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Thursday, 14 May 1970

Mr FOX (Henty) - I move:

(1)   That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon -

(a)   The need for an urgent and comprehensive survey of wildlife populations including birds, mammals of the land and water, and reptiles, and their ecology to enable conservation measures to be effectively applied to threatened species;

(b)   The adequacy of the several systems of National Parks, Reserves, etc., of the States and Territories to ensure that at least the minimum areas ofthe major animal habitats and the wildlife of the continent are preserved, held securely, and are properly managed in the national interest;

(c)   The effects of pollution and the widespread use of pesticides on wildlife population;

(d)   The effect on the population of kangaroos of the trade in meat and hides and the effect of other industrial exploitation on wildlife;

(e)   The need for international and interstate agreements for the effective conservation of migratory animals;

(f)   The threat presented to wildlife by the large numbers of domestic animals gone wild, particularly in Northern Australia, and

(g)   The need for a Commonwealth wildlife conservation authority.

(2)   That the committee recognise the control in these matters exercised by the States and seek their co-operation in all relevant aspects.

(3)   That the committee consist of seven members, four to be appointed by the Prime Minister and three to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition.

(4)   That every appointment of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the Speaker.

(5)   That the Chairman be appointed by the Prime Minister.

(6)   That the Chairman have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, also have a casting vote.

(7)   That the Chairman of the committee may from time to time appoint another member ofthe committee to be Deputy Chairman, and that the member so appointed actas Chairman of the committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.

(8)   That the Deputy Chairman, when acting as Chairman, have a deliberative vote and, in the event of an equality of votes, also have a casting vole.

(9)   That the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records, and to move from place to place.

(10)   That the committee report to the House as soon as possible.

(11)   That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.

It is barely 200 years since Europeans first set foot on the east coast of Australia. Since that time more than 30 species of birds and animals which were unique to Australia have already been exterminated and others are at present under threat of extermination. When a species has been eliminated it is gone for all time. There is no way in which it can be brought back. Australia's wildlife is a national asset. It belongs to all the people of Australia, not only to those who may reside in any particular State. It is probably even more correct to say that Australia's wildlife really belongs to all mankind and that it is held by the Australian people on trust. It would be an international tragedy as well as a national tragedy if the threat to the existence of our unique wildlife were not eliminated. By moving the motion I do not intend that the Commonwealth should take over from the States those matters which are constitutionally theirs to administer, butI sincerely believe that an effective conservation policy will depend for its success on the close co-ordination of policies of neighbouring States. If such a policy is in existence at present it is not particularly noticeable.

As a national Parliament we are charged with the responsibility of preserving our national heritage. We can no longer afford to let things drift along as they have been doing. The Australian public is not propared to let things drift along. That is evident from the number of petitions which have been presented to this Parliament in relation to kangaroos. The function at a select committee, among other things, would be to ascertain the facts in relation to the population of kangaroos and other forms of wildlife. Systematic surveying of Australian wildlife is non-existent. Each State and each Territory has its national parks, reserves and sanctuaries. I have been told by people who should be in a position to know what they are talking about that no State system is as comprehensive as it ought to be. For various reasons very few of the reserves have adequate management plans to ensure that what is meant to be preserved is in fact being preserved. I have been told that in some cases the tenure of the reserves is very insecure.

Practically no effective research has been carried out on the effects of pollution and of the widespread use of insecticides on Australia's wildlife. Such research can be done only at national level. Our wildlife is being threatened by commercial exploitation. I have reliable information that some persons engaged in the kangaroo meat trade believe that it is only a matter of time before governments will take effective action at least to reduce drastically the present rate of slaughter. These people are making the most of the opportunities that they have at the present time; in other words, they are getting what they can while they can. As I see it, a Commonwealth wildlife conservation authority could provide expert collaboration and assistance for the States' wildlife programmes and it could include an advisory panel of State representatives. The authority could provide State grants for conservation projects which are considered to be of national importance. I would hope that when it is established it would not be merely a hoven for wellmeaning academics but that it would have the teeth to ensure that what ought to bc done will be done. The committee should be composed of people who will at all times be vigilant and who will be prepared to act promptly and fearlessly. I express the hope that the States will give their blessing to the select committee of this House which is proposed to be appointed and that they will do everything in their power to co-operate with it so that its findings will result in a set of rules and a national conservation policy of which the Australian nation can be proud.

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