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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 329


Senator BROWNHILL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment. Bushfires this summer have caused losses estimated at some $20m. In addition, four people lost their lives and nine were seriously injured. The 1983 Ash Wednesday fire claimed 73 lives and caused insured property losses of approximately $180m. Taking into account the fact that the Federal Government last year cut funding to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation by 10 per cent in real terms and failed to finance the National Centre for Fire Research at Chisholm Institute in Victoria, which closed as a result, and in light of the continuing threat of bushfires to the Australian community each summer, can the Minister explain the Government's reluctance to provide sufficient funds for bushfire research?


Senator RYAN —Our Government is acutely aware of the problems and devastations caused by bushfires on what seems to be an almost regular basis throughout this country. It is certainly not the case that the issue has been neglected in any way by the Government. I can inform the honourable senator and the Senate that the report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation entitled 'Bushfires and the Australian Environment' has been actively considered by the Government and that a response is currently being prepared. The recommendations in the report are being considered by all Commonwealth departments and authorities which have interests and responsibilities in relation to bushfire matters. I expect that the Government will shortly report to Parliament on its response to the recommendations in the report and I assume that that response will include some indication of additional funds to be devoted to this very serious matter.