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Wednesday, 5 September 1984
Page: 475

Senator ROBERTSON —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Special Minister of State been drawn to recent claims by members of the Opposition that the Government this year has cut spending on coastal surveillance in northern Australia by 36 per cent? What is the true position of government spending on coastal surveillance, and is there any justification for the Opposition's claims ?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The claims of the Opposition are quite unfounded in this respect, as so often elsewhere. In fact, there has been a slight increase in spending this year on coastal surveillance. The Budget estimate for 1984-85 is $ 21.2m, compared to the 1983-84 program expenditure of $20.7m. Following a reappraisal of needs by the Department of Health, there has been a reduction in flying hours under the civil air contracts for littoral aerial surveillance for quarantine purposes. These reductions were supported by the health officials working for the governments of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

These cost savings for some of the flying time have been more than offset by the expenditure incurred by transferring co-ordination and control of coastal surveillance to the Australian Federal Police. This move, resulting from a ministerial review of coastal surveillance, has greatly enhanced the effectiveness and efficiency of coastal surveillance in Australia. The Government is finalising details for placing three coastal protection units in northern Australia. One will be in Darwin, and the sites for the units to be located in north Queensland and northern Western Australia are the subject of negotiations between the Federal and State governments concerned. Announcements of these locations are expected soon.