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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3504

Senator VIGOR —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism aware that the Illawarra planetarium project, the highest priority project for the Wollongong area, has been allocated $1m from the New South Wales bicentennial funds, contingent upon a commitment of steel regions assistance program funds, in time to enable completion for the bicentennial year? Does the Government understand the value of a planetarium as a tourist attraction and an educational facility? In particular, does the Government realise that there are 2,000 planetaria around the world, but no major planetarium in Australia? Is the Government aware of the benefits that the Illawarra planetarium project will bring to the Wollongong area in terms of employment and tourism, as well as being a major educational resource for New South Wales? When does the Government intend to commit funds from the steel regions assistance program tourism funds to allow this imaginative and essential bicentennial project to proceed?

The PRESIDENT —Order! I call the Minister, and I ask honourable senators once again to reconsider the length of the questions that they ask.

Senator RYAN —Senator Vigor can be assured that the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, Mr Brown, is well aware of the details of the planetarium project and has noted the views in the many representations he has received on this subject. However, Senator Vigor will be aware of the difficult budgetary situation that the Government faced this year and that only $2m was provided towards the tourism element of the steel regions assistance program, including $1m for the Illawarra region. Given this limited funding, and that forward commitment approval has not been forthcoming for the program, the planetarium simply cannot be approved at this time. Senator Vigor ought to be aware that projects of the size of the planetarium can be approved under the program only if the Minister is able to obtain sufficient funds through future budgetary processes.