that we are quite justified in asking a number of questions. Everybody in Queensland was happy with the AireSearch Pty Ltd surveillance; it saved lives, it apprehended clam poachers. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority was very happy with it, as it made clear in its annual report. There was effective surveillance ability as well as an effective search program that could scan 360-degree targets. The system could operate at night and had a 150-nautical-mile radius. I am concerned that the Government has been sold a pup. It has taken away an effective radar surveillance with which everybody was happy, has flown in the face of public opinion and put in something that nobody knows anything about.

What saving has the Government made on this? Could the Minister give us an accurate figure in that respect? We now have a radar with no capacity whatever for rescue or night flying. This is a matter which the Government has not considered. What price does the Government put on a professional fisherman's life? I have a Press release on this matter and I shall be kind to the Minister and read only the relevant part:

Fishermen's lives could be lost if the Federal Government went ahead with its proposal to scrap Australia's most successful civilian surveillance aircraft, the Great Barrier Reef Nomad. The Chairman of the Qld Commercial Fishermen's Organisation, Mr Dale Bryan, said the Government was playing with his members' lives by downgrading surveillance of the reef. 'A lot of fishermen, particularly those in North Queensland, owe their lives to that aircraft and crew over the past three years', he said. 'In just a matter of a few months last year the aircraft directly led to the saving of four fishermen in two incidents in Barrier Reef waters'.

I am sure the Minister would agree that the new radar which he has accepted has none of this capacity. I would like the Minister to give some explanation to the people who work in the commercial fishing industry and the people who go out on the reef for pleasure.