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Wednesday, 4 March 1970


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I move:

Thatthe Bill be now read a second time.

Early in 1967 the United Kingdom and Australian governments agreed to join together in the construction and subsequent operation of a large optical telescope to be located in Australia. The two governments decided that the telescope would have a nominal aperture of150 inches and that its specifications would.be based on the design adopted for a similar optical telescope which was to be constructed by the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona in the United States of America. The Australian National University's Observatory at Siding Spring Mountain, near Coonabarabran in New South Wales, was chosen as the site for the instrument.

Pending the conclusion of a formal agreement between the governments, a joint policy committee was established to initiate arrangements for the construction of the telescope and to supervise detailed design and subsequent manufacture and construction. This committee is made up of Sir Richard Woolley, the Astronomer Royal, Professor Fred Hoyle, Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge University, Professor Olin Eggen, Director of the Mount Stromlo Observatory, and Dr E. G. Bowen, Chief of the Radiophysics Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, together with Mr J. F. Hosie of the Science Research Council in Britain and Mr K. N. Jones of the Department of Education and Science, Canberra. A small project office has been established in Canberra. Under the direction of the joint policy committee, this office is responsible for all phases of design, relations with consultants, tendering, contracts and general supervision. During this interim period the two governments have acted through the Science Research Council in London and the Department of Education and Science in Canberra. The Australian National University has cooperated in the project from its commencement. In additionto the provision of the site at the Siding Spring Observatory, the University has agreed to make available the whole range of its scientific and technical support facilities, both at Siding Spring and at Mount Stromlo.

The manufacture, construction and running in of a large complicated optical telescope is a complex and. lengthy operation. A good deal of progress has been made. Detailed work on the project commenced in the latter half of 1967.. Construction is scheduled for completion in the first half of 1973 and alignment and testing of the instruments and associated facilities should be completed early in 1974. When the governments agreed to co-operate in this venture the estimated total cost of construction was approximately$11m. Today it is estimated that the partners will contribute approximately $11m on joint account and in addition the Australian National University will spend $1.8m on new and upgraded facilities at the Siding Spring site. Of the amount expended by the ANU, $850,000 will be a charge upon the joint project and will be repaid over a period of 20 years together with interest at the long term bond rate. Expenditure of nearly $2. 5m has already been incurred and commitments entered into for further expenditure of $1.8m.

The House will be interested to hear of the major activities which have already been carried out. The primary mirror blank has been constructed by Owens-Illinois Incorporated of Toledo, Ohio, at a cost of close to $500,000. Earlier this year the primary mirror blank was delivered to Sir Howard Grubb Parsons and Company Limited of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, for grinding and polishing and for incorporation, together with other optical components, in the telescope tube, which itself is to be constructed by Grubb Parsons. At the Siding Spring Observatory, water and electricity services and roads are being upgraded and expanded and additional lodge and housing accommodation provided. Preparatory site works and construction of ancillary buildings for the telescope itself are now in hand. A contract for the supply and erection of the telescope mounting is expected to be let in the very near future, and tenders for the building and dome will be called later in the year.

In all of its activities, the joint policy committee has operated under the directive from the two governments that open tendering is to be used for all of the major components and that this work is to be available to any suitably qualified contractor from any part of the world. The arrangements arrived at between the two governments were incorporated in a formal agreement which was signed on 25th September 1969. It provides for the establishment of an Anglo-Australian Telescope Board to represent the two governments in the process of construction and subsequent operation of the telescope. The agreement contemplates the creation of that Board as a statutory authority under legislation of this Parliament. The present Bill, to which the text of the agreement is annexed, has been prepared accordingly. From a reading of the agreement and of the Bill, honourable members will see that the agreement spells out the arrangements made by the two governments for the construction and operation of the telescope and that the Bill itself deals primarily with the establishment of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board as a statutory authority, and with its relations with this Parliament.

The Bill regulates the appointment of the Australian members to the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board and provides for the appropriation of moneys and their application by the Board. Provision is also made for audit of the Board's accounts and for the presentation of periodical reports and financial statements, ft will be noted that a pro vision of the Bill exempts the Board from taxation under any law of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth. As a complementary measure, a Bill will be introduced to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1967. When the telescope has been completed access to it will be shared equally by British and Australian astronomers, although there will be provision for each party to make available a portion of its time to other astronomers. In each country, arrangements will be made within the astronomical community for the consideration of requests for use of the telescope and the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board will be guided by this advice in the allocation of time on the telescope.

Australia has an enviable reputation as a world leader in both optical and radio astronomy. The provision of these new facilities should enable us, in co-operation with our British partners, to develop that reputation further. We will be able to exploit the natural advantage which our geographical location gives us through the use of facilities which will be equal to those available anywhere else in the world. I commend the Bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stewart) adjourned.







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