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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1693


Senator MISSEN(8.29) —in reply-I wish to speak briefly in reply. I shall deal firstly with the matters raised by Senator MacGibbon. I do not intend to challenge in any way a number of the points which he made. The point of the investigation which I have made into this matter was to raise in a motion the questions which I think are worrying a number of people in this community. Some of the answers that Senator MacGibbon has given may well be found to be correct and there may therefore be less misapprehension about certain aspects of this matter. I do not feel, however, that Senator MacGibbon's remarks in any way answer the whole of the matter. One of the problems which I raised in my earlier speech-I do not intend to go further with it tonight-was the problem of the lack of investigation over a number of years and the fact that we have reached a situation in which, as Senator MacGibbon said, we cannot say, because there is no data, whether the infestation will worsen. That is the problem. The question may be whether the inquiries that are being made by the Crown of Thorns Starfish Advisory Committee and the proposals put forward in its report, which the Minister for Education (Senator Ryan) has kindly tendered tonight and which I think is very useful to us all, are adequate and represent the right way of tackling the problem. It is proposed that quite a considerable amount of money will be spent. I hope, with Senator MacGibbon, that the Government will announce that a considerable amount of money will be expended in this way this year.

I think it is important that a committee of the Parliament-I emphasise 'of the Parliament'-look at the question and see whether the lines of investigation are correct and whether this is an adequate response to the problem. I might go into some argument with Senator MacGibbon as to whether the infestation is not more serious than he suggested. However, in general the matters which he raised in his speech are matters which will certainly be considered by a Senate committee. He suggested, however, that no committee of the Parliament could really be expected to investigate sufficiently. I do not believe that this is so. Like Senator Primmer, I also have a letter from Mr Peter Milton saying that a House of Representatives committee is keen to undertake this study. Apparently that committee feels capable of doing this. Of course, very considerable written as well as other material is available to assist that committee in its task.

So far as the Daintree Road is concerned, there is no doubt that the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority itself, which has drawn my attention to this matter, fears the dangers which are inherent in the road as it presently stands. Whether something should be done as has been suggested here is a matter which I trust the committee will take into consideration. However, I think it is important that this matter be taken up immediately and looked at by a committee of this Parliament which would no doubt be expected to contribute to the cost of such work.

You will note, Madam Acting Deputy President, that my motion has been amended to leave open the choice of which committee would be available and the most suitable one to undertake this work. I think it would be unrealistic to suggest that it would be other than a House of Representatives committee. Senator Primmer has read into the record the letter from Mr Milton. I also have a copy of that letter. I have also received a letter from Senator Jones, the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science, Technology and the Environment in which he says that he feels that his Committee would not be capable at the moment of dealing with this matter but that the House of Representatives committee is. As the Senate has raised this matter and pressed for some action for some inquiry to be undertaken, I think it is desirable that this motion be carried by the Senate. When this is done the committees will, obviously in their wisdom, reach agreement as to which one should undertake the investigation. I believe that it is very necessary that this investigation be done, and done in this year. The excellent report which we obtained this year, which the Government has and which is now before the Senate will, no doubt, be a basis for such discussion. I think further investigation is required as to whether the report into this very important area which is of importance to this country is adequate or not. I therefore trust that the Senate will carry this motion and that a committee of the Parliament will proceed forthwith to investigate this matter.

Question resolved in the affirmative.